60 more days of MobileMe for free

Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase

The net is abuzz tonight as MobileMe users recieve more notices that MobileMe still isn’t what Apple had hoped it would be, so it’s offering 60 days more for free.

Paul Thurrott has already played the part of the cynic and provided a rather insightful metaphor, but I’m going to come down on the positive side and say that MobileMe has been a wonderful experience for me.  Not only has it been wonderful, it’s turned my iPhone into something I can only describe as a thing of glory.

Combining home data sync over MobileMe with work data sync over ActiveSync, all on the same device, has been absolutely wonderful.  I realize, however, that the experience on Windows just isn’t that fab.  That’s okie with me though, Windows users need to be using Apple products on Apple products anyway.

Kinda like Microsoft products work best on Microsoft products.  It’s just common sense.

At least I think it is.

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Synchronization tip

If you enable sync services in Entourage 2008 to sync your calendar data to iCal and use something like Omnifocus for task management, try this.

Set up Omnifocus to sync your work-related contexts to the “Entourage” calendar in iCal that Entourage created when you enabled sync services there. Now sync your tasks. Notice how they show up in iCal and Apple Mail as to-do’s. That’s nice.

Now open Entourage 2008 and go to your tasks folder. View the goodness. Now that’s nicer.

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A software change

I had to get rid of Macjournal on my work Mac due to the severe .Mac syncing issues. If you thought syncing with .Mac on a regular basis caused tears on occasion, you haven’t seen anything yet. Try getting Macjournal to sync between two computers and you will learn what it’s like to mistrust a computer’s decision-making abilities.

Eilla has always encouraged the use of Evernote, so I went thattaway for basic note keeping. Evernote even imported my work-related Macjournal entries.

Still, I paid for Macjournal, so I will use it for personal journaling I suppose. But I uninstalled it from the Macbook Pro, since I bought it personally some time ago anyway.

In other news, I’ve decided I’m going to start dictating blog entries with Macspeech Dictate. I’ve always promised myself that I’d write more if dictation would work well on computers today, so it’s time to try that.

I’m trying to do more productive things. Really.

A program that needs to happen

Now that Firefox 3 is out and it’s quite useful on the Mac (although crashy for me, as I mention in the upcoming NO CARRIER show), now what needs to happen is a way to synchronize Firefox and Safari bookmarks automatically while also using .Mac for multiple computers.

I realize how complex that would be, but that needs to happen. Firefox is my secondary browser, not my primary, so, as you can see, amongst my severe abuse, of commas, that this, my friend, must happen.

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iPhone to be allowed on other carriers?

I really can’t believe this hasn’t been pointed out before… so I guess I’ll do the dirty work and try to fan the flames of rumor.

This started when I read Paul Thurrott’s latest blog post, with which I could not agree more.

Then, I decided it’s time to blog about this and see if anyone had noticed:

iphone_tech_specs.jpg

(Click image for larger view)

Why would you have a SIM ejector tool in the 3G box if they didn’t intend you to use it? The EDGE model has a SIM ejector hole, but there’s no included tool that I can recall…

Can I start a rumor? We’ll see.

When You’re Trying to Learn

It’s pretty amazing how far behind I’ve gotten in web creation technology.  I’ve been spending some time with Adobe CS3 and I’m finding out just how much of this thing has passed me by.  I’d say… quite a bit has passed me by.  I guess I’ve had my head down working on server stuff for so long now that I’ve not had a chance to really step back and work on web pages like I used to.

Of course, I do have much less time than I used to have.  Having two kids and a wife with a job and responsibilities tends to make you focus (or defocus, as the case may be) a little bit more. I’ve got to get refocused back on these items though, because this is what I’d rather be doing.

Can anyone out there in lalaland recommend some good approaches to learning CS3?  I’m not just talking about the apps themselves, but the workflows from site inception to finish, etc.

I’m especially interested in picking up Flash, too.

An Inbox Zero Approach

I’ve had it on my task list to post a note about how I do email for quite a while now. I’ve decided to go ahead and get the article written and post it for some time over the weekend while I’m out running around San Francisco/San Jose. That’ll give you something to read while I’m out enjoying… something. Like I can see into the future or something.

Anyway, I’m a big fan of Merlin Mann and 43folders.com. That’s no secret, but what you may not know is that I actually have had little time to catch up on what Merlin and his gang preach. I’ve heard of Inbox Zero and I’ve heard of GTD, but it dawned on me that I already employed most of these practices in my every day work. At least, I think so. I don’t really know since I’ve just not read that stuff.

So what I’m going to give you here is my own version of Inbox Zero. If it happens to be what Merlin preaches, awesome.

Once a coworker asked me how it was that I never forgot to answer an email. She also wondered how I kept the Inbox so clean on my email.

I’ll tell you right now – this was born out of necessity. If my Inbox has tens… hundreds… or thousands of messages… read and unread… I can tell you right now with a very high degree of authority that my brain will fucking explode. There’s something about having a pile of email in my inbox that makes me feel like my life is so unsettled that I absolutely, positively cannot move forward with my life until there is some peace to it.

Some of you are likely saying that it’s just a problem I have – or an excuse. I don’t know, you could be right. But I’ll wave this carrot in your face. It’s really damn rare that I forget to answer an email and I make damn sure my answers are as timely and informative as possible.

How does this happen?

It starts with realizing that about 85% of your email in the Inbox is just passing conversation. Most of your Inbox is full of messages that aren’t even addressed directly to you. Most of the messages are passing conversations. A passing conversation is one that you’re included on but just via CC: or BCC: if it’s really juicy. Those messages just need to be read… nay, not even read… scanned. Just scan them. Scan them and your brain will pick up on the important parts. What’s crucial though is that after you’ve scanned it, MOVE IT. Get it out of your inbox. File it away by dragging it to a folder with a subject-relevant name. Don’t wait to do this – do it now. NOW. YES NOW.

If you run across an email that you’re directly addressed and has some information that provokes a response from you, that’s great. Don’t respond now. Just read enough of an email to make that decision:

…do I need to respond to this or read it more thoroughly or…
…is this a passing conversation?

If it’s a passing conversation, file it.

If it’s something that requires you to respond OR read more thoroughly, FLAG IT and MOVE ON.

Keep working through each individual email from oldest to newest until you’ve made this first and most crucial decision on each email in your inbox. If you’ve filed away a high percentage of your emails and flagged more, that’s fine. What you want to do is end up with a collection of emails that are flagged for your attention.

The next pass on your email is just as easy. Now you need to go through your email and decide… is this part of a conversation that is being tracked? If so, follow netiquette and find the latest communique on the thread in question. Keep that message. Unflag the rest and file them away. You want to only respond to the latest message in the thread. Nothing is more irritating than someone who reads a thread days later and responds somewhere in the middle, thereby creating a branch of the conversation that didn’t need to exist.

The third and final pass on your email is the hardest and most time consuming. Take the time to sit and analyze each message closely from oldest to newest. As you respond, send the message, then unflag your Inbox copy and file it away before moving to the next message. Do this until your inbox is down to nothing.

Following this method, you will never lose track of an email conversation or action again.

Well, you might want to lose track of the action. That’s a personal choice.

To review…

1st pass:
…quickly scan each email from oldest to newest and decide:
…am I cc’d and just a member of this passing conversation?
…or does this message require deeper mental processing?
…if yes, you’re just a member in passing convo, file it
…if not:
…flag message for followup and move on.
1st pass goal: eliminate 75% of email from inbox.

2nd pass:
…quickly scan each email from oldest to newest and decide:
…is there a later development in this conversation that I need to look at?
…if yes, unflag message and file it.
…if no, this message is the one you will respond to. Stop.
2nd pass goal: eliminate another 5-10% of your email from inbox.

3rd pass:
…start from oldest to newest. Read and respond.
…After responding, UNFLAG message and FILE IT IMMEDIATELY.
DO NOT LET IT LINGER IN YOUR INBOX!
3rd pass goal: eliminate remaining messages to reach 100% disposition of messages.

There you have it. Hope it helps.

Oh yeah, and don’t use your Desktop folder for anything except the file you’re working on. When done with the file, file it and get it off your desktop.

Another free tip. Love me. I’m here for you. To be loved. I like love.

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Office:Mac 2008… a Few Words

I wanted to say a few words about Office:Mac 2008, as it was released this week at Macworld and is available for order from the Apple website. Supply is already in the channel too, as there are boxes for sale in the SFO Apple Store.

I have several things to say about this suite and I’m afraid that most of them will come off as negatives.

Let’s get a few things out of the way. I’ll just put it straight as I’ve seen/spoken it over the past year. Now that the product is out, I feel like I can speak somewhat about it.

I’ve met with Craig Eisler, the GM of the Mac Business Unit at Microsoft as of June 2007. Nice guy, I like him lots. He’s a fast talker and quick on the wit, so be ready with your mind primed when you meet him. I call him “The Chihuahua” mainly because of how quickly he yaps through his sentences, but that’s certainly not meant to be derogatory. He’s a very nice fellow.

Here’s a few things that Mr. Eisler has said about Office:Mac. I feel it’s important to address them.

“Office for the Mac is not a port of Office for Windows. It is an implementation of Office.”

Using that single statement, you can start to see where the mindset for the MacBU was when they made decisions. Therefore, here’s my hitlist.

  • Tasks and Notes still do not sync with the Exchange Server, even with 2008
  • Visual Basic macros/scripting has been removed. Who cares if you need to share documents with Windows users that makes use of this functionality? Well, expect to port it to Applescript somehow. Remember, this is an implementation of Office, not an Office for Windows port. You obviously do not need that level of collaboration with Windows users.
  • The ribbon UI from Office 2007 is “ported to the Mac in a Mac-ish way.” Whatever that means. Please, just get rid of it.
  • The most expensive version of Office:Mac 2008 contains a digital media organizer called Microsoft Expression. Why? This is a Mac. Why spend time on buying a company that makes a product like this and porting it to the Mac? This is a Mac for crissake. In case you didn’t know, digital media organization comes with the Mac. That’s what Apple does. Why does Microsoft need to fire one synapse at this at all? Why can’t they use the time more wisely and do something like… oh I dunno…make tasks and notes sync with the Exchange server!

I’ve used it for some number of months and can say that as a productivity suite, it’s passable. I admit that I rarely use the tools like Powerpoint and Word, except to view other peoples’ work. If I’m going to do something heavy, I usually end up firing up Word 2007 in a VM. I don’t know why I avoid Word 2008 on the Mac, but it just seems to be overkill in a way that doesn’t agree with me. I know that it will be more than a viable product for 90% of the market that needs it, however, and for those people it’s a beautiful thing… well, as long as you don’t have to share your work with anyone running Windows 😉

I’m installing Office:Mac 2008 on my work Mac because, well, I have to. I will not be installing it on the Mac Pro at home because, well, I have iWork. I’m hoping one day that priorities will fall back into place at the MacBU.

Perhaps I should apply there and help to set them straight.

Macworld Day 4 Wrapup

After lunch today, I decided there wasn’t much going on in the conference that would do me much good, so I spent my time wisely. I sat there at the lunch table, whipped out the laptop and started to catch up on work email. Two hours later I had made a pretty good dent in it. Usually my coworkers can tell when I do this because I send a “blast” of email messages to respond to those that had been stacking up.

Hmm. Now might be a good time to discuss my email process like I meant to, but that’ll come later.

I thought today about how I’m working with my task system. Right now I’m using Outlook 2007 in a virtual machine to manage my tasks because others on the Exchange environment need real-time access to those tasks. There’s a problem though – it doesn’t work. Apparently using Outlook 2003 on an Exchange 2003 mailbox and trying to view an Exchange 2007 mailbox that is managed with Outlook 2007 just isn’t in the cards. The end result is that having my tasks on the server is buying absolutely zilchero for everyone.

Now I’m thinking about coming back to manage my tasks with iGTD. My only requirement for task management is that I can use the keyboard to interact with it. If I have to move my hand to the trackpad or a mouse and click anywhere to open a new task, the application fails me. For instance, using Quicksilver to open a new task in Apple Mail or iGTD works fine for me. Using Outlook in a VM to click on “New Task” and all that mess just doesn’t. If sharing my tasks isn’t working out, then there’s not much point in them being on the server. Therefore, I’m back to thinking about what to use on the Mac.

Why is my only requirement that my hands do not leave the keyboard to enter a new task? Most of my job entails sitting on telecons and receiving actions from something akin to a machine gun. They come at me so fast that if I don’t have a way to hit a key combination and capture the words as they are fired at me, I have no hope of remembering what to do. That’s just the way my job is – and if I cannot capture those actions accurately, I lose.

OmniFocus won a best of show award here at Macworld 2008 and it looked pretty interesting. One of my idols, Merlin Mann, was an advisor on it, so I thought that maybe he had something good in the final product. We checked it out and it was pretty appealing to me – not so much for my coworker. His requirement is different from mine however. He needs the application to sort by project and subproject; which, it seemed to me, OmniFocus did quite an outstanding job of… but he disagreed. Oh well.

Now I do need the application to file by project and subproject, but that’s just not as important to me as quick entry. I can sort projects later when I have some sit down time.

Oh yeah, you came here to hear about Macworld. That’s the title of the post anyway.

Anyway, so I do my email for several hours, then took some time out to visit Leo Laporte/Alex Lindsay’s discussion section on podcasting. It was informative, but not entirely anything I hadn’t heard before. Leo was somewhat discouraging on podcasting and I don’t think he intended to sound so negative. Alex Lindsay is jazzed on video podcasting and it shows (especially those “How To” videos that he’s not producing widely, but has a strong belief in). Leo made it clear several times he didn’t think anyone was going to get rich off of podcasting, but it’s definitely the future.

I agree with him. Right now, podcasting is a niche market of sorts. It’s for Apple owners and Zune owners, but in reality it needs widespread attention by being integrated into apps like Windows Media Player and other RSS feed masters. I know, but face it, WMP is the de facto for many people out there.

By 6pm we were out and heading off for dinner at Colibri, a Mexican dining joint just up the street. Very, very nice food and lovely women with lovely smiles. Two margaritas later, I’m here writing to you.

Tomorrow I’ll be spending some more time on the podcasting thing as there are some training sessions. I’ll also be searching for more of the Mac IT sessions, especially as it relates to directory integration (Active Directory, that is (banjo)).

Right now I’m chatting it up with Eilla and listening to her work frustrations and soon I’ll be in bed reading a book. Right now I feel like reading a nice book about Taiwan, China or Japan. I don’t know why, just feel like I’d rather be there right now.

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