Thursday, February 22, 2007

Google Apps: Right for Your Home Office?

Google unleashed Google Apps with Web-based tools appropriate for a nonprofit or home office. Word processing, spreadsheets, calendaring, and e-mail are now available in free Standard and paid Premier packages. The latter offers additional e-mail storage, shared calendaring, ad freedom, and tech support for a reasonable $50 per year.

I'll keep this short, but the implications for this modest offering from Google may mean the end of dominance for Microsoft Office in the SOHO environment. Google talks low, but is unequivocally setting its sights high. Time will tell.

In the meantime, your home office may find use for Google's free tools that cost hundreds of dollars from Microsoft. Apple, too. DotMac appears less appealing each day. If Google extends Google Apps to iCal and smartphone syncing, many Mac users will say goodbye to DotMac.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Two Text Tools for the Uncommon Writer

Microsoft Word has been the corporate word processing application for some years, but the professional home office has attractive options for crafting text.

For your next magnum opus, Scrivener offers visual outline and reference tools appropriate for longer works. WriteRoom offers a spartan collection of word processing features sufficient for writing letters and other short docs, but it's appeal lies with the control over the page and background color. The default setting offers up classic green text on a black background which I changed in a matter of minutes to black text on a goldenrod background. Blocking out everything else, WriteRoom offers the features of Think 1.0, mentioned last week in this blog, but limited to the word processing environment.

I no longer recommend Mariner Write for word processing because the application does not support Mac OS X Spotlight searches. Finding a Mariner Write file is now left to eye-balling the Documents folder. No thanks.

Both Scrivener and Write Room can save text as RTF or text (.txt) files, readily readable by MS Word and other word processors. Both can also save files as MS Word. Scrivener can be easily adopted as the word processor of choice for your next novel, whereas WriteRoom offers a quiet, serene desk for scribbling, albeit that the environment will not be for everyone. Choices, choices.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Tech Support -- 1488

A video depicting early tech support circa 1488 has recently been discovered in the dusty archives of a library in Barcelona, Spain. Much analysis yet remains to be completed on this rare (video incunabula) footage from Europe but it is safe to state that revolutionary technology developments engender universal culture shock and disorientation. Click, to reveal this rare glimpse into the history of technology.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Rumor Mill: New MacBook 15-inch On The Way

Rumor has it that Apple will offer a larger, 15-inch screen, MacBook. Currently, the MacBook line of laptops is limited to a 13-inch screen. If you're considering purchasing a new MacBook, and would like the larger screen, you may wish to wait it out. I have no idea when, or if, this MacBook will ship from the factory.

Yet Another Security Update

Apple released another Mac OS X security update available via Software Update. Recommended for immediate install for all users, the update fixes security vulnerabilities in the operating system and iChat.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Windows Guy All Agog Over Mac

The Houston Chronicle PC tech reporter has gone to the Mac-side of life. Learn about Parallels Desktop that allows Macs to run the Microsoft Windows operating system, and the applications, side-by-side with Apple Macintosh programs. The best of both worlds is now in one box.

Intuit Discontinues Support for Quicken 2004

Intuit announced that Quicken 2004, and all previous versions, will no longer be supported as of April 30th, 2007. Live technical support and online services for these older versions will cease.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Do You Know Where Your Contacts Are Tonight?

Down the technology garden path we have innocently trod.

Let me not mince words here. AOL is known among techies as AO-Hell, and for good reason. Having made millions bringing millions of people into the sequestered Internet Garden of AOL, the company had a responsibility to let go of them gently when they were through squeezing money out of them. They didn't. It's the American way.

Few clients still have an AOL account, but for those who do, getting your contact information out of AOL is not an easy task. AOL has deliberately crafted the AOL software to make your journey elsewhere painful and difficult. Extracting contact information from AOL should be done earlier, not later. This is one unpleasant task.

Much the same warning can be said about Eudora. Though not as egregiously offensive as AOL, the company built an e-mail client incapable of exporting nicknames in a friendly fashion.

The only positive spin I can place on the current status of storing contact information electronically is that we can learn from the Pied Piper of AOL. Know where your contacts are, and know whether or not you can take them with you when you go. If any definitive statement can be offered about the future of technology it is that divorce is a certainty. As the Greek geek Heraclitus so wisely noted on the nature of computer technology, "Nothing endures but change."

I can guarantee that the application you're using now to store your contact list will not exist in five, or ten years. Long time? Not so. AOL captured millions ten years ago, and many are discovering the thorns along their garden path only now. As well, Eudora was once my cherished e-mail application, but it's forgotten now except for two or three lingering brain cells.

Know where thou contacts reside, and know whether or not that repository can export your contact data. Some current applications, such as Apple Address Book and MS-Entourage, have relatively easy exits. Others do not. The moral of the AOL story is not to store contact data in any application in which you can't easily get at it. Your favorite contact application today will surely be the technology dead end of a not-so-distant tomorrow.

Knowing where your contacts are tonight may spare you days of agony tomorrow. (...back them up, too, but that's another parable.)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A Few Thoughts About Think 1.0

How many times have you had two or three (or many more) applications open simultaneously? We do it all the time. That's the beauty of modern computing, that we may readily switch between open applications on the fly.

Think 1.0, a new desktop utility for the Mac, places the active application within a black background, thus hiding desktop clutter and other open applications. The resulting visual simplification permits a calmer focus on the work at hand.

Like a Zen garden for your workspace, Think less is more.

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