Author Archives: Eric

In search of a better alarm clock. Part 1

The LARK Silent Alarm uses a wrist band that vibrates to wake you rather than using the jarring beeping/buzzing of most alarm clocks. The wrist band also uses an actigraphy microsensor to detect your sleep patterns.

The iOS app is used to set the alarm and keep track of your sleep history easily on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. Once you start using the LARK alarm, it will do a 7 day sleep assessment. Once you have done the assessment it will give you an action plan to improve your sleep.

If you would like even more coaching with your sleep, you can get LARK Pro. It was developed with sleep experts and a pro-athlete sleep coach.

I have been using the LARK alarm for a few weeks. I got it because I don’t like the alarm clock jolting me out of sleep in the morning. This does wake me up more gently, which I like. Although I don’t always sleep well, I wasn’t too interested in the sleep assessment until recently. Just this week, I was talking with someone that owns multiple businesses and only gets about 4 hours of sleep per night. He said that the sleep assessment has helped him sleep better. Some of the suggestions it has given him are what time is best for him to go to sleep and what type of pillow to get. After speaking with him, I will probably try the sleep assessment.

Overall I like the LARK Silent Alarm and find it helpful to see my sleep patterns and how much sleep I’m actually getting at night.

It would also be good for anyone that is deaf or hard of hearing and can’t use a regular alarm clock.

The only thing that I didn’t like was how the wrist band felt on my wrist. It wasn’t as soft as I would like and it seemed to irritate my wrist overnight. I found by moving it up higher on my arm, it didn’t bother me as much.

You can find it for $99 at our retail stores. Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Flashback malware: How can I keep my Mac secure?

We have had several customers ask us about the Flashback malware that has been getting a lot of publicity lately. One thing that we love about our Macs is how secure they are, especially when compared to Windows, Android, or other OSes out there. But with the increased popularity of Macs, we’ll probably see more attempts to go after Mac users.

We don’t want to take a casual attitude towards any security issue, and we are glad that Apple doesn’t either. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • We have not seen any customers that actually have been infected with Flashback (as of this writing). So although there is a lot of publicity, we hope that the actual problem is not as large as the press is making it out to be.
  • Apple patched this particular security issue in Java a while ago. So if you keep your Mac OS up to date, that is the best way to stay secure. If you haven’t run software update recently, do it!

Am I at risk?
Probably not, but if you would like to check and see if your Mac has the Flashback malware on it, you can download a free utility on github from programmer Juan Leon. This utility will check for the Flashback, but not remove it. If you have Flashback on your Mac, you can find some instructions at F-secure to remove it, or you can bring it in to one of our retail stores and we can help you out.

Beyond Flashback, what else can I do to keep my Mac secure?
The most important, and an easy step, is to make sure that Software Update is running regularly (you can check in your Apple Menu, System Preferences, under Software Update). We would recommend letting it check once a week. When it finds an update, make sure and install it.

You can get some security software for your Mac. Many ISPs (like Comcast) will provide you with security software, or here are a few good programs you can download:
Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition (Free)
Virus Barrier Express (Free)

Also, this issue was caused by a vulnerable version of Java. Java has seen other security issues in the past. If you don’t need Java anymore, you can disable it. The Java Preferences utility is in /Applications/Utilities; uncheck the boxes next to the versions listed in the General tab. Some programs still need Java, so be careful with this step.

Gatekeeper
We are looking forward to Mac OS X Mountain Lion, coming out this summer. Mountain Lion will include Gatekeeper, which will make Mac OS X, the most secure OS in the world, even more secure. Read more about Gatekeeper and what it will mean for security on the Mac here.

Update (4/11/12)

Apple has a new knowledge base article about Flashback, and it looks like they will provide a tool to remove it soon.

For now, security company Kaspersky Lab has a free removal tool that is easier to use than the instructions provided above.

Update (4/12/12)

Apple has a new item in Software Update that not only patches the Flashback vulnerability but also deletes all known variants. More information can be found by clicking here.

In short, make sure you run your software updates!

Grilling in style

Grilling time is coming up. Here are some suggestions on how to use your iPad or iPhone to grill in style.

iGrill

This handy device is easy to set up. It comes with one temperature probe and a second one can be added. The temperature of your meat can be read from the iGrill itself or you can use the long-range bluetooth connectivity to connect to a iPhone, iPod touch or iPad and watch the temperature from up to 200 feet away. The free app allows you to set alarms for each probe so you know when everything is cooked just right. You can also set a timer and it will graph the progress of the temperature as well.

On their website, they have recipes for any type of meat. They also have tips on grilling, smoking, picking the perfect steak and food safety.

I’ve had my iGrill for about a year and overall I’ve been happy with it. I have had a few issues that didn’t cause too many problems. When using it with my iPhone, the screen would turn off it would sometimes stop connecting through bluetooth. I would then need to reconnect and restart the app for it to start updating again. When I used it with my iPad and had it plugged in to power, I didn’t have the issue.

Weber’s On the Grill

This app has a lot of recipes for grilling. There are the recipes for meat as well as desserts, rubs, marinades and sauces. Once you find a recipe you like it will automatically make a shopping list.

The basics section has many how-to guides on the basics of grilling.

Those who grill a lot may find it too basic but for someone that is starting or would like to polish their grilling techniques, this is a good app. The one downside that I found is the iPhone and iPad version have to be purchased separately. They are both $4.99 in the App store. The iPhone version is here and the iPad version is here.

These are two of the apps and devices I use when grilling. There are many more apps, books in the iBooks store and podcasts that cover grilling. If you have a favorite app, book or podcast that you use, let us all know in the comments.

Roxio Easy VHS to DVD for Mac

I have two great video cameras right now. One is my iPhone 4S; the video that this iPhone can shoot is incredible in quality. I also got a mirrorless Sony NEX-5n for Christmas. Again, incredible video. Once you go to a nice HD video camera, there’s no going back.

But what about all that video I have sitting around from years gone by? I decided that I want to digitize all that video on VHS, Hi 8, Mini DV — and any other video acronym you can think of — to my iMac.

I wanted to get it digitized before my VHS tapes started degrading too badly. I also want to be able to share those home movies, and that’s tough to do until you get them on your Mac. Once they are on your Mac, its easy to put your home movies on your iPod or iPad, or stream to your Apple TV.

One product that makes this easier is Roxio’s Easy VHS to DVD for Mac. If it has “Easy” in the name, its got to be some easy software, right? Well, this one is, actually, pretty “easy.”

It’s a combination hardware and software solution; so it comes with the cable you need to plug in your old VHS player (don’t have one lying around anymore? borrow one from grandma) or analog camcorder.

You then fire up Roxio’s software, name your video, tell it how you’ve got everything plugged in, hit play on the VHS, hit record on the sofware, and go have dinner. If you’re not hungry, you’ll have to do something for a while. If you want to capture 60 minutes of birthday parties from 20 years ago, it will take 60 minutes. There is no way to speed that part up, so this will take some time. Luckily, Roxio has a nice “auto stop” feature so you don’t have to be around to stop recording.

Once the video is captured, you can burn it right to a DVD with the included Toast software, or you can drop it into iMovie to edit first.

Wish me luck in digitizing my shoebox full of videos. And don’t tell my mom I can do this; she’ll want me to digitize her movies.

Price: $79

Pros:
Comes with everything you need; hardware and software
Can go straight to DVD or edit in iMovie
Includes Toast Basic 9 – a nice freebie

Cons:
Digitizing video is still time consuming
You’ll need a lot of hard drive space if you want to digitize a lot of video

App Review – Dinner Spinner

Do you ever find yourself stumped when trying to decide what to cook for dinner? That is almost every day for me! To solve this problem, I went searching for recipes on Apple’s App Store. I found a sweet free app for the iPhone or iPod touch called Allrecipes.com Dinner Spinner. When you don’t know what to make, or don’t have a clue what to even buy at the grocery store, give this App a shake and it will give you a list of ideas.

The other morning, I was lying in bed with my iPhone, searching through the Allrecipes.com app to find something to prepare for dinner. I knew that I wouldn’t be home from working at Expercom until dinner time, so I was looking for something that would be quick to prepare once I got home. I customized the search for a “Main Dish” with “Pork” ready in the “Slow Cooker”. I checked out the matches and found a great recipe to make. It was delicious!

Pros:
-Tons of recipes!
-Each recipe includes hundreds of reviews from cooks like you
-Nutritional information available for many recipes
-Option to save recipes to Favorites

Cons:
-Sometimes too many recipes gives too many options
-Have to have an Internet connection to access recipes
-iPhone or iPad screen can get slightly gunky when controlling it with cooking fingers

Upgrades:
If you want more features like customized ingredient searches, ability to change the number of servings, and an automatically updated grocery list, you can upgrade to Allrecipes.com Dinner Spinner Pro for $2.99.

A similar free app, Allrecipes.com Your Kitchen Inspiration, is available for the iPad. Stick that iPad up on your cookbook stand, and bake away! Check out the video below for more.

Happy cooking!

iFrogz Boost Speaker

Sometimes, I’d like to get a little more volume out of my Apple iPhone or iPod touch. iFrogz, a local Utah company, has a unique product you should check out.

It’s called Boost, and it’s a “NearField Audio” speaker. It doesn’t use any wires; there’s no bluetooth or AirPlay to setup or configure. You just put your phone or iPod touch on the speaker, and viola, the Boost amplifies the sound.

This is hard to explain with pictures, so check out this video to see how it works.

Some people think it has a mic in the box to Boost the sound; but no, it uses patent pending NearFA technology to sync the audio from inside your iPhone or iPod before pumping it through the speakers.

You have got to check this out next time you’re in Expercom in Logan or Sandy. It’s way fun. The iFrogz Boost sells for $39; so it’s a great price too. It runs for up to 15 hours of play time on three AA batteries.

Price:   $39

Pros:
- Easy to use
- Decent audio quality for the price
- Fun

Cons:
- You can get better audio quality if you spend more
- Doesn’t work with iPad very well (too big to balance)

Genealogy on your Mac

As a Macintosh dealer in Salt Lake City and Utah a common question that we get is “How can I do genealogy on my Mac.” There are few ways this can be done. You can get a Mac specific genealogy program or a Windows virtualization program. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

Mac Specific Programs

There are a number of programs that will run on your mac without the need for anything else.

Reunion 9

(Leister Productions) – One of the older genealogy programs for Mac. It hasn’t had a major update in years. It does have LDS ordinance support but does not have New FamilySearch integration. They have have a mobile app version for iPhone/iPads. The current version is compatible with OS X Lion. There is a demo available for download. Cost is $99 and is not in the App Store. It can be downloaded from their website or purchased in store. The mobile app is $14.99 and is purchased through the iTunes app store.

Family Tree Maker (ancestry.com) – New for Mac. It does have LDS ordinance support but not New FamilySearch integration. It does integrate with ancestry.com. There is not a mobile version or demo version for download. Cost is $69.99 and is available through their website.

Mac FamilyTree 6 (Synium Software) – Relatively new and made major improvements

with version 6. It has LDS ordinance support and New FamilySearch integration (requires LDS.org login). There is a mobile version for iPad/iPhone. It is compatible with OS X Lion. There is a demo available for download from their website. Cost is $59.99 on the App Store. Mobile version is $14.99 through the iTunes app store.

FamilyInsight (Ohana Software) – This is also a new program for the mac. It has LDS ordinance support and New FamilySearch integration (requires LDS.org login). The most unique feature of FamilyInsight is the Ordinance Helpers for keeping track of ordinances and making reservations to have them done. There is not a mobile version and the cost is $25 to download from their website. They also have a free utility called Get My Ancestors.

Running Windows Programs (PAF, Roots Magic Ect)

It is also possible to run Windows genealogy programs on your Mac (most common are PAF and Rootsmagic). There are multiple ways to do this and most methods require a license of Windows to work.

Bootcamp – This is a program that is part of Mac OS X that will set up your hard drive in a Mac part and a Windows part. Once Windows is installed you can tell the computer to boot into either Mac OS or Windows. This offers the best compatibility with Windows programs but has to be rebooted anytime you want to use it. The cost is the price of a Windows license. (Between $129 to $499)

Virtualization Software – This includes Parallels Desktop and VM Ware Fusion. They are applications that emulate a Windows computer. You can install Windows and programs and they run at the same time as your Mac programs. Some programs can run slower when using one of these applications because you are running two operating systems at the same time and they are using more resource on your computer. The biggest advantage is that you don’t need to restart to use your Windows programs. For doing genealogy it works great. Parallels is $79 and Fusion is $49 and you would need to buy a license of Windows as well. We carry everything you need in our stores.

CrossoverCrossover is an application that can run Windows programs without needing Windows installed. It is inexpensive but doesn’t work with everything. I have tried it with PAF and it worked well. I haven’t tried it with other programs yet. There is a trial version available for download. Cost starts at $39.

Basics of iPhoto ’11

iPhoto is a great application with built in features that can make life a little easier with our ever-growing digital photo collection.  Faces, flagging, and hiding photos are all great tools that can help, even the slowest of us, get our photo library under control. For those of us you like to print and send photos, we will take a look at that too.

With built-in facial recognition software, iphoto gives you the tools you need to tag, name, and confirm people in your photos.  With a photo selected, on the bottom right of the screen you will see five buttons.  The first one, which is info, you will see on the right where you can add, edit, and see the listed people in the photo.  If a box doesn’t appear around the face of the person in the photo, simply click on their face and a box will appear ready for you to re-size to fit their face.

Once you get done naming them, click on the faces tab at the top left of your window.  The people you just named will then appear in the faces tab.  To add more faces, you can simply click and the bottom right of the window on the “find more faces” and it will walk you through the steps needed.  After you have selected at least five photos, you will click on the tag and confirm if iphoto has found that person in other photos in your library.  As you keep clicking on more photos, iphoto will adjust the search results it has to be more accurate with what you are selecting.

Flagging photos is great when you have photos that you frequently need.  In the main iphoto window

select the photos tab on the top left.  With your mouse over the photo on the top left you will see a silhouette of a flag, click the flag and it will change colors. If you look to the left of your iphoto window, under recent, you will see a flagged tab. By selecting this tab it will show in the iphoto browser all your photos you have selected.  To de-flag a photo, roll over the picture and click the flag.  Hiding photos is also nice when you have photos you don’t want to see all the time but you want to keep them.  To do this, click the photo you want to hide a menu will pop up.  Select hide photo and it will put an X on the top.  To view or hide these simply go to view in the menu bar and select “hidden photos” and in the iphoto browser you will see them with the X.

Under recent, as show in the photo above you will see a tab called “printing”.  Click on this tab and the iphoto window will bring up your photos that you want to print.  Your printing options can be found at the bottom of the window, as seen in the picture below.  You can add different themes, borders, and colors to make your photos just the way you like them.

Until next time, Enjoy the basics of iPhoto!