Kibbles and Bytes – 462

Dear Friends,

Grace and I awoke to the screams of a fisher cat in our yard at about 1:00 AM.  Knowing that Mothra, our cat, was outside (she has decided that in the warm weather she is an outside cat) we hoped that she had a safe hiding place. The dogs leaped out of bed and started barking, but Hammerhead was so scared that he immediately jumped back into bed between us and shivered. What a baby! Fortunately, Mothra was waiting at the door in the morning, but with spring come all the critters and we are going to have to try to convince her to stay inside at night.

It’s an early spring here in Vermont. We have already uncovered the strawberries and the fields are green as well as you look down the valley. Artie has organized our annual spring cleanup for today at the Small Dog campus. We picked up quite a few bags of trash from the grounds and things are looking good!

Apple bought some property in Cupertino and Steve Jobs went before the city council to talk about Apple’s plans for a new 50-acre campus to house employees that they need as a result of the continued growth of the company. I imagine the town leaders were happy to hear from Steve about Apple’s plans to stay in Cupertino and grow their business. I imagine a good chunk of change is paid in taxes!

Hapy is off to the annual Social Venture Network conference in Maine. We gave him a hard time for not taking his nice little Audi convertible, but he had an excuse in that his radio is stuck in “safe” mode and he wanted entertainment on the six-hour drive. I borrowed the car yesterday and drove to Barre at lunch to pick up the axle that I had modified for Hammerhead’s sidecar. I’m dressing the sidecar up a bit with a Victory wheel and I had to have the axle turned down to the metric size of the Victory.


Apple Whacks the Street!

Apple released their second quarter financial results on Wednesday. This is Apple’s second fiscal quarter, January-March, and despite the fact that this quarter had 13 weeks instead of 14, like the first quarter, and despite the fact that the MacBook Pro didn’t really start shipping until March, and despite a most difficult transition to Intel processors, and despite the fact that the holiday buying season dominates the first quarter, Apple posted the second-best quarterly results in the company’s history!

I’d say it was getting boring to see Apple consistently beat the street over the head by outperforming even the most optimistic analysts, but I can’t help but be thrilled as I see Apple’s continued success. So much success that Steve Jobs appeared before Cupertino’s City Council to propose a new 50-acre Apple campus for the California city. You can see the video of Steve’ presentation at Chris Saribay’s blog <>. I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again: the story of Apple Computer is the greatest American business story of the last century!

One of the most interesting tidbits coming out of the conference call with analysts was that over 50% of the customers buying Macs in Apple’s retail stores are classified as “new to Mac.” This is consistent with what we are seeing at Small Dog and is an exciting trend that speaks to an increasing market share for Apple!

Apple had $4.3 billion of revenue (remember when they had about that much in sales for a whole year?) and turned a profit of $410 million or $0.47 per share. That means for the first half of their year, a year that is an important year of transition for Apple, Apple has posted over $10 billion in sales and almost $1 billion in net profit!

Apple shipped 1,112,000 Macs and over 8.5 million iPods in the quarter. That’s a modest 4% growth rate for Macs — but that is understandable and remarkable considering the Intel transition — and a 61% growth rate for iPods!

Here are a few other highlights from their report:

* Apple’s iTunes Music Store generated  $485 million in revenue, an increase of 125 percent.

* Apple’s retail stores combined to sell 154,000 Macs and other products that totaled $636 million in revenue, which was an increase of 7% in units and 11% in revenue. However, these results represent a 20% decrease in Mac units and 41% decrease in revenue for the retail segment quarter-to-quarter.

* Apple admitted that a lack of Intel-native Adobe software is impacting Intel Mac sales. The company said it is working with Adobe to help deliver software such as Creative Suite 3.0 as soon as possible.

* The Apple iTunes Music Store is responsible for over 87% of legal music downloads in the United States!

* The Apple iTunes Music Store now boasts over 2.9M audio tracks, 60,000 podcasts, 9,000 videos, and 70 TV shows.

* Apple expects 30% of all new cars sold in the U.S. this year to offer iPod integration.

* Commenting on some of its investments during the quarter, Apple said it paid off the remaining $500M committed to its NAND flash memory suppliers, net-share settled 5.5M shares, and also spent about $120M for its new data center in Newark, Calif., and property in Cupertino for its upcoming headquarters expansion.

* Despite investing $500 million in its long-term NAND flash memory supply contract and $120 million in its new data center and property in Cupertino for its new campus, Apple’s cash declined only $481 million to about  $8.32 billion in the bank. They have so much of a bankroll that they have formed a new company just to manage those billions!

* Apple reiterated that it has no desire or plan to sell or support Windows, but believes Boot Camp should make Macs more appealing to Windows users.

* Apple is “very excited” about the products it has in its pipeline, including Macs. So are we!


Phishing Around

The biggest email scam around these days is phishing. “Phishing” (also known as “carding” and “spoofing”) refers to email that attempts to fraudulently acquire personal information from you, such as your account password or credit card information. On the surface, the email may appear to be from a legitimate company or individual, but it’s not. The crooks are getting more and more sophisticated with their phishing messages and if you are not careful, you might get caught!

Most phishing attempts use credit card-issuing banks, ebay, Paypal, or Amazon, but I have seen phishing emails that appear on the surface to come from obscure companies. Your safe computing rule should be to never send credit card information, account passwords, or extensive personal information in an email unless you can verify that the recipient is who they claim to be. Many companies have policies that state they will never solicit such information from customers by email.  It is a very rare company that will ask for this information without surefire identification that they are who they say they are.

If you do get email that you think is a phishing scheme, here are some tips that can help you determine its legitimacy:

1) Find out where the mail came from

View the email headers to see where the message really originated from. If you are using Mac OS X Mail you can view “long headers” by going under the “View” menu item, choosing “Message” and then the subcategory “Long Headers.” This will give you complete information about the origin of the email.

A typical email header displays several lines that begin with “Received.” Note the last “Received” line; this line will look something like this:

Received from (123.456.789.101)

If the “Received from” information does not match the email address of the sender or the company being represented in the email, it usually means that the message did not truly come from that individual or company. So if your message is from Wells Fargo and you do not see a Wells Fargo address in the last Received line, there’s a good chance this is a phishing scam and should end up in your deleted mail.

2) Watch out for embedded links!

One common phishing technique is to include links in an email that look like they go to a legitimate website (i.e., However, upon closer inspection, the link may actually take you to a website that has nothing to do with the company the email is pretending to be from, even though the resulting counterfeit website may be designed to look exactly the same. Do not believe your eyes. Look at the real address of where you have surfed if you accidently click on that link. You will see that it usually has nothing that would identify it as really belonging to the merchant.

In Mac OS X 10.4, Mail can help identify these type of links. Simply mouse over (but don’t click) any link in an email, and you will see a pop-up that shows you the actual URL that you will be taken to.

3) Dear John?

Phishing emails tend to start with generic phrases like “Dear valued customer” or your email account name, such as “Dear bigdoggie37,” instead of your name (“Dear Don Mayer,” for example). Most legitimate companies include your name in their correspondence because companies will have it on record (if you’ve dealt with them before).

4) Which email account did the mail go to?

If the sender sent the message to an address that was not the one you provided to the company, this is usually a good indication that the message is not legitimate. You can usually verify what email address a company has on file on their website (just be sure to go to their real website instead of following any links in a suspicious email).

5) Check against previous legit email.

If you’ve had previous, valid correspondence with the company, compare those messages to the email in question. If you have never done business with a particular company, and you receive an email that appears to be from that company requesting account information, it could be an attempt at phishing. Again, never email account information or credit card information if you are in doubt.

6) Keep your cards close to your chest!

If you receive an unsolicited commercial email requesting personal information, do not provide any information without first checking directly with the company that appears to be the one requesting this information. Do not reply to the message or click any of the links in the message. Instead, visit the company’s website and find an email address to contact regarding this issue, or call the company. Many companies appreciate being notified about fraudulent attempts to gain information about their customers.

7) Don’t click on attachments!

If you receive an unsolicited message that contains an attachment, do not open it. Contact the company directly to verify the contents of the email and the attachment before opening it.

8) Review your statements.

Examine your credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to check for unauthorized charges. If your statement is late by more than a couple of days, call your credit card company or bank to confirm your billing address and account balances.

[Editor’s note: The Google Toolbar for Firefox has a Safe Browsing feature that will warn you if it suspects a site is “phishy.” I tested this on a scam email that I received and it did alert me to the potential fraud.]


Tolstoy, Digital Sony Handicams, Jazz Mandolins, Macs, and More… Ed @

The Jazz Mandolin Project, led by Jamie Masefield, recently premiered their 53-minute movie, How Much Land Does a Man Need, based on the Tolstoy short story of the same name. The Jazz Mandolin Project is renowned for their innovative musical composition and excellent live shows. They have a large following, and Jamie has both popularized and redefined the mandolin as a leading instrument. He is one of the top mandolin players in the world.

How Much Land Does A Man Need took a year to shoot, mostly on the road while the band toured across America. A few shots were gathered in Vermont to flesh out the details of the story. The visuals flow with the story, while the story itself is narrated in English by Elena Pankratov. Her authentic Russian accent adds depth to the movie. For example, when the main character Pahom crosses the Volga (which is represented in the movie by the Mississippi), she uses the proper Russian pronunciation “Wolga.”

With the movie playing overhead on the movie screen, the Jazz Mandolin Project plays the soundtrack live. It’s a great immersive experience, bringing a new aspect not only to Tolstoy’s story but also to the band’s music and performance. It’s also an innovative use of the medium of motion pictures.

So, what does this have to do with our Macintosh newsletter? The entire movie was shot with a single CDD digital Sony Handicam. The camera was small enough to bring everywhere and captured excellent images. People are consistently impressed with the quality of the video. The camera Jamie used was discontinued, but its current incarnation can be seen here:

Sony Digital Video Camera DCR-PC1000 MiniDV – $1099

Jamie was going to edit in iMovie, but as the movie grew deeper and more complex he switched to Final Cut Express 3. He imported hours and hours of footage into a 300 GB LaCie D2 drive, connected to the computer via FireWire 400.

Jamie edited the narration with Pro Tools and further refined it with Soundtrack (which is bundled with Final Cut Express 3). He also used Soundtrack to create a demo CD of the narration and music that could be played back when he was interviewed on public radio. He used Sibelius 4 to write and preview the soundtrack that would ultimately be played live. This included several themes specific to characters and landscapes, and  some great, full-bore compositions.

Now, what kind of awesome, powerful, cutting-edge system did Jamie use to edit this multimedia feature?

A G3 iBook with a 14-inch screen and 768 MB RAM. That’s it. That’s all. No dual-core G5 Power Mac, not even a G5 or Intel iMac. Turns out, the iBook was fine for cutting and editing video (which was all stored on the external drive), though it was slow to render footage. Though he is master of the mandolin and multi-talented on several other instruments, editing video was a whole new experience that Jamie had to learn from scratch. The Final Cut Express and Final Cut Pro programs are quite complicated, and not easy to jump into.

There were a few glitches. Somehow FCE was storing render files in the application folder, not on the folders assigned on the external drive. That’s a bizarre problem not reported anywhere online, including Apple’s support forums. A little media management solved the problem. There was a problem with a corrupted version of QuickTime, which was resolved by trashing preferences and receipts and downloading a new version of QuickTime. Render times took longer than expected. Jamie had to buy a FireWire-400-to-FireWire-800 cable to connect the camera and hard drive to the computer at the same time. Jamie had help from experienced friends, including Mike McCarney, Mike Gordon, Bruce Gibbs, and to a lesser extent, yours truly.

When all was said and done, the process went well. DVDs were burned as the project unfolded. These were sent around the country to familiarize the other members of the JMP with the material. How Much Land Does a Man Need was completed a  couple of days before its public stage debut. Final DVDs were burned and distributed. One of those DVDs was used to project the movie on screen and play the narration over the theater’s speakers.

From here, the movie will hitting the road. A more advanced DVD will be sent to booking agents around the country. The Jazz Mandolin Project will be performing the music and playing the movie in schools, clubs, art venues, and possibly even at jam festivals, where they already have a large following. If you have a chance, I highly recommend seeing this performance. Just don’t say anything about the G3 iBook! Read about the project here:


Google Labs and Creating Web Pages Dawn @

I admit it: I’m crazy for Google. I have a secret fantasy that one day I’ll come up with the next cool web idea and Google will invite me to join them after paying me millions of dollars so that I too can enjoy the sweet life on the Google Campus. Well, over the course of two weeks they’ve added two really cool things to their arsenal. One was Google Calendar, which I wrote about last week, and the other day Google announced that they’ve added Google Page Creator as a experimental Google Labs project.

In case you didn’t know, Google Labs is the “sandbox” for new projects. It showcases a few of the latest Google ideas that aren’t quite ready for prime time. Developers add projects to the lab to get feedback from users. This is a great way to get an instant reading on how popular a pet project may or may not be. Some projects that started out in the lab include Google Maps and Google News Alerts, both items I use frequently.

Now there’s Google Page Creator. Google Page Creator is a way to easily create websites, sort of like the idea behind iWeb and a .Mac account, though the Google solution gives you much less control over design. As you may guess, this is all browser based, so anyone can have access to it. It is very easy to get started. Everything is done as WYSIWYG and you have some but not much control over layouts.

All in all, it’s another cool, free idea from Google.

To see what else is cooking in the Google Labs (including some Google Widgets):

For Google Page Creator:

< service=pages& 2F&ltmpl=yessignups>


Start Soapbox

Gasoline Prices, Big Oil, and Conservation Don Mayer Don @

Gas prices were high when I was in Hawaii and they are rising fast now that I am back in Vermont, with a gallon of gas costing over $3. On the one hand, I think that price is incredibly low considering the finite nature of the petroleum resources of our planet and the fact that it takes a couple million years to make new oil. But on the other hand, I see the Chairman of Exxon/Mobil pulling down nearly a billion dollars in compensation last year and all oil companies enjoying record astronomical profits, and something just doesn’t compute.

It seems that every time gas prices rise, there’s a convenient excuse. Last time it was the refineries along the Gulf Coast that were damaged by Katrina and this time we are told to blame it on Iran and Nigeria. It is just a bit too coincidental that these price increases come at a time when gasoline usage will increase because of the summer weather. It is not coincidental, however, that these increased prices result in huge windfall profits for the oil companies. Don’t blame your corner store, because they are still only making a few cents on a gallon. It is those same oil companies that met in secret at the White House to plot “energy” strategy that are cleaning up.

While these guys are stuffing dollars into every pocket in their suits, the cost of living is rising faster than increases in wages and we are all paying for their new suits with more pockets! Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders said this week that there was no doubt that if George Bush called all the CEOs of the oil companies to a meeting in the Oval Office and said to them “in a loud voice” (maybe in his “decider” voice),  “Hey, guys, we have to have lower gas prices!” that it would be about five minutes before prices fell at the pump.

While it is true that there is an increasing demand for oil, these price increases are not based upon a lack of supply in the supply and demand equation because there are now record reserves of oil. It is certainly not because we haven’t drilled in the Alaskan wilderness, either. It seems to me that it is a conscious effort on the part of the oil companies to use world events as excuses to raise prices and increase profits.

The best short-term answer to limit our dependence upon foreign oil is conservation. It is outrageous that the cars being produced today have poorer gas mileage than those produced 20 years ago, especially when technology exists now to achieve gas mileage well over 40 mpg! If we spent only a fraction of the money that we are spending on a mistaken war in Iraq on energy conservation, we could reduce our dependence upon foreign oil by millions of gallons a day.

The President promoted some initiatives to increase the production of ethanol. On the face of it, this seems like a good idea. Make some fuel from the huge surplus agricultural capacity. The problem with this concept is that to plant, harvest, process, and transport ethanol (it is highly corrosive, so it can only be shipped in special rail cars) requires more energy than it produces. So to make a gallon of ethanol might require a gallon and a half of gasoline. That’s some voodoo economics for sure!

As the rest of the world catches up to us in oil consumption, there is going to be increasing tension over the remaining oil supplies. The wars in the Middle East are about oil. I don’t think we’d care much about Iraq if they didn’t have huge oil reserves. We are establishing ourselves as a permanent presence in that part of the world with huge military bases and interference with countries and governments to protect the oil for ourselves. World politics is being driven by oil because forward thinkers in even the most conservative governments see the handwriting on the wall. The world’s oil supply is woefully insufficient to meet the world’s oil demand.

The easiest way to reduce oil consumption is to conserve and to make energy efficiency not only a smart choice but the right financial move, too. Here in Vermont, years ago we established a public utility whose responsibility it was to reduce energy use through efficiency. When they pay an incentive to put in energy-efficient lighting or heating, we are buying some of the least expensive energy that there is. This needs to become a national obsession. We need to embrace the long-term vision of a world that is truly energy starved and start the planning now on how to achieve energy independence rather than spending our precious resources (now about $95 billion a year!) in fighting wars to secure oil.

How do you feel about high gas prices? Share your opinion on the Small Dog soapbox:

End Soapbox



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We just uploaded a new podcast with additional specials. Be sure to give it a listen!

The easiest way to subscribe is through the iTunes Music Store (click the Pawcast Feed – iTunes link in our blog).


Basketball and hockey playoffs start this weekend and the baseball season is in full swing, just in time for a rainy, cool weekend in Vermont. I’ve got the grands coming over to spend the night this weekend, so Grace and I are guaranteed some fun and laughs, but I’m sure we’ll be ready to turn them over to Mom on Sunday after they run us ragged!

Thank you for reading Kibbles & Bytes. We never forget that it is you, our loyal customers, who pay our wages and all of us at Small Dog Electronics are committed to providing the very best in customer service to make that relationship flourish. Have a great weekend!

Your Kibbles & Bytes team,

Don, Dawn, and Ed


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