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Seven Siri Tricks

Siri is great for resolving trivia disputes, setting reminders and even texting or sending email but Siri is also a talented assistant. Here’s a few of the more non-intuitive tasks Siri can accomplish:

1) Split up that restaurant bill and add a tip

Ask Siri “What’s a 20% tip on a $105 bill split among 3 people and Siri will not only tell you what the total tip would be but also how much each of the 3 owes.

2) Flip a coin

Siri will bail you out if you do not have a coin to flip if you ask her to flip a coin. Or if you are killing time and want to play dice, ask Siri to “throw the dice”.

3) Counting Calories

Siri can help! Ask Siri how many calories are in that Big Mac and Siri will tell you that you are consuming 520 calories.

4) Take a Selfie

Ready to take that selfie and find yourself looking for the camera app? Just tell Siri to take a selfie and boom!, the camera app will open. Siri isn’t smart enough, yet, to ensure you have the front facing camera active so you might have to click that first.

5) Name that Tune

Siri integrates with Shazam to listen to the music. Ask Siri “What is this song?” and with some help from Shazam, Siri will let you know and if you click on the result it will play that song if you are a subscriber to Apple Music.

6) Find your Friends

If you use the Find My Friends app you can ask Siri to find them by asking “Where’s my wife?” and assuming that your wife has agreed to share her location in the Find My Friends app, Siri will let you know where she is.

7) Convert Currency

If you are traveling out of the country you can use Siri to make those currency conversions. Asking Siri “What is 100 euros worth?” today reveals it is worth $112.49.

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Keeping Up with Ever-changing Browser & Internet Security Standards

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in our newsletters, specifically Kibbles & Bytes #941 & Tech Tails #932 .

Encryption is used to keep your private information safe on the Internet, whether it’s credit card numbers and contact info, your search queries, or iMessages to loved ones, by making them unreadable by anyone other than the sender and the intended recipient. The last year or so has been crazy in the realm of Internet security, with a number of vulnerabilities and weaknesses being found in various encryption methods & software. It seems to have been further snowballing lately as security professionals scrutinize all the pieces of the puzzle, but it’s all with the goal of keeping everyone’s personal information safe.

While security professionals are improving encryption methods & software, companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla are working to make sure that they’re including those improvements in their operating systems and web browsers. The Payment Cardholder Industry (i.e. credit card companies) have data security standards (PCI DSS) which everyone from merchants (including us) to banks need to comply with to ensure that personal information and credit card data is handled securely from end-to-end. Other industries have similar requirements and many tech companies also strive for the greatest in security. Naturally, with the ever changing Internet security landscape, those standards are changing as well. Some of the most recent changes will mean that a lot of older computers, devices, and browsers will no longer be able to access some secure websites.

So, how can you ensure that your data is secure and that your devices will be able to connect to all the secure websites you frequent on your Macs and iOS devices?

First, it’s important to run the newest major version of OS X on your Macs and iOS on your iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch) that your devices will run. Fortunately, OS X 10.11 El Capitan is a free download and will run on Macs released as far back as 2009 (or earlier, depending on the model). iOS 9 is also a free download and will run on iPhones & iPads released back to 2011. Of course, it’s always best to verify your software and peripherals are compatible with the latest operating system version prior to upgrading to new major version (e.g. OS X 10.9 Mavericks to OS X 10.10 Yosemite or iOS 7 to iOS 8).

Second, make sure you’re applying the latest OS & security updates. This is relatively straightforward as the App Store on iOS & OS X (or Software Update on Mac OS X 10.6.8 and earlier) will show you available updates. In OS X 10.9 Mavericks & OS X 10.10 Yosemite you can make sure important system & security updates are installed automatically (this is best if you have high speed Internet) by checking the “Automatically check for updates”, “Download newly available updates in the background”, and “Install system data files & security updates” checkboxes in the App Store pane in System Preferences. That way, you won’t even need to remember to check. Similarly, on iOS you can automatically download updates & apps by going to Settings > iTunes & App Store and turning on the “Apps” and “Updates” switches.

Third, and most important, is to run the most modern & secure web browser you can. Apple’s own Safari browser (which is included with OS X and iOS) is fast, efficient, and has excellent integration features, but it is only kept up-to-date for the current & previous version of OS X and the current version of iOS. Fortunately, there are other good alternatives which you can run on older, and current, versions of OS X (listed below by OS X version):

OS X 10.9 Mavericks – OS X 10.11 El Capitan (Intel):

OS X 10.7 Lion – OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion (Intel):

Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard (Intel):

Mac OS X Tiger 10.4 – Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard (PowerPC G3/G4/G5):

Safari will be updated automatically along with other OS X updates, but Chrome, Firefox, and TenFourFox will need to be kept up-to-date separately. Fortunately, they each offer an option to automatically check for updates, so you’re alerted when a new version is available. By doing this, you can rest assured that you’re taking full advantage of all the hard work that the security industry is putting in to keep everyone safe.

Additionally, for those who are running an old PowerPC Mac with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger or 10.5 Leopard, the team behind TenFourFox have done an amazing job producing a custom version of Firefox to keep your Mac compatible with new websites and recent security improvements. Other parts of a version of Mac OS X that old are going to be inherently less secure than the latest version of OS X, but a browser can help keep your old Mac useful a little longer.

Naturally, there are still phishing attempts, insecure websites, and malicious software that you’ll want to keep an eye out for, but by keeping your OS and browser up-to-date, you’re greatly reducing risks from invisible, undetectable theft of your information.

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El Capitan

As I mentioned I have been using the beta version of Mac OS X 10.11 for some weeks and I thought, now that the public beta is released, that it might be a good time to review what’s new in El Capitan. I am going to do this by highlighting a few of the features that I already use and have become such a part of my Mac experience that they don’t seem new anymore.

Shut up!

What is more annoying than following a link to a web site and suddenly being bombarded with some automatically started video blasting audio? If you are like me, you may have several tabs open in Safari and finding that annoying one has been a pain. Well with El Capitan it is simple. When one of those tabs has audio, the tab shows the audio button and you can click on it to mute the audio. The address bar also has an audio icon where you can mute all or select which audio stream to mute or listen to.


The Notes app is so improved that I am actually using it more extensively now. Most importantly, a note I create on my iPhone is available on my Mac or iPad. Not only that but the things I can put into my notes are actually useful. I can add a photo, a URL, a map location or even a video to a note and it is on all my devices. Checklists, websites, ideas for the next Kibbles & Bytes and directions can all be saved. As I am planning my trip out west and find interesting places to go or places to spend the night, I can add them to my “Sturgis” note and easily use Maps to guide me to them. I think you are going to love the new Notes app.


Spotlight is just better. Who needs Google when you have Spotlight? Whether you are searching for a file on your drive, baseball statistics, transit information, weather, stocks or just some obscure trivia to settle a bet Spotlight is there for you and now you can ask that question in you own words. Like, “find that Note I wrote about Sturgis” and boom, there it is. Here’s a list of all the places you can search with Spotlight in El Capitan. You can turn these on and off as needed:

Bing Web Searches
Bookmarks and History
Events & Reminders
Mail & Messages
PDF Documents
Spotlight Suggestions
System Preferences

Shake that Thing

I use a dual monitor set up. I have an Apple 27-inch display and a stand for my MacBook Air that makes for one large extended desktop. Sometimes, I lose my cursor and that sometimes leads to inadvertent clicks. I never thought I would say that I would find this trick useful but with El Capitan if you jiggle your mouse or trackpad your cursor grows bigger and becomes apparent so you can get back on track.

I’ll cover more of the new features in Kibbles & Bytes as we head towards the official release of El Capitan.

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Harvest Moon Eclipse

As recorded with a first generation iPad Air using the MoviePro app.

Video is 720p at 5fps sped up 2x using iMovie. Unfortunately it's still not fast enough, so you may want to scrub through it once it finishes loading using the seek bar.

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Getting Ready for El Capitan

Downloading the latest Mac OS this next week is the easy part. Unless you start the download when another 2 million people are doing the same thing, Apple makes the upgrade process very painless. And of course, it is free, too! There are some steps you should consider as you prepare for El Capitan to make it a smooth process.

Yes, I am shouting! Back up your data all the time but especially whenever you are updating your operating system. We have talked endlessly about how fabulous Time Machine is as a tool to back up your data. DO IT NOW. Upgrading to El Capitan is a great excuse to make a fresh back up of your priceless data.

Do you know who you are?

Do you know your Apple ID and the password? You are going to need that to upgrade. It will be asked for when you start the download and you will also be asked for it during the El Capitan and iCould setup. If you wrote it down on that little scrap of paper that is somewhere in your wallet, now would be a good time to find it.

How Old is Your Mac?

Sorry, that old SE 30 will not support El Capitan so you should make sure that you know if your Mac will support the new operating system. Here’s a list of the supported machines:

iMac (mid-2007 or newer)
MacBook (late 2008 Aluminum, or early 2009 or newer)
MacBook Air (late 2008 or newer)
MacBook Pro (mid- to late 2007 or newer)
Mac Mini (early 2009 or newer)
Mac Pro (early 2008 or newer)

If you do not know your model you can go under the Apple menu and select About This Mac and if you are running Yosemite you will see something like this screen shot that will show you the vintage of your Mac.

RAM and Storage

The two mostly commonly confused terms in technology. Well, you need enough of both memory and storage. In the case of memory, Apple recommends a minimum of 2GB, however; Small Dog Electronics would set that minimum at 4GB. I think you will find your experience with El Capitan to suffer with only 2GB. If your Mac’s memory can be upgraded, now might be a good time!

Storage is also important. We always recommend that you have at least 10-15% of your hard drive or SSD drive free just for cases like this. The installation of a new operating system creates a lot of temporary files that need space to live before they are ultimately deleted by the installation. Apple says that El Capitan takes about 6GB and that you should have 8GB free. That is cutting it pretty close. I would recommend that you have a minimum of 10GB free and pay close attention to the 10-15% free space. Now would be an excellent time to purge some files and old stuff that you really don’t need – like that downloaded copy of the Sopranos last season.

Are you up-to-date?

Is there a number in the icon of the App store? Have you done all your updates for the operating system and apps? Developers have been optimizing their Apps for El Capitan for several months so doing all those updates before you upgrade to El Capitan may make things go easier for you, too!

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