Praising the Good: OmniSync

Mar 202012
 

I’ve used GTD-style task tracking software OmniFocus for some years now. (Sorry, PC users: it’s Mac-only.) Although I have a few features that I’d like to see added, I love the program.

Recently, the company (The Omni Group) announced that their sync service has been taken out of beta. (That’s what syncs my OmniFocus database between my desktop, laptop, iPad, and iPhone… which is critical for me!)

Given that the service is free — and works so well — I thought that I should write them a quick note about how much I appreciate it:

Hi,

I’ve been a devoted OmniFocus user for many years, and I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your sync service. Before switching to it about six months ago, I was trying to sync my OmniFocus data between four devices using SwissDisk and then MobileMe. Neither worked reliably: SwissDisk was fine, until it suddenly stopped working. MobileMe would hang routinely, requiring me to restart OmniFocus multiple times per day. OmniSync has worked flawlessly, however… beta or not.

Of course, I hugely appreciate that it’s free, and I thought that the least that I could do is write to tell you that I’m grateful that you offer such a great service at such a great price.

So… Thank you!

The virtue of just is not merely about condemning evil: it’s also about praising the good… particularly the good that people offer you for free! I know how much I appreciate when people write to thank me for work that I’ve done for free… and I like to give as I get!

SugarSync: Sync Your Files

Dec 072011
 

This post is a shameless plug of a product that I use… and because I use it so much, I’m hoping to for a bonus by convincing you to use it too!

SugarSync is a cloud-based backup and sync service similar to DropBox. I use it to keep my active files in-sync between my desktop and laptop, as well as a secondary off-site backup for those files.

I used to use DropBox, but I got frustrated by its limitations. In particular, Dropbox only permits you to sync one folder, whereas I have files across multiple folders that I wanted to sync. As it happens, SugarSync not only permits you to select what folders and files to backup and/or sync, but it also offers far more free space than DropBox — 5 GB rather than just 2 GB.

Also, like with DropBox, I can access anything on SugarSync on my iPad and iPhone. So, for example, I keep reference files and PDFs that I want to read on SugarSync, so that they’re always at my fingertips. I’m sure that they have similar apps for Android.

Basically, if you sign up for SugarSync, I get a bit of extra storage. Right now, I’ve got less than have a gig free, and I’d like a bit more of a cushion.

If you’re interested, you can sign up to SugarSync now! If you don’t see the “free” option right away, keep looking, because it’s there!

Oh, Those Wacky YouTube Translations

Oct 192011
 

What happens when you put a simple conversation through YouTube’s closed-caption translation feature… twice? Pure comedy gold, baby!

Caption Fail 1:

Caption Fail 2:

Extra Space on DropBox

Sep 212010
 

I recently signed up with DropBox, a free online storage service. If you sign up through me, we’ll both get a bonus of extra space. Win-win!

Managing Multiple Computers

May 042010
 

I posted the following commentary to the OProducers e-mail list a few weeks ago. Although I still have a few kinks to work out, I’m happy to report that my new e-mail system has made managing my e-mail so much easier!

For some time, I’ve been struggling with the management of multiple computers, particularly with e-mail. My iMac desktop is my primary computer, but I often read and send e-mail from two secondary computers: my MacBook Pro laptop and my iPhone. Happily, I think I’ve finally found a workable solution, largely using MobileMe. It’s not perfect, but it’s a huge improvement. For many of you, that solution will be old hat — or unnecessary. Yet I hope that others might find it useful. And I hope that folks will have some suggestions for alternatives or further improvements too!

Until recently, I’d been limping along with old-fashioned POP e-mail service. I could read e-mail — and reply too — on any of my computers. However, messages would only be deleted from the server only once downloaded by my primary computer, as that’s where my mail archive resides. That was inefficient. Sometimes I would see an e-mail multiple times before I’d be able to file it away. My iPhone was often cluttered with old messages that I’d have to delete in a tedious fashion due to the lack of a “select all” button. While at my secondary machines, I couldn’t flag a message for an action or reply, so I’d have to do that immediately — or hope to remember it once I downloaded my mail to my primary machine. Although I could send e-mail from the secondary computers, saving those e-mails in my archive required auto-BCC’ing myself, then downloading them to the primary computer, then moving them into the “Sent” folder. Ugh!

Given the amount of e-mail that I receive and send over the course of a single day, I had to find a way manage my e-mail better. Lately, the problem seemed worse: I’ve often failed to empty my inbox for days or even weeks on end. That’s unacceptable: I must empty my inbox twice per day in order to manage my projects effectively and keep my mind clear for substantive intellectual work.

Using a web-based e-mail system was not an option for me, as we have a fairly slow internet connection. (It was just upgraded from 1.5 Mbps to 3.0 Mbps. Yipee!) Instead, I needed some better way of syncing e-mail across machines.

Upon thinking about this problem, I realized that the best solution would be to switch from POP to IMAP e-mail. My internet host doesn’t offer IMAP, and because I wanted to sync iCal, Address Book, and MacJournal too, I decided to sign up for Apple’s MobileMe.

I set up my e-mail as per these instructions. My e-mail address is still [email protected]. However, all e-mail sent to that address is forwarded to my MobileMe account. To preserve [email protected] as my address on outgoing mail, I’m using a different SMTP server than MobileMe.

More importantly, all my incoming, outgoing, and saved mail is stored on the MobileMe server, then continuously synced with my three computers. Thus all of my computers are completely up-to-date with what I’ve read, drafted, sent, filed, etc. That’s sooooo fabulous! However, I don’t want to keep my mail on the MobileMe server forever. So periodically, I transfer my e-mail from the folders on MobileMe to my iMac, then sync that archive with my MacBook Pro.

I can read and manage my e-mail on MobileMe’s web site. However, I can’t send e-mail through any SMTP server than MobileMe, so that screws up my outgoing e-mail address. Since I don’t want that, I don’t plan to use the web interface, except in an emergency.

Of course, I could have gotten IMAP e-mail elsewhere, likely for cheaper. However, MobileMe allows me to easily sync my calendar, address book, and other third-party software. That’s hugely valuable to me too. For example, I can now edit my calendar via my laptop, whereas before I could only read it. And I can sync MacJournal — the program I’m using for drafting blog posts — between my laptop and desktop. Totally separate from MobileMe, I use EverNote to store references, notes, and other useful information. That data is stored on their server, so it’s available from any computer. And I use Xmarks to synchronize my FireFox bookmarks with Safari (and thus with my iPhone) and between computers.

It’s a terrible failing of the computer industry that syncing files between computers is so darn difficult. I’d be very interested to hear what others are doing. I’ve taken a huge step forward, but I know that I could do more!

Nine Opinions on Operating Systems

Jan 082010
 

Awesome:

Apple Tablet Rumors

Jan 042010
 

As a small-time Apple fanatic, I’m definitely excited by the rumors swirling about an Apple tablet. Gizmodo recently posted The Exhaustive Guide to Apple Tablet Rumors. It’s a fun read.

Of course, tons of people are asserting definitive claims, most of them contradicting other people’s definitive claims. I suspect that most people don’t know jack, and if some people do know something, we have no way to determine who they are.

Nonetheless, all the crazy speculation makes me happy. People are soooo excited about a device that they don’t know anything about and that might never come to market. I love that! Apple has indeed built a great reputation for itself.

As for the rumored device, unless you’re suggesting that it’s going to sear your steak and wash your laundry, you’re probably underestimating it. Most people seem to be imagining the device to be little more than an extension of current technology, meaning a large version of the iPhone.

That’s exactly the mistake that people made with the iPhone during the rumor-mongering phase. They thought it would be some kind of blend of the iPod of the day plus a cell phone. For example — and these are highly amusing — see Four iPhone Mockups That Completely Missed the Mark and The Speculative Prehistory of the iPhone. My favorite wrong comment is from the author of that second article, who said:

And the swiss-army knife philosophy of today’s phones seems anything but Jobsian. Would the iPhone play music, capture still photos and video, do e-mail and browsing, and be a mobile gaming platform (oh, and let you make phone calls)? Or could Apple get away with introducing an elegant device that did voice, music, and possibly video extremely well–and didn’t even try to do anything else?

Haha!

I suspect that people are so excited about this tablet because, based on Apple’s history, they have reason to believe that it will be so much more than they can imagine right now. That’s what the innovative producer does. He does not give us what we want; he produces some new thing that we didn’t even know we wanted until we saw it. He does not satisfy demand; he creates demand.

That’s what makes capitalism so damn great.

Question on Switching to Mac

Jan 062009
 

Bryan Armentrout recently e-mailed me the following about switching from PC to Mac. I didn’t have anything to add over and above what was said in the comments of this post, Back to Mac?, except that I recommended TUAW. (They probably have some good resources for people making the switch.) So anyone have any new advice to offer? Here’s what Bryan wrote:

I am looking at switching from a PC to a Mac – the IMac 3.06GHz, 24″ specifically. I am holding off until the convention is done this week to decide on a model. Rumors of a new model introduction this week. This is for home use only – no serious artistic applications in mind, but I would like to build up a website myself.

You have commented on your Apple before on Noodlefood.

Any quick recomendations or things a Mac newbie should look out for?

Thanks!

MacBook Wheel

Jan 052009
 

From our friends at The Onion, via The Agitator:


Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop With No Keyboard

Don’t they know that the wheel is passé? It’s all about the touch screen, baby!

Tenth Circle of Hell: A Week of PC After Two Years of Mac

Nov 222008
 

I’m in PC hell.

Yesterday morning, I used my computer — my beloved Mac PowerBook Pro — to check and answer my mail. A bit later, after I’d fed the beasts, I returned to find it apparently frozen in sleep. So I rebooted it. It bonged and the hard drive whirred, but the screen never lit up. I tried again, and again, and again. I got nothing. When I hooked it up to an external monitor, I got nothing.

So I took it to the friendly local Apple Store. It looks like a dead video card — just as I thought. Unfortunately, they need to ship it out, and I likely won’t get it back for a full week. Boo hoo hoo!

So in the meantime, I’m working on my old PC laptop. That’s not going to be fun. I don’t have access to regular programs, including programs that I use regularly for dissertation writing. I’m going to have to use web mail. (UGH!) The setup is now unfamiliar, so I’ll be doing all kinds of stupid things. Windows will do its usual dumb things like asking me to reboot every few minutes after an update. (Yes, that’s happening already.) The keys on the keyboard are really cramped and hard-to-press. My space key onlyseemstowork intermittently. So I’ll have to fight this machine — like all PCs must be fought. Worst of all, however, the video card on this machine is flaky, so I might need to switch to Paul’s old PC, which isn’t set up how I like in the slightest. (I’m very fussy!)

The good news is that I do backup my whole Mac — meaning that I mirror the entire hard drive to an external drive — every week. (I also backup my dissertation to multiple off site locations on a regular basis.) I just did that total backup on Wednesday night, and the Apple Store did another backup for me on another drive last night. So I shouldn’t lose any data whatsoever.

I do expect to age a few years in this next week, however.

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