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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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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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Hey Siri, What Can You Do?

So, I am a little embarrassed to admit it but I bought an Amazon Echo to check out how Alexa compares with Siri. I’m a gadget guy so we will see if we find it useful and if not, I am sure I can find it a home on eBay. I use Siri more and more these days. My most common uses are asking her to settle trivia disputes with Grace or setting the timer for 5 minutes. But there is a lot more that Siri can do!

Make Relationships with Siri
When you speak Siri commands, you can refer to people by relationship, rather than name. So, if you want to call your father, you can say “call my father” instead of saying “call Bruce Leibowitz.” But to do this, you need to introduce Siri to your family. First, make sure you have a “card” in the Contacts app for yourself, and then go into Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars, scroll down to find and tap My Info, and select your card. Next, make sure you have a contact card for your father, and then tell Siri, “Bruce Leibowitz is my father.” Or, if Siri doesn’t hear you correctly, open Contacts, edit your card (not your father’s!), scroll down, tap “add related name,” tap the default relationship to pick “father,” tap the info “i” icon, select your father’s card, and tap Done.

You can even use Siri to remember other types of relationships. Artie used to bring manure from his uncle’s farm for my garden and ended up with the nickname, “the spreader”. If I tell Siri “Art Hendrickson is my spreader” I can now just say “text my spreader…” and Siri knows who I am talking about. This works for nicknames but also for lawyers, accountants, doctors or any nickname you want to tell Siri about.

Take a Picture
Instead of fumbling to launch the Camera app on your iPhone you can just say “take a picture” and Siri will automatically open the Camera app and you can snap away.

Siri Converts
Need to know how many millimeters are in 4 inches? Just ask Siri and you will find that there are 101.6 mm in 4 inches. This works for currency exchange rates, too. Ask Siri how many Euros are equal to $100US you will find that 87.73 Euros is the exchange rate today. Siri has some other strong calculation features too. You can ask Siri how many calories there are in that fish sandwich or to calculate a 20% tip on your restaurant bill. You can ask her to solve math problems involving fractions and other math functions that will be faster than opening the calculator app and punching in the numbers.

Settling Up
Okay you can use Siri to look up baseball stats or other information to settle a dispute but what if you are at loggerheads and just want to get a random answer and don’t have a coin to flip. You can ask Siri to “roll the dice”, “flip a coin” or pick a random number.

Name that Tune
Siri is integrated with Shazam to help you figure out what song is playing. Just ask her “what song is playing?” and she will listen and let you know and probably try to sell you the song, too!

Find that Photo
Siri can search your photo library for you. I know how frustrating it is if your are like me and have literally thousands of photos. You can say something like “find that photo from Daytona Beach from last March” and Siri will launch Photos and take you right to any photos taken at that place and time.

Siri Takes You Out
Siri can make your restaurant reservations for you, too! Tell Siri “make a restaurant reservation for four at 7PM” and she will respond with available restaurants nearby and if you have the Open Table app installed can make the reservation for you or give you the phone number to call.

Are We There Yet?
If you are using your iPhone for navigation you can just say “ETA” and Siri will let you know how much longer you are gonna be on the road.

Leave Me Alone
Siri can do a lot for you but sometimes you just want alone time. You can tell Siri to turn on “do not disturb” and you will not be bothered. Or tell her to “turn on airplane mode” and she will turn off Wi-Fi and cellular signals.

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iOS 9.3

It’s hard to tell in advance whether or not a new iOS release will get me excited. With iOS 8 I was really excited about Continuity, and I always like the addition of Safari improvements. In iOS 9, we got proactive assistance so spotlight and Siri were more context sensitive. I think I was most excited by slide over, split view and picture-in-picture. Those features seemed to really solidify how Apple was going to be handling multitasking in iOS going forward.

So when I started hearing rumors about what would be included in the latest iOS 9.3 update, I was immediately pretty excited. Now that it was released earlier this week, I’ll go over the new features here and give my impressions.

Night Shift

Admittedly, this was the most interesting thing to me. I hear a lot of complaining (from my mom mostly) about how I shouldn’t be reading/watching movies/web browsing in bed on my iPad. Most modern displays, especially on mobile devices are notoriously “cool” meaning they tend to be towards the blue end of the color spectrum. This helps the displays to be brighter in direct sunlight, and also more vibrant, but if you’re in the dark, getting ready for bed, it’s not so great. The brightness and the “cool” tint sends signals to your brain that mimic sunlight. It’s basically telling your brain, “hey, the sun’s up, it’s time to get active.” Night Shift helps to correct that problem. It re-tunes the display to exaggerate “warmer” tones in the spectrum like red and orange. With iOS 9.3, you can turn it on manually, or on a schedule. You can also specify how much or how little “warmth” you want to use. It looks weird at first, but after as little as 15-30 seconds, you’ll adjust and won’t be able to tell the difference.

Notes

I’ll admit I’ve started using Notes a lot now that you can have checklists, formatting, drawing and more. In iOS 9.3 Apple added secure notes. You can secure notes using a password or Touch ID. This is great if you have some confidential information you want doubly protected both by your device’s PIN and Notes itself. I haven’t had a use case for this yet, but I expect I will very soon.

I think Night Shift and secure Notes are the most notable changes in iOS 9.3 for me, but other additions included improved personalization in the News app, more information about third party apps in the Health app, and additional 3D Touch context menus. I’m particularly fond of the menu on the Settings app which allows me to quickly jump to bluetooth, wifi, or battery settings in one quick motion.

One last thing to note is that the Night Shift feature isn’t available on every single device. While it is supported all the way back to the iPad 4th generation, the original iPad mini does not support it. The performance of the original iPad mini isn’t quite enough to allow for Night Shift without reducing performance and stability on the rest of the device.

Overall, I definitely give iOS 9.3 my seal of approval.

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