Saturday, May 26, 2007

Software updates, did I say software updates?

Wow, little did I know when I wrote the previous post just how many updates there were recently. Did someone somewhere designate this week of May as Macintosh Software Version Update Week?
Here's what I know of, just from apps I'm using or testing, for which updates were released this week:

DiskCatalogMaker RE
KIT (argh, another from my first comparison)
Mac Pilot
Media Indexer
SOHO Notes & Organizer

Or, maybe May is update Month because earlier in May the rest of these saw updates:

Assignment Planner
Google Earth
iPod Access
Lego Designer
Mail Archiver X
Microsoft Office

Yikes! 31 apps updated from around May 3 through May 25. Darned glad only a couple are major updates for me or I'd have to start looking for a 2nd job to pay for the Mac software addiction I'm suffering from at the moment.

The Inexorable March of Software Updates...

No sooner do I complete the comparison of organizer applications for the Mac than one of the developers puts out a major upgrade. And here, I thought I was actually receiving standard notification emails from Chronos as I'm a registered user of their SOHO Notes. Nope, this one just popped up in my VersionTracker as not the current version.

I'm in a quandry. Should I try to come up with the $25 to upgrade to v6.0 (and $25 to upgrade RapidWeaver and money for other pending upgrades) or should I really stretch it and try to come up with $49 to upgrade to SOHO Organizer?

I was actually hoping to test out SOHO Organizer in comparsion to say, DEVONthink Pro or Pro Office and a couple others. Man, I just start to get comfortable with the software I have only to have more features made available if I upgrade. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for improvement and progress but, I'm almost afraid to add up the potential outlay for software on an annualized basis.

I have to make sure I'm keeping enough in reserve to afford my Family Pack of Leopard when it comes out too!!

Time to go update my comparison chart already. Sheesh! What have I gotten myself into? (-;

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Discount Countdown - Get Your Drobo Soon!

Okay, folks. Last post on this as we approach 5 days left on the discount code REFJENL. If you need more info to convince you just check out the forums at or articles at Gizmodo or engadget.

Though obviously, as a true Mac enthusiast, I'd suggest you get one of these to put on your Airport Extreme... it does actually work with Windows too. (-;

Monday, May 21, 2007

Ah, the confusing categories we place software applications into

Thanks to a kind reader who provided quick feedback to me regarding my maiden attempt at comparison reviewing I’ve already made a few changes to the table.

The crossing of boundaries for strict categorization is going to be an interesting issue going forward with this venture. It was pointed out to me that Midnight Inbox is really a GTD* application. As such, it probably shouldn’t be in the running as a prime candidate for an “organizer” software review.

Here’s my sticking point, and why I’m leaving it in the chart (for now), it covers enough of the features of some of the others I compared that I still see it as a possible contender as an organizer too. I guess you could call it's task management capabilities a bonus in that case. Ultimately it will depend upon the direction of app development by Midnight Beep Softworks whether I pull it when I finally take on a review of time/task management applications.

I hadn’t really been aware of the “Getting Things Done”** action management method before this and certainly hadn’t associated any Mac applications I had seen with it. However, amusing to me — at least eventually — was that when I was testing out Midnight Inbox it kept popping up the default “are you shaving a yak?” dialogue box, Wha? a yak? — it drove me nuts for a bit! My husband can attest to this, I was talking back to it after the 6th or 7th time it popped up. "Yes, blast you, I'm on task, go... away...!!" [click on Yes! um, er, NO! ...again!] d-:

I was flitting off to websites, opening the other apps to compare features, moving over to Dreamweaver to edit the HTML table and all the while this silly box was popping up asking me whether I was doing what I was supposed to be doing or had I gotten distracted from my active task. Obviously none of the other apps were doing this, they weren’t designed to keep the user on task. Now I get it!

To finish working on my review I eventually dug into the preference settings on each of the programs and, lo-and-behold, there was the toggle for “remind me I might be straying off task” or the "Two-minute yak timer".

Ah, sweet relief. I shut it off. Now, don’t get me wrong. I can certainly see the appropriate use of this being very effective under the right circumstances or for the right type of person. I, however tend to multi-thread when I work. I have lots open, I switch between projects and I get a lot done that way too, and usually done well. That warning box just became a fly I had to swat to keep doing what I was doing (on task too, ironically ;-). I was glad to see that it was an option not an unrelenting “feature”.

I may have opened up Pandora’s box for myself with this first review. Now I want to do the next level of organizers such as SOHO Organizer, DEVONThink Pro or Pro Office, and any others that fit that category. I want to review a plethora of other “categories” of software that deserve comparison reviews to enable better choices based on our own needs, wants or work styles.

If there’s a category of software that you think is crying out for a comparison review with 5 or more apps that seem to handle the same task(s) let me know. If it isn’t already on my growing list for future review I may end up adding it as well.

Btw, having now looked into more of the “time/task management” offerings that follow on David Allen’s methods I’m actually going to steer clear of a comparison at the moment. I’ll save that for a couple weeks when I really have the time to focus on such broad a category of potential candidates for review (apps, plugins, add-ons — this will need some sorting out).

*abbreviation trademarked by David Allen & Co.
**also TM David Allen

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Organize those thoughts... um, files... um, docs...

In the loosely defined category of “thought organization” there are programs like DEVONThink, EagleFiler, Journler, KIT, Midnight Inbox, NoteBook, NoteMind, SOHO Notes and Yojimbo just to name a few — and to name the nine apps I chose to do my first comparison review of. These applications are mostly database oriented for gathering files of various types together enabling you to tag, label and organize to your hearts content.

I’m trying hard to plumb the depths of this category of applications and in the process I found myself putting together a rather extensive table of comparisons. I just couldn't find a suitable comparison online anywhere. I haven’t yet taken the plunge to contact the developers to determine some of the less obvious things people may want to know — for example, I couldn’t always figure out just what tool they built on to create the application’s features ("what database is it anyway?", -type questions...) – but I’m about to. (-:

So, here is the first version of my foray into comparison software reviewing. As I mention in my rather long article about it on jennsBLOG, my goal was not to declare an outright winner of the category but rather to enable a more informed choice between a group of rather useful applications. Take a look at my comparison table and let me know what I got right, what I got wrong and if I missed an outstanding app that you use regularly!

Airport Extreme -- Whoa!

Modern computing. What a blast!

I’m sitting here on our back porch listening to a “symphony” of birds and lawnmowers, enjoying the sunshine and mild temperatures of a Spring day in Western Pennsylvania. I received an Airport Extreme for Mother’s Day, as I mentioned in my previous entry. Installation was a snap.

On our previous router (not Apple brand) I had been using MAC addresses but hadn’t enabled anything more as security. I knew this wasn’t the best of ideas but we don’t appear to have an extremely active neighborhood for this type of thing -- I know, not a good excuse. I had a heck of a time figuring out what would work, some clients could log in and some couldn't and the security options were woefully out of date as the rounter has to be at least 5 years old, possibly older. Well, setting up security and getting all the clients back onto the network was extremely easy as well. It just worked. Just what I expect from Apple engineering.

So, would it really put out a stronger signal than our old “g” router. You bet’cha. We have a variety of vintages of Macs, not to mention we live in a 210 year old stone house — not stone veneer, mind you, this is whopping thick stone walls — with a nearly equal sized frame addition. Now the signal from the main wireless router, the Extreme, reaches through the entire house, into the back yard and likely across the street as well. I haven’t had the opportunity to see just how far I can go out into our acre and still be online, but I’ll be trying that in warmer drier weather to be sure.

Now I can probably just dedicate the two Airport Express routers we have to serving music to different portions of the house. Very cool indeed. Time to research speakers, I guess.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Time is running out - get that Drobo discount!

Well, there are 12 days left for "friends of beta testers" to take advantage of the discount on the Drobo.

I've hooked mine up to an Airport Extreme that showed up for Mother's Day and I couldn't be happier (yes, believe it or not, some Mom's really DO want electronics, computer stuff and we can be -- dare I say it? -- just a bit geeky too ;-).

Now I have networked storage on a unit that protects my data in the event of a hard drive failure and so far the results have been great with transfers over the network. I've managed to clear a chunk of data off the laptop and make it readily accessible when I log onto the home network. Setting up the Extreme was a snap and adding the Drobo was just as easy.

If you accumulate photos, music or much in the way of video this is really a solution you should check out! If it looks as appealing to you as it is to me then take advantage of the discount code REFJENL and get one to put on your network too!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Joost Invites... just ask me. (-:

I've been beta testing Joost for a while now. If you don't quite know what it is, click on the banner below and get some background info. Then feel free to ask me for an invite if you'd like one @ macmuse at gmail dot com. (-:

You'll need to send me a first & last name and a valid email address for the invite to be sent to.

Joost™ the best of tv and the internet

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A milestone, of sorts...

Wow, so I officially started this blog in 2005. I posted a whopping 8 posts from April through August that year and I only managed 7 posts for the entire year in 2006. I just posted my 8th post for 2007 (and with this one it's 9!) and it's only May. There's hope yet. Nothing like late-bloomers, eh? (-;

MacHeist, what hath you wrought?

I’ve pretty much been a DreamWeaver web developer since the meager beginnings of a few static pages I put up for myself and a couple of non-profits I work with. I’ve never really had the time to delve deeply into web development, I do too many other things besides that. The web development I had done years ago stemmed from the need to put some information online that we were publishing in physical form, newsletter content & event calendars.

The pages looked fine. Not cutting edge, they didn’t need to be. Clean, crisp, usable. I periodically looked for simpler software to use that would still give me WYSIWYG (mostly). Nothing really managed to give me as much flexibility as I’d like with enough WYSIWYG to be useful. Adobe brought out an HTML editing app, and I can’t actually remember the name of it as I never used it. Some touted it to be the “DreamWeaver Killer”. Hmmm, then Adobe ended up buying Macromedia, so much for dethroning DreamWeaver. Market share and product popularity do count for something (which can be a hard thing for 22 year Mac user to admit ;-).

Then a new generation of applications came about. RapidWeaver, Sandvox, CoffeeCup, etc. There is a wonderful comparison section on the Wikipedia page for HTML Editors. I confess, I tried RapidWeaver in the very early stages when it was made available and I just didn’t get it. I was too steeped in DreamWeaver and too confused by something that was trying to be an easier editor.

Enter MacHeist. A friend of a friend invited me to participate. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. I had a great time solving the puzzles, completing heists, “earning” free shareware apps. Then came the Bundle. For a ridiculously reduced we got an interesting selection of full licenses for 10 applications, including RapidWeaver.

Wow, RapidWeaver has developed into a wonderfully useful editor. Version 3.5 is proving to be a flexible and much more powerful version than the early iterations I had tried. I still have DreamWeaver if I need it but I’m currently in the process of revamping all but one site I work on and using RapidWeaver to do that. Seems some people are chomping at the bit for v3.6 but I’m quite happy getting used to 3.5.

Btw, part of the discussion that happened in the MacHeist forums was centered on the “if you discount like this people will only look for discounts” vs. “if we sell some useful apps at a really great price we may get some lifelong users who pay for upgrades”. I’m now firmly in the second camp (I was leaning there to begin with). In addition, with an application like RapidWeaver they didn’t take into account all the other small developers that would benefit from getting such a modularly expandable app into people’s hands. I’ve just plunked down for plug-ins & templates to extend the usability of the app and mostly at the full price the developer has them listed for.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Drobo - A Beta Tester's Thoughts (and a deal...)

I had the pleasure of beta testing a nifty piece of hardware over the last few months. The Drobo, by Data Robotics, which does some amazing stuff with your data deceptively simply.

I've been bitten a few too many times in the last 12 months or so by failed drives. Yes, I do backups. Not as frequently as I should for sure. However, I've had two, count'em TWO backup drives fail on me in the last 6 months alone. Mind you, this was not my main drive (I've had two of *those* fail in the last 12 months too) but it was painful none-the-less because there were things on the backup drive that weren't on any other drives at the time.

The designers & engineers have put a lot of thought and effort into this product. The current unit can hold up to 4 SATA drives. I'm not going to go into spec details here, those can be had at . They've managed to bring down the price from $699 to $499 even before their “official” launch June 1. A much better price point that should help them move even more units based on the current configuration of the box.

If you know a beta tester — and if you are reading this, now you do — you can get an instant $25 rebate off the new price through May 30th. For those of you lucky enough to see my blogs just use REFJENL at to get that discount. Be sure to use all caps.

The cool thing about testing this hardware was simulating the drive failures. Seriously! We were told to pull a drive, randomly... just pop one out of the unit. VoilĂ ! The unit flashes lights at you to tell you that there's a problem (okay, it's a bit more specific than that but they explain it pretty well on their own site). Then it begins to manage the problem by redistributing your files over the remaining drives. No loss of data. Wonderful!

If you have their software installed, which I find useful and reassuring even though you can use the Drobo without it, you will be given even more feedback about the status of the device and your remaining drives. As beta testers we were a pretty merciless group. We tried, and succeeded, breaking it many ways and engineering at Data Robotics was a great group to work with. They were responsive and willing to communicate. Some of us were a little thick regarding some of the technology and they patiently worked through it with us to understand the advantages — and some limitations — of the unit.

Way back when, I tested the first bit of software for them. It was Windows only at the time. Then the call came asking if I was still interested in beta testing as they were about to enter the hardware phase. “Sure”, says I, thinking all the while “Man, I really wish I could do this on my Mac(s) instead of the Windows box“. Lo-and-behold, the beta unit arrive with a CD to install their software and the few pages of instructions that came with it included, yes, Macintosh installation notes! Yay! WooHoo!

I promptly chucked the Windows machine back to it's dusty corner, back to idle status and loaded the software and the unit on my Mac. I've never looked back. I'm currently awaiting my commercially available version of the unit (unfortunately, I have to give up the beta unit to do this as it was too rich for my budget to keep both). I'm hoping my boys (that would by my husband and my 5 year old son) will forgive me for buying my own Mother's Day present in a few days — an Apple Airport Extreme — so I can plug the Drobo into our network and get all those kids shows (Scooby, Avatar, Jimmy Neutron) OFF my main drive at home. (-;

Take a look at and see if you find the backstory on this product as compelling as we beta testers did. With the price drop and an additional discount you may find yourself less likely to be in a “lost my data” scenario in the near future.