Barkings! | The SmallDog Apple Blog

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Mac|Life Magazine is now offering an even better discounted subscription rate to Small Dog Electronics customers. We currently offer copies of Mac|Life at both of our retail stores, and it’s very popular with both customers and Small Dog Electronics employees.

Save 72% by subscribing here.

As I wrote last week, “Mac|Life Magazine is extremely well-produced. It’s packed with useful reviews, tutorials, Mac tips, and Mac news. Every issue also features fun and informative Mac-related projects. I find Mac|Life particularly entertaining and easy to read. You can get a feel for the magazine on their website,

If you are local, stop into either of our retail stores to check out Mac|Life in person.


I’m writing this today using a free open source fully-featured office suite called OpenOffice. Developed by Sun Microsystems, OpenOffice has all of the functionality, sleekness, and compatibility of expensive office suite products, in a easy to use, downloadable, free package. Now in its third release, it is available to run natively on Mac OS X.

Though still in beta stages, this release shows no signs of bugs nor short comings. Sun has really put a clean face on this Mac release–completely packaged with a simple install all Mac users will be familiar with. Mount the package downloaded from Sun and you’ll the familiar window of ‘Package and Applications’ alias. Drag and drop, and you’re installed and ready to go!

One of the nicest features of OpenOffice is that it is fully compatible with all Microsoft products as well as having better compatibility with older office programs that Microsoft has left behind. You can easily set up OpenOffice to open and save in Microsoft formats directly, something I imagine most users will want to do.

From within OpenOffice, either in Word Processing, Spreadsheet, or Presentation mode, the options are shared between them, and once set, it’s ready for everything.
1. Click the menu from the top and select Preferences, or Command-
2. Under Load/Save – General, you can choose what format to automatically save Text/Spreadsheet/Presentation files.
If saving under the Microsoft formats, as Word Documents, Excel spreadsheets, or PowerPoint presentations, it will give you an error saying some information may be lost. This is a small price to pay for free compatibility, but chances are, you probably won’t even notice.

That’s it! You are now using a free alternative to the expensive MS Office suite, with full compatibility, set up in minutes!

Click here download the beta version of OpenOffice for Mac OS X.

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When I fell off my bicycle and broke my arm a little more than a month ago, I realized that my MacBook’s keyboard would be a lot less effective, and a lot more painful to use. I also realized that I had to continue writing papers for classes. I thought: what if my computer could listen to me?

Apple implements a speech recognition utility as part of Universal Access in OS X, but in order to enhance accuracy, it is limited to commands. What I wanted to do would require something else. Luckily, MacSpeech Dictate, which was awarded “Best of Show” at Macworld 2008, had just been released, using an industry benchmark recognition engine called “Dragon.” I decided to try it out.

After installing it, I was met with a setup process that allows you to train the software to detect the idiosyncrasies of my voice as well as training me on the limitations of the computer in being able to contextualize what I might be talking about, meaning that it’s important to annunciate.

Ironically, I was learning about neural networks in philosophy of cognitive science at the same time this happened, which are used extensively in speech recognition software to quantize voice patterns and distinguish between your voice and background noise. It’s a pretty cool technology that has come out of artificial intelligence research in the past half-decade.

So how did it work? I was very impressed at both the speed and accuracy of the software. Certainly, it was a lot more accurate than one hand and quicker than typing with two. What I noticed, in fact, was that my speech when talking to people was improved because my MacBook required me to be clearer. What I realized most was that dictation is a very different cognitive process, whereby one has to think, then speak, when compared to typing, whereby an internal dialogue which can occur simultaneously with one’s typing.

For many people who have not yet become accustomed to using a keyboard, or want to try to communicate with their computer differently, this presents a great opportunity for you to better communicate with your Mac!


2008 VT Business Expo
(Rob and Geoff look sharp, don’t they?)

Today, the winner was announced for the Deane C. Davis Outstanding Business Award at the 2008 Vermont Business Expo. Although we did not win, Small Dog Electronics is honored to have been considered for this prestigious award; this year, more businesses than ever before were considered. This award recognizes a company that has excelled in terms of growth in sales and employees, community service and recognition of the environment as a natural resource.

Named for former Governor Deane C. Davis, the Award annually honors a Vermont business that shows an outstanding history of sustained growth while displaying an acute awareness of what makes Vermont unique. The Award is sponsored by Vermont Business Magazine and the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. Previous winners include such national brands as Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Smugglers’ Resort, IDX, Cabot Creamery and NRG Systems.

The criteria for the Deane C. Davis Outstanding Business Award are:

• Growth in sales or employment
• Commitment of company resources for participation in community projects.
• Encouragement to employees to be involved in community events.
• Recognition of the importance of the environment to the state as a natural and economic resource.
• Addressing employee concerns/needs to create a positive work environment for all employees.
• Major accomplishment(s) in the past year in any or all of the criteria
• Nominated businesses must have been based in Vermont for at least 10 years.

Don Mayer acknowledged his employees for the nomination, and he said: “I could not be prouder of the hard work, positive energy and commitment of that Small Dog Electronics’ employees show. We are all working hard to demonstrate that how we treat people and the planet are as important a measure of success as the profits we generate. It’s an honor to be nominated, and we will continue to strive to embrace these important business principles in the future.”

Many thanks again for the nomination!

2008 VT Business Expo

Read more here on Wikipedia here.

Read more on the Vermont Chamber of Commerce website here.


Late in the day yesterday, Comcast offered Small Dog Electronics five tickets to their private luxury suite on the EMC level at Fenway Park, for the Red Sox vs KC Royals game. For about thirty seconds Kali (who is a die-hard Orioles fan but has always wanted to see a game at Fenway) and I debated about going, before deciding that we HAD to take advantage of the opportunity. It was almost 4:00, and the game began at 7:05. Fortunately, there was no traffic and we were only a couple of minutes late to the park. As I’ve said before, Fenway is one of my favorite places. It was great to be back.

I always sit in the bleachers, or the grandstands at Fenway. There’s no bad seat (or standing room area) at Fenway. However…. I was blown away by Comcast’s suite. It was like a swank little luxury apartment that just happened to be perched right over Fenway Park. Inside there were leather chairs and couches, a 50” plasma television, a stocked luxury bar and food station area, and floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows. Outside were 6 rows of comfortable seats, again right over the field. It was a chilly night, but you’d never know it due to the outside heaters. There was also a 32” plasma television outside, so we could keep up with replays. A man came around with Hagan-Daaz ice cream bars. Every time the beer in the fridge got low, someone would come in and restock it.

Regarding the game, Jon Lester ended up pitching a historic no-hitter, with the final score 7-0 Sox. A perfect night.

Thanks Comcast! We’d gladly take tickets again… though I’ve already used my turn to go.

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