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#652: New Product Announcements, The Gift of Gmail, Spotlight Tips, Saving Microsoft Files

 
     
 

Happy Tuesday,

It was a big day for Apple product announcements. In typical Tuesday fashion, almost the entire product line was refreshed. iMac, Mac Mini, AirPort Extreme, Time Capsule, and Mac Pro all saw significant upgrades and, in some cases, price cuts! Rest assured, we will have tons of the last-generation product at steel discounts.

All the details are on our blog, Barkings!, and will be covered in detail in this week’s Kibbles & Bytes. To subscribe to Kibbles & Bytes and Best in Showroom, Small Dog Electronics’ other newsletters, visit Smalldog.com/newsletters.

I hope you enjoy reading this packed edition of Tech Tails. As always, keep in touch!

Matt
matt@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  Use Gmail, Not Your ISP's Email  
   
 

Verizon customers around Vermont are now FairPoint customers, and most of them were lucky enough to have their old verizon.net email addresses changed to myfairpoint.net addresses. A surprising number of people use the email address provided by their Internet Service Provider (ISP) and it amazes me that so many of them don’t look for a better solution.

Stephen Colbert did a skit some time ago about how Cingular changed its name to AT&T:

“Cingular was owned by Bell South and SBC, which had been Southwestern Bell and Ameritech, which before that had been Illinois Bell, Wisconsin Bell, Michigan Bell, Ohio Bell, and Indiana Bell. All of those used to be AT&T. A couple of years ago Cingular bought AT&T Wireless and renamed it Cingular, but SBC bought AT&T and changed its own name to AT&T. Then, that new AT&T bought Bell South, changing its name to AT&T, making it only logical to turn Cingular into AT&T.”

My point is that your ISP might not be called tomorrow what it’s called today. Each time your provider changes names, you will get a new email address. Also, ISP email generally imposes lame restrictions on attachment size and total mailbox capacity; it’s not free, and the webmail interfaces are generally terrible.

Enter Google Mail, or Gmail. Gmail is the free email service provided by Google, which, I think we can all agree, isn’t going anywhere. I’ve used my Gmail account for many years now. It is endlessly cleaner, faster, more useful and more efficient than any other webmail service like Hotmail or Yahoo! mail. Gmail can “pull” all the email from an existing account, so switching is painless. Best of all, it is securely accessible from any computer connected to the Internet. There’s an iPod touch/iPhone application for it, and it’s constantly under development, with improvements rolled out all the time.

Give it a try. You won’t be disappointed!

 
   
     
  Microsoft Compatibility  
   
 

Compatibility is always a major concern for computer users, especially for those who frequently share files with other Macs and PCs.  As new applications come out it’s expected that they offer backwards compatible support, but sometimes that entails remembering to jump through a few hoops; this is the case with Microsoft Office 2008.

With the release of Microsoft Office 2008, we were introduced to some new file extensions.  Microsoft Word files by default are saved as .docx, Excel spreadsheets now save as .xlsx and PowerPoint presentations save as .pptx.  If you’re sending these files to those on Macs or PCs running the latest version of Office, there are no issues, but what about if you need to send the files to someone on a slightly older version of Office?  Well, they plain can’t open the file.  

Luckily, there’s an easy solution.  When given the option to save your file, there’s a drop down menu that displays the type of format the file should be in.  Simply use the drop down menu to save the file as a .doc, .xls or .ppt.  Voila, your files will now open just fine on your own computer as well as your friends and co-workers machines. This is great to keep in mind, especially if you’ve recently upgraded to the newest version of Office and have been getting back some angry emails from people who can’t open your files.  Hope this helps solve some frustration!

 
   
     
  Tip of the Week: Spotlight Like a Pro  
   
 

We have two large LCD televisions in our flagship South Burlington store connected to Mac Minis and acting as big digital signs. Long-time Burlington employee David Boyd put together an excellent looping Keynote presentation, and it runs all day, every day. Unfortunately, one of these big displays failed yesterday—for the second time in as many months. This is frustrating. I generally handle these types of issues, but am leaving for vacation tomorrow, and had to offload the service arrangements to Katie.

Warranty claims through Viewsonic must include an original invoice, and I knew that somewhere in my mountain of email I had that invoice saved. Instead of looking through all the email from our Assitant Controller, Cindy (Cindy found it for me a few months back), I clicked on the Spotlight magnifying glass and typed Viewsonic kind:mail from:cindy. This brought up the one email from Cindy containing the word Viewsonic in the PDF attachment.

You can use plenty of other parameters in Spotlight. Say you want to see all the image files (JPG, PNG, TIFF, etc) created yesterday. You’d type kind:images created:3/2/09.

Say I want to see emails from my mom in which we discuss Small Dog. I’d search kind:mail from:mom.

Or, say I need documents written by Jon in January 2008 containing the phrase “crumb snatchers” (as he affectionately calls his children). That search would be “crumb snatchers” kind:document date:1/1/08-1/31/08.

People are amazed when I show them the hidden power of Spotlight. There’s no reason you can’t use it to its full potential. If you go to the Help menu on the top of your screen, search for Spotlight, and show all results. Not surprisingly, the Help system’s search engine is powered by Spotlight!

 
   
     
  Reader Feedback: Your First Search  
   
 

I wrote last week about my first Internet search, and asked you for your own recollections. Here are a few:

Cindy writes:

“I am not a librarian but I work in a library so I found your comment about the library very interesting. One of the first things I remember searching for was a Kodak photo scanner. I worked in the communications office and someone came to our office wanting to scan a photo. We needed a new scanner and thought maybe Kodak was making a scanner. I typed Kodak.com into my browser (NCSA Mosaic) and, voila—the website came up. The other people in the room were quite amazed that I could find a website that quickly. It was before there were search engines that would help with finding sites. There were a few lists available but I would usually guess the site address just by using the corporation name. For a few years I collected lists of URLs and sent them out to a group of friends each month. Seems humorous now but back then I would get thank you notes from friends who were happy to learn about new sites.”

Martha writes:

“I do remember my first search on the internet, but not the engine I used. We were having a party at my house and trying out this new technology. It must have been after December of 1990, because that’s when we moved to the house where this occurred, but I don’t remember what year it was. Later than 1994, when we bought our first Mac, no doubt, an SE 30 for which we spent an extra $400 for one MB of RAM in addition to the one that was built in. I don’t remember what the question was that we were trying to resolve, but the terms searched for were “chicken sex.” An amazing number of hits were returned – I’m sure there would be many more today.

With not much to do here in northern Maine…,
Martha”

And Bruce wrote in praising a search engine called Dogpile.com:

“I read your recollection of the first time you used Google. That brings up my first time to search for a items or topic and I stumbled on the search engine called Dogpile. It was so useful I still use it. The aspect that is attractive is that it employs Google and about 10 other search engines at the same time. That way if Google does not have the item you are automatically using alternative methods. Furthermore, when I tell people the name of the search engine they always smile, but they do not forget it.”

 
   
     
  MacBook Battery Updater 1.4 Released  
   
 

In addition to the slew of new products announced today, Apple also released the MacBook Battery Updater 1.4. A small number of MacBooks (both the latest unibody-style MacBooks as well as the “older” white and black plastic models) have batteries that can become inoperative after long periods of inactivity. This update presumably updates the battery software to put the computer to sleep with a little more charge remaining, avoiding extended periods of complete depletion.

You can know whether your battery needs the update by going to System Profiler and selecting Power from the Hardware section. If the battery device name is ASMB016 or ASMB013, a pack lot code is 0002, or a battery firmware version is 0110, then you should install this update. Of course, the updater will work only on eligible batteries, so there’s no harm in just downloading it and letting it determine whether or not your battery needs it.

If you must store your laptop for an extended period, this is not an issue at all. Simply charge the battery fully and remove it from the computer. The worst thing you can do is leave a battery in a depleted state for a long time, and if you plan to store your mobile computer for more than five months it is especially important to remove the battery.

 
   
     
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