Pocket PCs and OSX: Hard Times

I’ve got a Dell Axim PDA that’s heavily used; it’s the system of record for my to-dos and calendar items as well as little notes. For the last 5 months it’s existed as a stand-alone device–it never synced to a computer, and I’d periodically backup to a SD card in case of an outage. The problem with that is since the device sat in my bag, if I’d set up a reminder for a chore I wouldn’t see or hear it go off and it’s handy to view a calendar entry while on the phone.

So, I bought PocketMac Lite to sync the Axim to my Mac. It’s been anything but a bliss ride. The first problem–just getting PocketMac to see the Axim–was quickly resolved with a tech support ticket with PocketMac. It turns out there’s a bug in the Device Locator App and there’s a fix. I merrily started syncing away and noticed that after about six or seven syncs it would time out on the tasks a lot. A quick look at the Task app on the Axim showed I had a whopping 1300 tasks. There is no way I had that many tasks, and a little research showed there were six or seven copies of every task, including completed ones. A check of iCal aslo showed many duplicates. So, I deleted all of them on the Mac, did a sync which then deleted them off the Axim. I blamed it on the Entourage-to-iCal Sync Services and disabled that.

Now tasks from the Axim are showing up on the Mac, but Mac tasks are not getting to the Axim. I’ve still got the duplication issue, and I can’t figure out any rhyme or reason behind it; I can do five syncs in a row with no duplicate, but the sixth might be the one that duplicates everything. This is far from an ideal situation.

So, I opened up another ticket with PocketMac this morning that’s gone unanswered. Until I get it resolved, I’ve got two options: I can use a different task program on the Axim doesn’t sync with iCal, or I can break out my Handspring Visor which syncs well with OSX. Neither of these are ideal options. I won’t be syncing tasks with iCal, so I can’t view them on the Mac, and the Handspring is seven-year-old technology with a grayscale display (however, it does take AAA batteries so I can always keep a few around). I’ve got the extended battery for the Axim and it has a nice color display. While the Axim is my main choice, I think tonight I’ll be syncing with the Handspring to test that out, again.

Hopefully, I’ll get the PocketMac issue solved. I’m not hopeful, since a quick Google search yielded a post on MacUpdate by a person with the exact same problem and he hasn’t heard back from PocketMac yet.

OS X Leopard delayed until October

Apple today announced that the next version of OS X, Leopard, will not release until October due to resources being pulled to support the iPhone development. Naturally, this has gotten many Mac message board posters to act like Steve Jobs canceled Christmas.

Me? I fall in the “meh” category. I was certainly hoping the OS would come out sooner than that, but since the iPhone is a bigger deal right now and its delay would be incredibly bad PR, Apple had no choice but to pull resources to work on it. Since the iPhone runs a version of OSX, logic would dictate those resources would come from the Leopard team.

I’ve seen people ask: “Why didn’t Apple just hire more people?” and as anyone who’s done any sort of Project Management will tell you, simply hiring more people during the critical phase slows the project, not speeds it. These people need to be trained, acclimated to the company, and gain an understanding of the code base.

I want the OS to come out when it is damn good and ready. Tiger works just fine for me. The only bad part is now it’s likely to hit around the time of the Office upgrade so I’ll be doing two upgrades closer together than I had hoped.

Latest Leopard Rumor: iLife and iWork included

According to this ThinkSecret Article, Apple is shipping Leopard in June and it will come with iWork 07 and iLife 07. While some of the Leopard rumors I’ve read require a big grain of salt, I think this one has got some legs for the following reaons (some of which are stated in the article, but I agree with).

  • At WWDC last year, Steve Jobs announced some of Leopard’s features would remain Top Secret so Microsoft didn’t copy them.
  • Since then, we’ve seen nothing from Apple about Leopard, iLife or iWork. Not even at Macworld this year.
  • Because Vista was pretty much feature-locked during last August’s WWDC, there’s not much that Apple could have done that Microsoft would have been able to react to…
  • … unless of course that was bundling the Apple version of Office. Granted, Pages isn’t anywhere near as powerful as Office, but it doesn’t take a big-time copywriter to come up with the next “Mac vs. PC Ad”: “See, PC, my new OS comes with a photo management suite, a movie maker, a dvd maker, a web page creator, a word processor and presentation software. What does yours come with? Oh, Paint and Wordpad. How quaint!”

One of the other rumors floating around is iWork and iLife are going to be heavily dependent on Leopard’s features (my guess is Core Animation, Spaces and Time Machine) and with potentially not much else in Leopard to make it a must-have upgrade, adding in iWork and iLife makes Leopard a tremendous value, assuming the price doesn’t go up too much.

Apple has said recently that Leopard is on-track for a Spring release, and the latest developer builds still don’t have anything that could be considered Top Secret. Bundling the two packages would be considered Top Secret, and wouldn’t interfere with the Spring release.

Update to Word Processors

I checked out NeoOffice and while they claim it’s a lot faster on loading, it still feels like it loads slower than Word via Rosetta. Plus the interface is still ugly, and I’m not happy with how it does commenting (you need to mouseover the highlighted text). So that’s out of the running still.

For my personal writing, I checked out Scrivener (http://www.literatureandlatte.com) and it looks like a fine, but complicated app. One feature I do enjoy is the notecards, where you can storyboard out an idea and change the order of the cards–very similar to how you’d do it with real 3×5 cards.

In the end, it looks like I’m sticking with Word for a while. I forgot Omni Outliner came with my Macbook and an initial tour of its features and ease-of-use was impressive, so I’ll give it a shot outlining story I’m working on.

Not happy with any OSX Word Processors

By and large, I have simple needs when it comes to word processing. All I really need is: Intel Native code that runs fast; commenting and footnoting (and maybe TOC), and a default save option that is a Word compatible file format–RTF is acceptable.

So far, all of my options are “pick any two.”

MS Word
– Not Intel native, so runs a tad pokey under Rosetta.
+ Does commenting
+ Native file format that can be read on the PC.

Apple Pages, part of the iWork suite
+ Intel Native and runs quite fast
+ Does commenting quite well
– Default save is in a proprietary format

Nisus Express
+ Intel Native and runs well
– No commenting
+ Default save is in RTF

NeoOffice
– While Intel Native, runs no faster than Word in Rosetta
– Does commenting, but the comments aren’t inline
+ Native file format is PC-compatible.

Right now, I’m sticking with Word as the lesser of two evils. I really liked how quick and easy Pages was, and may still use it for documents I’ll never need to send out–DVD Cases and the like. Nisus is coming out with a Pro version soon that may incorporate commenting. Office is coming out with an Intel version later this year, but it’s using the non-backwards-compatible file formats that Word 2007 use. So, while I’m likely to get that as well, having to do a save-as is going to be a pain in the ass. NeoOffice is coming out with a new version next week and I’ll have to see if it is any faster.

As a writer, I really need to gel with my word processor. OSX has a lot of features that make my life so much more productive, it’s just a shame I can’t get a word processor to do what I think are three simple items.

2 Gig of Ram

I upgraded my Macbook to 2 gig of ram this weekend. I’m amazed at the difference from 1g. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a huge difference. My gaming rig I notice the 2g in games only; not so much in day-to-day stuff. But, with how much I have running on the Mac (Entourage, Word, Camino, Firefox, Adium, Quicksilver, and the real memory hog: Parallels Desktop running XP in a virtual) the computer is much more snappy. Before, it would kind of have that “I ate too much” feeling when I tried to do too much. Now, I barely notice a slowdown.

RSS= Really Shitty Sycnronization?

Ok, I thought this shit was easy, but hear my tale. A tale of three RSS readers: Itunes, Bloglines, and NewsFire. The feed in question: GeekBrief’s HD podcast feed.

Taking the URL (http://www.podshow.com/feeds/hd.xml) and pasting it into the various RSS readers yielded two results:

Bloglines: Saw all the available episodes and let me download them.
Itunes: Got nothing.
NewsFire: Got nothing.

How is this possible? I can see if the feed itself is just messed up, by why is Bloglines the only one that can see this?

Quicksilver Rocks

There’s a great little freebie productivity app for OSX named Quicksilver, and it’s become a staple of my daily use. Simply put, it’s a launcher for OS X. More detailed, it’s a “launch and do something with this” tool.

Here’s its simplest form: I hit CTRL-SPACE to invoke Quicksilver. I then type in the first three or four letters of a program I want to launch (W-O-R-L-D) and “World of Warcraft” appears in a little two-pane window, with “Open” as the default action. Pressing the Enter key then launches WoW. Great, saves space on the old dock.

But, it gets better. Lets say I have a handful of photos I want to upload to Flickr. I go into the Finder, select the photos, hit CTRL=Space again. and this time hit command-g. This puts the selected items into the first action pane in Quicksilver. I then hit the tab key, type in Flickr, and there pops up the action “Upload to Flickr with tags.” I then press TAB to get to the third pane and type in the tags I want. Press Enter and the files get uploaded.

But wait, theres more! As part of my routine I need to upload a zipped file of screenshots to PC Gamer. Now, I could invoke Quicksilver, type in the enough of the name for it to find the file, then press TAB and type in “upload to site” and then tab again and have it choose the PC Gamer bookmark from Transmit. That’s an awful lot of work for a simple thig, So instead I can assign that whole action to what’s called a Trigger. I can tell it to take the Current Selection (so it’s not always the same zip file), tell it to upload to PC Gamer and assign a trigger to it, in this case command-ctrl-‘. Now, when I select something in Finder and press those three keys, off it goes to PC Gamer’s site.

The program rocks.