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#721: Expand Safari 5, Upgrade Your Older MacBook, RSS Feed Basics, We're Hiring

 
     
 

Happy Tuesday,

It’s hard to believe we’re at the midpoint of meteorological summer, even though the seasons only changed on the calendar a few days ago. I’ve been eating, freezing, and canning strawberries as much as I can—I even found a few ripe blackberries on Small Dog property this afternoon.

I went to a solstice party last weekend with my dog Owen. It’s an annual tradition at a beautiful farm in Buel’s Gore, VT with live music, a massive bonfire, and hundreds of locals gathering to celebrate the season. As it got dark, I couldn’t keep my eyes on Owen the whole time, and I suspect people fed him quite a few hamburgers, hot dogs, and other grilled items; he’s been out of sorts the past few days, and even kept me up two nights ago until 5AM. He’s much better today, though, and is sleeping at my feet, covered in mud from the Small Dog pond.

We took delivery of over 100 Small Dog Refurbished MacBooks. These early 2008 models are perfect for someone on a budget who requires portability, browses the web, uses email and occasionally plays with iMovie and iPhoto. Whenever we get something like this in stock, it sells through quickly! They’re also a very cost-effective first Mac if you are on the edge of switching.

As always, thanks for reading, and keep in touch.

Matt
matt@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  Expand Safari 5 With Extensions  
   
 

Safari 5 brought a slew of new features but one of the most exciting features that is yet to be officially unveiled is support for extensions. For Firefox and Chrome users, you may already be familiar with the added functionality extensions can provide to the browsing experience. Safari 5 is jumping on board with the aid of simple developer tools and a sleek interface for extension management. Despite the fact that extensions are still not enabled by default, it’s very easy to enable them and begin to explore the extensions that are popping up in droves online.

Before enabling extensions you might be wondering more about what they are and how they differ from plug-ins. Extensions use functionality that already exists in the web browsing experience and it streamlines it in quick ways. For example, one of my favorite new Safari extensions is Shortly which is a URL shortener that uses the bit.ly, goo.gl, youtu.be and other pre-existing URL-shortening services to take a long URL, i.e. http://code.google.com/p/longurlforsafari/, and turn it into a short URL, i.e. http://goo.gl/n796. With this extension, instead of going to the website for the URL-shortener, one just needs to press a single button in the Safari toolbar and they’re presented with the shortened URL.

Plug-ins, unlike extensions, add additional functionality to a web browser that wouldn’t exist without the plug-in. For example, to watch an Adobe Flash video in a web browser, one needs to install the Adobe Flash plug-in, as Flash is not supported by default in most web browsers. Plug-ins generally are much more difficult to code as they require advanced coding languages. Extensions, however, use languages that most web developers are already comfortable with: HTML, Javascript and CSS. Safari 5 even comes with a built-in Extension Builder which will create a certificate and package the extension components for the developer; there’s even an extension debugging feature to help developers work out the kinks.

As an end-user, you already have the ability to play with many extensions that have been released for Safari 5 (most were ported from Google Chrome as the interfaces are very similar). First off, make sure you’re using Safari 5. Next, go to Safari > Preferences > Advanced and check the box that says ‘Show Develop menu in menu bar’. With that selected, you should now have a new menu in your menu bar called ‘Develop’. Click on Develop > Enable Extensions. That’s it; you don’t even need to restart the web browser!

Now, if you go back to Safari > Preferences you should notice a new tab called ‘Extensions’. There’s a nice giant on/off switch to easily turn all extensions off if needed. Once you start downloading and installing extensions, you can use this tab to control specific extension preferences or disable individual extensions. Pretty simple and clean if you ask me.

The next obvious question is, “Where can I get extensions?” Luckily, there’s an entire blog devoted to linking to the Safari 5 extensions that are currently available. It’s aptly named Safari Extensions. Once you download an extension you simply need to double-click it and Safari will ask if you’d like to install the extension; very similar to how widgets are installed in Dashboard. For security reasons, Safari will only install extensions that are signed with a valid Apple certificate.

To learn more about the development process and requirements check out Apple’s Safari Extensions Development Guide.

I’m enjoying the few extensions I’ve installed so far, but am definitely trying to be frugal as I’ve seen many people go a little overboard with extensions. Aside from Shortly, my other current favorites are Facebook Zen (which rids Facebook of ads, ‘Suggestions’, and ‘Get Connected’) and Twitter Image Loader, which loads images linked in Tweets directly on the Twitter website.

I hope you enjoy playing with extensions. I’d love to hear about your favorites!

 
   
     
  Easily Upgrade Your Older MacBook  
   
 

Now and again, Apple’s technical specifications state a maximum amount of RAM that’s not actually correct. It was the case with the iMac G4, and believe it or not, it’s the case with some MacBooks and MacBook Pros. Any 2.2GHz or faster MacBook Pro (except the 2.33GHz models), and any MacBook made in November 2007 or sooner, actually supports 6GB of RAM, not 4GB! Like all our RAM, our 4GB PC5300 chips carry a lifetime warranty and are guaranteed Mac-compatible.

You can tell the speed of your Mac by selecting About This Mac from the Apple menu on the upper-left corner of your screen. If your MacBook Pro is at 2.2GHz or faster (excluding 2.33GHz), it will accommodate the upgrade, but it’s a bit tougher to tell if your MacBook qualifies. Your MacBook’s serial number is the best way to know for sure whether it can hold 6GB.

Your serial number is very deliberately constructed. The first two characters tell you where the machine was manufactured, the third tells you the year in which it was manufactured, and the fourth and fifth characters tell you the week it was made. Let’s take a hypothetical serial number and dissect it—say, W88231FMYK0. W8 indicates that the machine was made in the Shanghai, China facility. The second 8 indicates the year of manufacture (2008). And the fourth and fifth characters show the week it was made. So, we know from this serial number that the MacBook was made in Shanghai in the 23rd week of 2008.

How does this relate to RAM in your MacBook? Well, MacBooks manufactured in the 48th week or later in 2007 qualify for the 6GB RAM upgrade. When you look at your serial number, you can ignore the first two characters, as it really doesn’t matter where your machine was made. But make sure the third character is 7 followed by 48 or higher. Any MacBook made in 2008 qualifies for the upgrade.

I know your next question already: What about requiring matched pairs of RAM for fastest performance? Well, I’ve never really believed that the average user can tell a difference between a machine with matched pairs and one without. There are several studies out there confirming that the infinitesimal speed loss from not interleaving is more than offset by the availability of more physical memory. Any time you can avoid the use of virtual memory, you’re going to see a big speed boost.

Apple’s newest MacBooks and MacBook Pros actually support up to 8GB of RAM, but the type of chip is different. You’ll want to pick up 4GB PC8500 chips for all unibody laptops and the newest Mac Mini.

Interestingly, Apple’s serial format changed at the start of 2010, so any machine made this year and moving forward has a serial number that can’t be decoded.

It’s a bit complicated I know, but our sales team is trained to know whether your machine qualifies. Swing by one of our stores, give us a ring, or email our support team and we can help.

 
   
     
  RSS Feed Basics  
   
 

I started using a RSS reader recently when I was faced with far too many blogs to check per day for a fitness project I’ve been a part of. Checking close to 20 blogs every day meant opening the domain, remembering if I read that article, then going on to the next one. It ended up resulting in too many bookmark folders in my browser’s bookmark bar. Then opening all of them at once resulted in a lot of memory being used by my web browser.

I then remembered a little icon I’ve see before in my browser. (If you’ve opened this article in a web browser, there should be one at the top of this page.) This means that an RSS feed is available for the blog or article website you’re reading.

What’s an RSS feed? RSS (usually) stands for “Really Simple Syndication.” This means you can have your article without all the ads and spam that cover some web pages. All you need to do is find the URL, or address, for the feed you’re looking for. For Google BlogSpot blogs, this means using a special link in conjunction with the blog name. For other websites, they may need to provide it for you.

For example, take the New York Times. I would have to check this website every day, along with all the other news sites I read. What if I’m more interested in just receiving the new articles? Or even a specific category of articles? If you’d rather check the articles in this manner, you could check and see if they offer an RSS feed (most sites do now). I just searched Google for “nytimes rss” and immediately was given one of their own pages, listing their RSS feed addresses.

What program should you use for a RSS reader? I’ve tried a couple on the Mac, and I’ve settled on Shrook for the moment. It’s very simple to use, and has an iTunes-like interface. It’s a light program too, that doesn’t take up too much space or memory. If you leave it running, it will automatically check for updates every 30 minutes and alert you with a badge on the dock icon when there are new articles or blogs.

But wait! There’s more! If you prefer to keep all your updates in one place, Apple Mail can also check RSS feeds for you! Just click the little + in the lower left of the Mail window and select “Add RSS Feeds…”.

The iPad now has some pretty nifty ones, with nice touch interfaces, like Reeder.

Just about all devices have access to RSS feeds now, and with just spending a few minutes of your time adding the RSS links you read on a regular basis, you can save yourself a lot more time in the long run.

 
   
     
  Small Dog Is Hiring!  
   
 

Don announced a few weeks ago in one of our other newsletters, Kibbles and Bytes, that we’re opening our third store in a few months.

This store will be in Manchester, NH in the Mall of New Hampshire, and we are looking for entrepreneurial, driven, focused, and passionate Mac lovers to join our team.

Check out Smalldog.com/jobs to see what’s available. We also have openings in our existing Waitsfield and South Burlington, VT locations!

 
   
     
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