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Catching Up, Lessons Learned

Well, I’m happy to say the move is over. Before I recap some of my technology-oriented ‘lessons learned’ during this period of transition, I’d like to respond to some of the comments received over the past couple of months while I was not monitoring this site:

1. Reader Lek asked how to convert (or move) a site from Rapidweaver to WordPress. The only way I am aware of to do this is to manually transfer posts and comments. There are no automated ways to do it that I know of. If anyone knows of any tricks or tips in this department, please let us know.

I did, however, come across interesting threads related to MarsEdit and RapidWeaver that are worth checking out. Both threads relate to using RW for static content and another system (e.g. WordPress) for a blog on one site.

2. A couple of readers commented on the current bugginess of RapidWeaver, and reader PanicGirl noted the lack of ability to directly edit code in a RW blog. About the bugs: it does has some flaws, but I maintain it’s about the easiest way to get a site up and running for people who don’t want or need absolute control, but want quite a bit of flexiblity. And, no, you can’t edit HTML directly in RW. It It may not be the best tool for those who want total control. For those who do want such control, RW templates are fully editable, but it takes a fair investment of time to learn how to do it.

3. PanicGirl also asked if MarsEdit is the best tool to use with WordPress, and if I’d tried MacJournal. MarsEdit is the best tool that I know of to manage my WP blog. It saves me countless hours. I haven’t used MacJournal for a long while (in the days before it had this feature, back when it was donationware). Sounds like this would make a good future app comparison.

4. Reader Gary commented on my Yojimbo review, noting that worrying about potential database corruption in a SQLite database is different than actually experiencing database corruption. I haven’t come across any users who actually had such corruption. My Yojimbo database has never given me any problems. Point taken.

5. I received several new app suggestions regarding the long-delayed Mac PIM review series (which I started before the move, then was forced to abandon because of the move). I’m still scratching my head a bit over the Info Manager comparison idea. All of the suggested applications are certainly worthy of review, so my challenge now is to regroup and decide how I want to tackle this comparison in the coming months.

To recap, I began a comparison between five info management apps back in May(!), but have only completed a full review of Yojimbo to date. I floundered for a while, too, on just which apps I should choose for this series. I think I may opt for more reviews, but markedly shorter reviews for each app. I’d like to spend more time discussing the range and categorization of info managers to help place them in better context, which will hopefully help to sift through the sea of choices out there for the Mac. The term ‘Personal Info Manager’ really doesn’t cut it, as fellow blogger Alan aptly pointed out in a post on his site. Stay tuned for more on this. This topic has become a minor obsession.

6. Some other readers took the time to post some nice comments on various reviews on the site, to which I say ‘thank you.’ And I thank all readers for their patience during this long offline period. Curiously, my RSS subscriber base actually increased over the past two months, despite the dearth of new material. Go figure.

About the Move

Now for a few words about my move from Hawaii to Maryland. I spent the better portion of the past two months without internet access, and without my desktop Mac. Fortune smiled on me, though: right before I moved from Hawaii, a friend upgraded to the 3G iPhone and graciously gave me his 16GB 1st generation iPhone for a pittance. I’ve always used employer-provided cell phones, so this was the first time I actually had my own mobile device.

I can’t stress how useful the iPhone has been during this period with no home, no easy internet access, and no computer. Here’s what I took away from the experience:

1. My next Mac will be a Macbook Pro. I love my 24-inch iMac, but I’m now ready to sell it. Since the thing I love most about my current desktop is the large display, I will buy an affordable large display and will dock my laptop while working at home. It’s a much more expensive solution, but it’s worth it.

2. The iPhone Google Maps application is incredible. The cell tower triangulation employed by my 2G iPhone worked unexpectedly well. We used Maps more than any other single application during the move to get directions to potential new rental homes, to find nearby stores, and to figure out where we were. Transitioning from Oahu’s few roadways to the serpentine routes of suburban DC has been jarring.

3. I missed the ability to update my podcasts. The iPhone needs the ability to download casts on the fly, without the need to tether up to iTunes. Judging from Apple’s unfriendly and illogical response to the first iPhone app to offer this service, I guess we won’t get this functionality any time soon. That’s a shame. As many have already noted around the Macosphere, Apple’s bizarre and murky iPhone application acceptance/denial policies (coupled with their lack of transparency) threaten to dissuade developers from making great apps. This anticompetitive streak is sad to see. Excellent, inventive third party apps are the soul of the iPhone platform, just as they are the soul of the Mac.

4. Cultured Code’s Things for the iPhone worked well for me, but I wonder why it doesn’t include the ‘Areas’ feature of the desktop app. Nevertheless, I relied on it to manage dozens upon dozens of tasks, and it held up beautifully. I was a bit surprised to see that Things 1.0 (desktop) now isn’t due out until the Fall, but at least we have a very good Beta. Odd, though, that Things for the iPhone rolled out for $9.99 right from the start.

5. Evernote’s iPhone app also served us well. We used this app to store all of our critical data (airplane, hotel, and car reservation confirmations, etc.) for quick and easy access. I have no real complaints about it. It did what I needed it to do. Still, I would love to see Yojimbo compete in this arena. I’m not willing to shell out $30 for the limited functionality of Webjimbo.

6. Agile Web Solution’s 1Password did the job, but I was a bit frustrated by the way it opens up links within the application. I prefer to use mobile Safari. I actually think I liked the first iteration of 1Password (the web-based solution) more than I do the full-scale iPhone app, simply because I often surf to a site in Safari, then realize I need a password. In such a case, it’s inconvenient to have to exit Safari, start up 1Password, then load the page again within 1Password.

7. The AT&T network is surprisingly spotty. In our new home, I can’t get a decent signal … yet my wife can get a great signal on her cheap T-Mobile pay-as-you-go phone. I expected the iPhone to have a better signal in most locations, but that hasn’t been my experience.

8. I downloaded WordPress for the iPhone before I packed up my desktop, but I have yet to use it. The problem is one of ease of use: I just can’t see myself typing a post on that little touchscreen. I’m awaiting a bluetooth-enabled mini keyboard.

9. I’d like to add my voice to the choir regarding the lack of cut and paste on the iPhone. It’s a basic, essential feature and I’m dumbfounded that we still don’t have it at version 2.1.

That’s about it for now. It’s good to be back.

  1. Hi Joe! I haven’t written expressly about this, but I did mention it in my WordPress vs RapidWeaver comparison. I really like MarsEdit. I use it to draft posts offline, post drafts to a local copy of my site (using MAMP), and then to post to the live site. It’s an excellent tool. The main benefit is, of course, the ability to craft posts outside of WP – but it’s also a real time saver to with quickly add links, tags, categories, etc. on the fly with minimal effort. I don’t use the built-in preview of MarsEdit since I have a local site copy, but I’ve played around with it. In my limited experience, that works quite well, too. One final thing: it also integrates very tightly with TextMate, BBEdit for editing. Hope that helps. Thanks for dropping by!

  2. Welcome back!

    I’m anxiously awaiting your reviews of the P.I.M. software. I’m still bouncing between Evernote for it’s web and iPhone syncing and Together for it’s robust capability and excellent interface. Of course these are still for my general thought collecting while DevonThink is my mainstay for heavy-duty note taking and archiving.

    BTW, selling the iMac? Hmm…..

  3. Nice to see you back. I also am looking forward to your PIM review(s). Couple of comments – I never thought of this application as a PIM – When I think of PIM, I think of contacts/calendaring/notes applications – maybe that comes from the old days of the original Palm Pilot (which I had).

    But they are Information Managers. I still have that old association though.

    Anyways, after you delayed your reviews, I went ahead and purchased EagleFiler. (I already had been using CircusPonies NoteBook). I keep wishing there was one app that did both of those tasks (file/data management and note-taking/outlining), and with a little bit better of an interface in both categories.

    I started using EagleFiler, but then stopped. I am not sure if I got side tracked and busy, and then couldn’t get back into it, or what, but I can leave you with three comments:

    a) About once a week I think about giving it another try (I really never gave it a good enough try in the first place), but never seem to.

    b) For what little I did use it, I kind of felt like, why don’t I just use the Finder for this stuff? In order to organize my stuff in EagleFiler, I did two things: I placed things in folders and/or I tagged them. After doing a bit of this, I thought, OK, if I just take the same amount of time to neatly file stuff in the Finder, I am accomplishing basically the same thing (minus tags). It just started to feel like I wasn’t gaining any benefit over the Finder, with a good search tool (like HudahSpot or FileSpot). The Leopard Finder does have a number of features that helps find and navigate quickly (sidebar, dock, spotlight, aliases, SmartFolders, QuickLook, etc), and I could add primitive tagging to the Finder through a number of free tools, if I felt I really need tagging. While I was using EagleFiler, I just felt like I was doing things that I could do in the Finder. Maybe I am wrong — I want to be wrong, after all I did pay for this software, and I have spent countless hours looking at the landscape, trying the other apps, etc.

    c) That’s why I am so looking forward to your reviews. See what others say, etc. Maybe I have to give it more time, before I see the payoff? I just don’t know…

  4. Appreciate the comments, Joel. Perhaps PIM is an outmoded term, or at least a too-nebulous term. I’m digging into EagleFiler now, giving it a test. The nice people at CircusPonies also offered me a license to test their app out, so I’ll be testing both. When you say you ‘never thought of this application as a PIM’ — what app were you referring to?

  5. I guess I should have said “application category”

    I come from the generation where a PIM application meant a calendar/contacts/notes app.

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