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The Small Dog Apple Blog



Published: Fri, 20 Apr 2018 17:24:55 GMT

 



HomePod On My Desk, First Look

Tue, 10 Apr 2018 18:40:57 GMT

You know that I have a lot of gadgets at my house. So many, that at times Grace gets frustrated with all the home automation stuff. When we have our dog sitter come to stay Grace doesn’t even tell her how to talk to Siri or Alexa. Nevertheless, I have both of those assistants hanging out in my house listening to my every word. I grabbed one of the first HomePods that we received and set it up in my office at my house. I will definitely be bringing it back to Vermont with me. The HomePod is the best yet both in terms of the sound quality and the integration with my home. I had also tried a Google Home unit some time ago but it was so bad that I sold it on eBay. Let’s talk music first. I have a lot of ways to interact with my music. I have Sonos everywhere including the Alexa-enabled Play One and with their voice interface with Amazon Alexa it is easy to request music from a variety of sources. In terms of content, at this point I think that Amazon/Sonos has the broadest selection. I can get songs from Pandora, Apple Music or Spotify. I can also get content from Audible and Tune-in. But I have a pretty large music collection after spending hours/days digitizing all my CDs and spending a lot of money buying from the iTunes store. I also subscribe to Apple Music so I literally have access to more music than I could listen to in my life. So, what sounds the best? HomePod! It is clear to me that the HomePod has better sound quality, deeper bass and clearer sound than the Sonos Play One by a hair and it is not even close when comparing the sound to the tinny Amazon Echo. It is reggae Thursday at my office every Thursday and I just say “Hey Siri, play me some reggae” and she says “sure thing, here’s some reggae just for you”. The play list that results is tailored to me by learning what I like. I can say, “Siri, I really like this song” and she says “okay, I got it” and that helps to fine tune the music the HomePod plays for me. You can even add songs to a playlist or create a playlist by interacting with Siri. I can tell Siri to pause or stop if I can a call and it is instantaneous which is handy because it is not always party time at the office. So, with all the technology I have, when I am listening to music in my office it is HomePod now. It is not quite up to the Sonos Play 5s in my bedroom but the sound fills my office perfectly as it automatically adjusts to my room to provide me with optimal sound. For music I give the nod to HomePod based upon sound quality, intelligence and ease of use. I give the nod to Sonos/Amazon for the breadth of content. HomePod also serves as your HomeKit server. When I activated my HomePod and got it on my network, I literally had to do nothing to make it take over the HomeKit tasks. It was automatic. While I will probably still keep my AppleTV powered up you do not need an AppleTV or iPad to have remote access to your HomeKit devices. The integration with HomeKit makes it simple to use. I can simply say “ Hey Siri, turn on the office lights” and she does it. I can also ask her to turn the thermostat up, lock the doors or do any of the tasks that are HomeKit compatible. I also have scenes that mostly work. I say mostly because as a security feature Siri will not unlock your doors so my “good morning” scene requires my iPhone but that security feature is appreciated. I can probably figure out a workaround but I like the security. My other most used scene is “good night”. When I say “hey Siri, good night” she turns off all the lights except the one next to my bed, turns down the thermostat and locks all three doors. She then says “on it!”. I have to say that Siri’s responses are friendlier and hipper than Alexa. Of course, you can do much of this with Amazon Alexa but it would take multiple commands and Alexa just seems a lot finickier with names of devices. Because HomePod is connected to my network, I[...]



Get More From Your Apple Watch When you Ski or Board!

Tue, 13 Mar 2018 20:21:53 GMT

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Starting today, skiers and snowboarders can use Apple Watch Series 3 to track their activities via new updates to apps available in the App Store. Watch users can now record runs, see vertical descent and other stats, and contribute active calorie measurements directly to the Apple Watch Activity app. See, I have been thinking about you guys up in the north country!

Apple Watch is selling well, in fact, Apple Watch outsold all competing smartwatches combined last year. One in five smartwatches sold was an Apple Watch. We have been selling quite a few Apple Watches at our stores and they do seem to gain functions pretty regularly. I love my Apple Watch and if I was a skier or snowboarder this new feature would be interesting. Emily and Artie might like it since they can be found out on the slopes from time to time.

Developers are taking advantage of the built-in GPS and altimeter in Apple Watch Series 3 as well as custom workout APIs released in watchOS 4.2 to enable tracking of specialized metrics. App updates for Snow, Slopes, Squaw Alpine, Snocru and Ski Tracks now track new metrics on the slopes including:

*Total vertical descent and horizontal distance
*Number of runs
*Average and maximum speeds
*Total time spent
*Calories burned

Apps can auto pause and resume and users will get credit towards their Activity rings; workout information will also be recorded to the Health app on iPhone with user permission. Using Siri, users can start Slopes and Snoww to track their runs using just their voice.

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Having the ability to track the details of runs with Apple Watch is an incredible asset for everyone from training athletes to skiers and riders just looking to have fun and stay active, said Jonny Moseley, Olympic Moguls Gold Medalist and Squaw Alpine Mountain Ambassador. The Squaw Alpine app for Apple Watch helps me when I’m out with my family to not only track exactly where my kids are on the mountain, but also compare our performance so I can make sure I’m keeping up with my sons and add some fun competition to our day.

The updated apps are now available on the App Store and require watchOS 4.2 or later.




Black History Month - Octavia Butler

Mon, 05 Feb 2018 16:57:15 GMT

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Octavia Butler was an acclaimed science fiction author who, among other honors, won both the Hugo and Nebula awards multiple times. Born in Pasadena, CA she started writing sci-fi at age 10. An outspoken critic of racism and a feminist, Ocatvia Butler was a prolific writer with award winning books such as Kindred, Xenogenesis, Bloodchild, and hundreds of others.

Her female heroes were fascinating and her social criticism was detailed and relevant. She envisioned a true multiracial future.

She met science fiction writers Harlan Ellison and Samuel R. Delany at a Screenwriter’s Guild of America workshop and soon after sold her first story Child Finder. She was the first science fiction writer to win the MacArther Fellowship in 1995. She once described herself:

Who am I? I am a forty-seven-year-old writer who can remember being a ten-year-old writer and who expects someday to be an eighty-year-old writer. I am also comfortably asocial—a hermit…. a pessimist if I’m not careful, a feminist, a Black, a former Baptist, an oil-and-water combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive.

Octavia Butler passed away in 2006, but I have long admired her and enjoyed her visions of the future! If you haven’t had the pleasure of her work, why not try it?




Terminal Tidbits

Fri, 26 Jan 2018 05:08:45 GMT

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Most Mac users know if they want to know what’s “under the hood” of their Mac, they could boot into the OS, click on the Apple logo, and click “about this Mac”.

But, did you know you could go into Terminal, and type in “hostinfo” and hit enter?

The command host is usually used for DNS lookup and info but you can use it to find out which kernel version you’re running, how many processors you have, the amount of physical memory and the number of Mach tasks. Mach tasks are a variant of the load average, number of threads using.

The syntax looks like this
hostinfo

That’s it, there are no further options as it is a simple command. We Techs use it a lot when performing RAM upgrades and when we don’t want to wait for the Mac to boot all the way into the MacOS to see if the RAM modules are recognized.

Shut down the Mac completely, and wait a couple seconds. Then, hold down the Command and S keys simultaneously while pressing the power button to start up the Mac. You’ll hear the chime, and then a black screen will appear. Shortly thereafter, a bunch of scary white text will show up. This is single-user mode.

Here you simply type “hostinfo” and you’ll see something like this:

Mach kernel version:
Darwin Kernel Version 16.7.0: Thu Jun 15 17:36:27 PDT 2017; 
root:xnu-3789.70.16~2/RELEASE_X86_64
Kernel configured for up to 8 processors.
4 processors are physically available.
8 processors are logically available.
Processor type: x86_64h (Intel x86-64h Haswell)
Processors active: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Primary memory available: 128.00 gigabytes
Default processor set: 377 tasks, 2201 threads, 8 processors
Load average: 1.95, Mach factor: 6.04

This outlines the following information about your machine:

  • Mach kernel version: basically the version of the version of Darwin or the open-source Unix that your OSX is based on.
  • How many actual processor cores you have, in this case we see 4 processor cores as it’s an Intel i7 processor. In this chip, each core can run 2 threads so we get…
  • 8 processors logically available – 4×2=8
  • The identifier of the actual main processor chip you have installed.
  • An enumeration of each processor that’s active and available 0 through 7
  • The amount of RAM available in your machine
  • What your processor is busy doing at that moment in terms of tasks and threads
  • Load average, or how busy your machine has been over the last minute. Higher numbers mean more activity.
  • Mach factor, which is a variant of the load, but divided by the number of logical processors. The closer to 0, the more load the processor is experiencing. So in my example, an 8-core processor doing nothing should show pretty close to 8, whereas if it was running full speed rendering video or something, you’d see a much lower number.

When you’re finished exploring this info, simply restart you computer by typing:

reboot

This info is the tip of the iceberg of the information you can coax out of your machine from the command line but it’s a good way to get your feet wet to explore what’s possible.




Meltdown and Spectre, lots of Intel

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 20:00:01 GMT

If you pay any attention to technology news, you’ve probably already heard of the recently discovered Meltdown and Spectre exploits that are reported to effect a majority of computer systems currently in operation, regardless of their operating system. Since the vulnerability is at it’s core, hardware-based, users of Macs, PC’s and some mobile devices are all at risk equally. The hardware in question are processors by Intel, AMD and ARM and the issue could be exploited in 3 ways known as Variants 1 and 2 (identified as Spectre) and Variant 3 (identified as Meltdown). The way the Spectre exploit works is by taking advantage of the way your computer processor’s architecture is wired to execute code. In a very basic way, the processor’s job is to make a series of decisions very quickly and pass along the results of those decisions. To speed things up, most modern processors use a technique known as “branch prediction” to guess what the next decision it’s going to have to make is. This “speculative execution” greatly improves the speed of a processor as it can always stay a few steps ahead of the game. It’s not always correct in it’s predictions, but that doesn’t matter because the speed at which it does these predictions allows it to perform many, many of these per second. In very simple terms, it’s all of these incorrect predictions that allow your sensitive data to be potentially revealed. When these bits of data are trashed, for just a moment, the state of your processor can be analyzed by some malicious agents and backtrack it’s way to what bits of data were used to arrive at it’s incorrect prediction. It can then exploit this method by making your processor arrive at incorrect predictions on purpose by injecting data far outside the bounds of what it expects and, in turn, grabbing more of your sensitive data with each execution. Patches to guard against this involve an extra step every time your computer executes these kind of instructions, double checking to see if the data it’s executing lies within the bounds of what’s expected as well as separating the code and predictions into separate areas of memory. Different processor models have slightly different architectures and the exploits work in slightly different ways across them, however this is generally how things work. Meltdown is much more clear-cut exploit. To run efficiently, data being run through different parts of your computer processor is stored in a cache as it’s passed between sections of your processor. Meltdown reads this cache and can take the information contained in it and send it off in another direction to be utilized for nefarious purposes. The fix for this involves splitting the address space for this shared memory so that the data is never complete and would appear as gibberish if it were captured, the downside to this fix is that it involves making your computer do twice the work for the same amount of processing. Fortunately, this type of shared memory space only occurs in an impactful way during specific I/O events such as disk-reads or network communication and has little effect on computationally-heavy computing such as video-editing or gaming. New chipsets and operating-systems should be affected very minimally by any patches to eliminate these exploits, however older systems and certain cloud and virtualization computing systems could take a pretty big performance hit as they rely heavily on I/O to operate. It’s not often that we see such a vulnerability so widespread and so tricky to fix. It’s something that has been baked into the core architecture of so many of our computer systems in slightly different ways and yet it exists almost universally between manufacturers. It’s like suddenly discovering that bare lightbulbs can steal your credit card number. Sure you can just say “use a lampshade” but lightbulbs come in different sizes and styles even though they all wor[...]



Keep Your Passwords Safe!

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 14:53:21 GMT

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I’m never one for encouraging or promoting New Year’s resolutions unless it’s something practical and attainable. Ok, and something that you know you can follow through with! We talk a lot about data security in terms of backups here at Small Dog Electronics, but we do not talk a lot about password security. Passwords can feel like the bane of our existence some days! We need passwords for just about everything we want to do on the internet, we need them for gaming, online purchases, our banking and more. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen users keeping their usernames and passwords written directly on their computers, sticky notes taped to the underside of their computer, a file right on their desktop called “passwords” and more. I think I’ve probably seen every possible WRONG way you can store your usernames and passwords. I get it, it’s frustrating to forget this information and even worse when it’s a login you have to change every 3-4 months.

To make dealing with passwords a little easier and more secure, using password management software can be crucial in organization and security. We use a service at Small Dog called 1Password, There is also another service called LastPass. that works just as well. Your keychain through your iCloud account can also be used, but, if you need to securely share information with others using one of these other services can be a better solution. We like 1Password and with the frequent need to update passwords and usernames on different sites, it’s extremely functional to ensure that we don’t get locked out of accounts.

I am sure that some of you have seen Safari suggest a random and impossible to remember password suggestion when you need to reset a password, another reason for secure password storage. As crooks and scammers get smarter, we have to get smarter about our passwords. We might prefer to use a near to your heart password combination that you know you won’t forget, but those are often the most easily hacked.

With password management software you will still need to remember a few key passwords and usernames. Afterall, you do have to use a secure password to get into your password filing system. When you are creating passwords, always try and use a combination of numbers, letters and even characters when the sites permit it. Random and longer passwords are always recommended. You might try what I call the sentence trick when creating a new password. This is where you could have a favorite movie line or excerpt from a poem and use that as the base for your password. For example “Now is the time for more fun!” This could turn into a password “N1tt4mf!” I took the first letter of each word and changed some letters for numbers with a special character at the end.

Just as important as tips for what to do to keep your passwords secure is what NOT to do! Always enable two-step verification whenever possible. It’s a bit frustrating at times but is one tip you won’t regret for account security. When using two-step authentication and password management systems keep in mind you can still be vulnerable. You will want to avoid common habits like using the same password on multiple sites. One major benefit of password management software is it remembers your account information, so it eliminates the urge to use common passwords across multiple sites. Once you have filed your account information, discard those old sticky notes! You do not want to keep those lying around anymore.

Now, get organizing and start off 2018 a little more secure than you were!




Flashing folder after installing High Sierra or an update?

Tue, 02 Jan 2018 17:09:46 GMT

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So, you’ve just updated to the newest version of High Sierra. Perhaps you moved up to High Sierra from an earlier operating system to take advantage of the newest features and security patches. After installation, instead of your familiar desktop photo or login screen, you’re greeted with a flashing folder and there is seemingly nothing you can do about it. Enter recovery mode!

Recovery mode is a tool that’s been available to the Mac user since the introduction of OS X Lion (10.7) it’s essentially a separate partition created on install. 10.7 was the first Mac OS to eliminate physical install disks, this new partition provides access to the tools that were only previously located on recovery disks. Those tools include “Disk Utility”, used to create/erase/modify internal or external hard drives and their subsequent partitions (portions of space created on the drive for use) “Restore From Time Machine Backup” which allows you to restore your machine to a previous state that you would have stored on an external hard drive using Mac’s built-in backup software. Lastly, the most helpful tool when it comes to reinstalling an operating system that may have gotten corrupt or damaged during install “Reinstall macOS”.

To get to recovery mode, you start with the machine fully powered off. Press the power button as if turning the machine on as normal and immediately press and hold both the “command” key and “R”. Hold those keys until you either see the Apple logo or a spinning globe. If you see the Apple logo it is booting into its recovery partition, if you see the spinning globe it may ask for your WiFi password as it’s starting from an internet based recovery program.

Now, back to the main topic. You’ve suddenly been greeted with a flashing folder, so we want to get into recovery mode first (CMD+R) once at the utility screen you’ll want to choose “Reinstall macOS.” Follow the prompts. When it asks where you want to install you simply choose your main drive (typically listed as Macintosh HD unless you’ve otherwise changed it) and that should be it, just let the machine do its thing and reinstall the operating system.

If after the reinstall you’re still greeted with the flashing folder, it is a signal of a deeper lying issue and may require service. If that’s the case, bring it on by one of our stores and our talented technicians can see what they can do to bring your machine back to life!




Stay Away From Windex!

Tue, 26 Dec 2017 19:58:09 GMT

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All iPhones pick up fingerprints, and it’s all too easy to get your iPhone dirty with ink, lotion, makeup, dirt, food, and oil. If you’re faced with an iPhone that needs cleaning, resist the urge to spray it with window cleaner, rubbing alcohol, or ammonia, or, even worse, to scrub it with baking soda or Borax. That’s because all iPhones have oleophobic—oil repellent—coatings on their glass surfaces that make it easy to wipe off fingerprints. You don’t want to remove that coating any faster than it will wear off normally, and cleaning products will strip it quickly. Instead, Apple recommends a soft, lint-free cloth such as you would use for glasses or camera lenses. By the way, even though the iPhone 7 and later have some level of dust and water resistance, it’s important to avoid getting moisture in the openings—most of the time, a lens cloth should be all you need.




Let's Face It

Wed, 20 Dec 2017 19:49:34 GMT

I have had my new iPhone X for a couple weeks now and it is magical in so many ways. Being an old codger, it is truly future shock to be holding such a powerful device in my hand and one that instantly recognizes my face, too! There have been a lot of stories out about Face ID and my first-hand experience is that it just works. It is transparent and I lift up my iPhone and it is unlocked. Contrary, to JoJo’s report a few weeks ago, it is not just black people that it has trouble recognizing in the dark, I have to enter my passcode on occasion when I lean over in bed to see what stupid notification I got at 2AM. What You Need to Know About Face ID Apple’s new iPhone X does away with the Home button, which has been a fixture since the original iPhone and has long served as the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. To replace Touch ID, Apple developed a new facial recognition technology called Face ID. With Face ID, the iPhone X scans your face to authenticate you instead of using your fingerprint. It is truly amazing technology! Apple even invested in the company making the scanning lasers that make Face ID work this week. How does Face ID work? Freaking Magic. Well, almost. As science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Face ID is cutting-edge technology that uses Apple’s TrueDepth camera system to project over 30,000 invisible dots onto your face. Then it illuminates your face with infrared light and takes an infrared image. Finally, it translates that image into facial recognition data that are encrypted and stored within the iPhone’s Secure Enclave (the data never leaves your iPhone). Face ID updates its mathematical representation of your face overtime to keep up with how your appearance changes. How secure is Face ID? Extremely. Apple claims that Touch ID’s false positive rate—the number of people who would have to try logging in to your iPhone before someone would succeed randomly—is 1 in 50,000. In contrast, Apple says that Face ID’s false positive rate is 1 in 1,000,000. It can’t be fooled by a picture or a simple mask, although a high-enough quality 3D reproduction of your face might get past it, just as a sufficiently good cast of your fingerprint could fool Touch ID. However, Face ID has trouble distinguishing between identical twins and siblings who have nearly identical features. So if you have an evil twin or even a nice twin with a sick sense of humor, stick to a Touch ID-based iPhone or your passcode! The probability of an incorrect match is also higher with children under 13, since their facial features haven’t become sufficiently distinct yet. By default, Face ID works only when you look at the iPhone X—it can’t be unlocked by your face when you’re sleeping or in my case when I am staring at my Mac’s display with the iPhone on my desk. How fast is Face ID? Not quite as fast as Touch ID in current iPhones, but fast enough that you likely won’t notice. When you pick up your iPhone X so you can look at it, Face ID will, in most cases, have already recognized you. This quick recognition is possible in part because the iPhone X can start scanning early, thanks to iOS’s Raise to Wake feature and a new Tap to Wake feature that automatically wakes the iPhone X when you touch the screen. What if Face ID doesn’t work? First off, things like wearing a hat, scarf, or glasses won’t confuse Face ID, nor will growing or shaving a beard. Thanks to that infrared camera, it even works in complete darkness, sorta. It does seem to have more trouble working with black people in the dark or maybe even darker skinned people. However, Face ID does fail occasionally. One reason for a Face ID failure is holding the iPhone X too close to your face—this is easy to do[...]



Show Me The Cash!

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 19:26:22 GMT

My granddaughter Khadija is away at college at Boston University and from time to time she will hit her gramps up for some bucks. I am happy to help, because as I tell Grace, what exactly do I work for if not to help out my granddaughter! But that’s not the story, when Khadija asked me for $20 I asked her how to send it to her and she uses Venmo. That’s what I did but then I told her Apple Cash is coming out and the next time I am only sending by Apple Cash! With the latest release of iOS11.2 for your iPhone and iPad, Apple has activated Apple Cash which is a really easy way to send money to friends and family. It is basically an App for Messages and it works really well. But even better you can just ask Siri. I just said “hey Siri, pay Grace a dollar” and just like that I virtually took a dollar out of one pocket and put it in another. You can connect Apple Pay Cash to a credit or a debit card but if you use a credit card you will be dinged the 3% fee. Use your debit card and there is no fee! But let’s review how to set up and use Apple Pay Cash. Step one is that you have to be sure to upgrade your iPhone or your iPad to the latest iOS – iOS 11.2. To do that, simply go to Settings—->General—->Software Update and check to see if you are current. You do have two-factor authentication turned on, right? You need that for so many features that just about everyone should have it active. If not go to settings—>iCloud—>Password & Security—->Two Factor Authentication and follow the instructions there. Okay, so you have iOS 11.2 and Two Factor Authentication, what now? Now open the Wallet app. At the top you will see a brand spanking new Apple Pay Cash card. Click on that and hit continue to activate your Apple Pay Cash card. This card is really important. This is where you will receive any money that others send to you. It will be stored in your Apple Pay Cash card and can be easily used to send cash to someone else, to pay for goods or services using Apple Pay or you can transfer it to your bank account. Once your digital Apple Pay Cash card is set up, you will be asked to pair a credit or debit card to the new service. I put in one of each but a debit card makes the most sense since you do not get charged the 3% fee. If you put in more than one you will be asked each time to choose which card you want to use, which is another step. Once you have added a card and agreed to the terms and conditions you will be asked to verify the card by entering in a code that will be sent to you automatically. Now, you can add some cash to your Apple Pay Cash card if you wish. That makes sending money a couple clicks easier but it is not necessary. If you click on the “i” button on the Apple Pay Cash card screen you will get your information screen which will tell you your balances, have buttons for adding money or transferring it to your bank, etc. It also has a tab to review your transactions. To send money to a friend you can simply ask Siri in the Messages app, open the App drawer and choose the Apple Pay icon. Remember that both parties must have iOS 11.2 installed for person to person payments to work. So, that means no sending bucks to Android users. When you tap on that icon you will get a pop-up to ask you how much you want to send. Your friend will receive a pop-up to accept. Once you verify the transaction using your fingerprint or in the case of the iPhone X it is super easy – just look at your iPhone and bingo! you have sent the cash. Your friend has instant access to the cash in their Apple Pay Cash card which they can use for Apple Pay or to send on to someone else. If you want to transfer the money to your bank account you tap on T[...]