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#755: HeyTell Review, To Multitask or Not To Multitask?, Keyboard Shortcuts, A Greener AppleCare


Happy Tuesday,

After nearly fifteen years of service to Small Dog Electronics, Mark Engelhardt is moving on to pursue his own entrepreneurial interests, and most definitely to spend more time sailing and working on his home in Montpelier. He’s been an advisor, mentor, and friend to me, and if you’ve ever interacted with Small Dog, chances are the backend was at least partially conceived and executed by Mark. Small Dog is throwing Mark a farewell party this Friday at a favorite local brewery. Intrepid technician, consultant, and now Director of IT Rebecca Kraemer, has stepped in to absorb most of Mark’s responsibilities.

There are two fresh faces in this week’s Tech Tails. Daniel Warren is the lead technician in our Manchester, NH store, and writes about some basic keyboard shortcuts. If you’re a long-time reader of Tech Tails, you may recall that I strive to keep my hands on the keyboard as much as possible, reaching for the mouse only when absolutely necessary. Steve Whalen is a retail sales associate in Manchester, NH and writes about the advantages and disadvantages of multitasking under iOS 4.

We love hearing from you. Send me an email with any topics you’d like covered!

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


  App of the Week: HeyTell  

We’re all familiar with instant messaging, and there seems to be no end to the list of iOS apps for chatting with your friends. Recently I started using an app that lets you send instant messages with your voice instead of text. HeyTell, by Voxilate, turns your iOS device into a walkie-talkie.

HeyTell makes it very easy to communicate with your friends – select a friend from your contact list, press the “Hold and Speak” button, and say whatever you want. Within seconds, the recipient gets your message, and can reply back the same way. If you enabled Push notifications, you’ll get a pop-up to let you know a message is waiting. You can grab friends from your Address Book, or if you have a Facebook account (and who doesn’t?) you can grab friends from it as well. You can also use the GPS feature of your device to let your friend know where you are while you’re sending the message.

Like standard instant messaging programs, HeyTell offers a few privacy settings: Low, which allows anyone to send a message to you if they know your contact information; Medium, which only allows friends and friends of friends to contact you; and High, which only allows your friends (and people you have contacted) to send messages to you. The default is Medium, and it’s probably a good idea to leave it that way until you have populated your friends list. It also will not send your location to anyone unless you specifically select that feature.

HeyTell is a free app, but there are some paid extras available. For $2 you can add a voice changer, or for $3 you can do group broadcasts, which would be handy if you were planning a dinner with friends and suddenly have to let them all know at once that you’re running late. The app is advertising-driven, but the ads don’t take up a lot of screen space. Once you purchase an extra you’ll have the option to turn ads off too.

HeyTell works on the iPhone, iPad, and 2nd generation iPod touch and later (Access to a WiFi network is required for iPod.) Since the iPod doesn’t have a built-in microphone, you’ll need to use either a headset/mic combination or purchase a small microphone (such as this one by Chill Pill, which I use and works great!) Your Android-using friends don’t have to be left out, as there is a version for Droid based phones too, and the two versions can interact with each other.

Download the HeyTell here

  To Multitask or Not To Multitask?  

With the release of the iPhone 4 last summer came the ability to multitask between applications in iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system. In the following months it would also make its way to the iPod Touch and the iPad. The ability to quickly switch between apps, pause and continue a game, finish downloads and keep GPS/music running on third party apps became a reality. A simple double-click of the home button on any device brings up a new “dock” or “tray” that shows all currently running apps.

“So every app that I open stays open? Doesn’t this affect my phone’s performance and battery life?” The simple answer to this is no. Like we’ve seen with some other Apple releases, they aren’t always the first to do it, but they’re the best. The reason Apple hesitated on multitasking is because it can be a resource hog with the processor, RAM and battery. Part of Apple’s strategy is to suspend apps in the background so they aren’t necessarily running, but they pick up right where you left off as if they were.

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t remove them from the tray. If you’re like me and use 1,000 different apps every day (ok, that may be a bit exaggerated) you wouldn’t want the extras getting in the way of the commonly used ones. Simply tap and hold an app icon just like you would to rearrange your home screen. They’ll jiggle and each will have a red minus symbol on the top left. Just tap the symbol and it is gone until the next time you open it. Just make sure you finish the level of Angry Birds you’re on first!

  Keyboard Shortcuts  

Though it does not happen often with Apple computers we all know how frustrating it is to have an Application start misbehaving. Whether it quits unexpectedly or flat out stops responding, it can be incredibly aggravating. When an Application unexpectedly quits you can lose data and, quite often, your patience. Unfortunately, you can not predict when an Application might unexpectedly quit. The only thing that we can do in that case is to save and save often.

If you are like me you find it a bit cumbersome to move from the keyboard to the mouse and back again. One handy trick that I use is the keyboard shortcut for save which is command-s. This allows me to quickly save what I am doing without removing my hands from the keyboard. This is one of many keyboard shortcuts that can come in handy for quickly maneuvering around the Mac. Some examples are command-q which will quit the selected application, command-i will provide you with information regarding a selected file, and command-delete will move a highlighted file to the trash.

Please ask about our keyboard shortcut cheat sheets at any of our retail locations. You can also find a complete list of keyboard shortcuts on Apple’s website, and all mentions of keyboard shortcuts on our blog.

  A Greener AppleCare  

Over the years there’ve been reports from various end users that Apple’s packaging of service parts is preposterously and unnecessarily large for the product inside. Of particular note was the recall of the latest form-factor USB power adapter for iPhone. The first version had a defect that could cause dangerous failure, and anyone who’d bought one was urged to send it back for a replacement. Replacements were sent in boxes that could fit dozens of the adapters.

Of course, this is an extreme example. That service part was just so tiny, and mailing labels can only be made so small, that smaller packaging may not have been feasible at the time. There’s also the issue of using packaging that already exists in a recall situation for the sake of speed. Some time after an initial burst of bloggers’ discontent, and in the midst of Greenpeace’s attack on Apple, the packaging was revised to be something much more reasonable.

Of course, a 27-inch display will be shipped in a very large, very sturdy box. But small top cases for early MacBooks used to ship in boxes much larger than necessary. We kept those boxes, and reused them to ship orders taken on and to create a homemade solution to laptop storage in our service departments. Recently, though, these boxes were made much, much smaller, reducing Apple’s shipping costs and allowing more stuff to fit on the hundreds of FedEx airplanes delivering service parts around the world. The same thing is happening with the latest-generation equipment. The current MacBook Air logic board comes in a very thin, small box; older MacBook logic boards now come in very durable corrugated plastic boxes that can be reused indefinitely.

With each new generation of Apple product, the service part packaging gets smaller and smaller, while the actual part sizes remain more or less the same. This is a trend that is mirrored with Apple finished goods like new laptops. Six years ago, iBooks shipped in boxes almost big enough for a dorm room mini-fridge; MacBooks now come in very smart, completely recyclable, very compact packaging. There’s a ways to go, but Apple is clearly taking their packaging seriously as both a driver of increased customer delight and decreased per-unit carbon emissions and disposal complications.

  TT SPECIALS | 2/22/11 - 2/29/11  
   $20 price drop! Verso Leather Case for iPad (brown)
   $20 price drop! Verso Leather Case for iPad (red)
   iPod touch 8GB (4G), AppleCare Plan + Free MiLi Blue/White AC Adapter!
   MacBook Air 13in 1.86GHz 2GB/256GB, SuperDrive, AppleCare + Free Case!
   iMac 21.5in 3.06GHz i3 8GB/500GB/4670 + AppleCare
   iMac 27in 2.93GHz i7 12GB RAM/1TB/5750/Numeric Keyboard, 2TB Time Capsule, AppleCare