Using multiple computers on a regular basis (and on different platforms), I started looking for a way to keep the files I need most synchronized across all of them, e.g. to give me access to the documents I regularly access on whatever computer I am. Until now, I’ve been using MobileMe’s iDisk from Apple and a USB stick, and after some intensive use, really need to find something better. I had a look at multiple solutions, including DropBox, Windows Live Sync, Live Mesh, BeInSync, Syncplicity and SugarSync. Yes, there is a lot of choice out there, and it took me a while to sort out through all of it.
Since its launch on July 11, 2008, the “new” online service from Apple had a bumpy start and reviews have been negative overall… even Walt Mossberg says that “Apple’s MobileMe Is Far Too Flawed To Be Reliable”. The problems that have plagued the service have not helped… and Apple also changed the tone of their messaging from “Exchange for the rest of us” to “The simple way to keep everything in sync”. But overall, the re-branding of .Mac and new web interface to the online service that Apple Inc charges $99 per year in the US (pricing does vary around the world, and I don’t think it will be lower) has all the base components that make it already worth for me, and that could become great with a few little “tweaks”.
2007 has seen a major shift related to digital music sales. Yes, it was possible to purchase DRM-free songs from various sites such as eMusic, but the big majors were noticably away from it. Then, Apple and EMI got to their senses and started offering music in high-quality without any digital rights management associated to them. The good news is: it doesn’t seem to affect sales in a negative way as the other majors are starting to embrace un-protected digital music sales over the Internet.
The two next steps are for other types of contents to be available DRM-free (TV shows, movies, audio-books, eBooks, …) and for the removal of country borders for digital sales and subscriptions… DVDs and Blu-Rays / HD-DVDs are region-encoded, but even more annoyingly, you cannot buy DRM-free music legally from Amazon.com and you cannot watch shows on hulu.com if you are outside the United States of America!
Why not make the digital content sold online available simultaneously world-wide… record companies and movie studios should consider this as another “virtual” country around the world, just like other physical countries / geographies. I would love to see the reaction of the press and blogosphere if there was a killer content available everywhere but in the US.
It’s not that I don’t want to pay for my content, it’s just that I can’t do it legally from where I live… I believe that this is really wrong.
PS: When is the iPhone coming out in Canada? 😉
Increasing productivity certainly seems to be one of the biggest challenges of the decade as the available time is set (only 26 hours a day and 7 days in a week) and the things to do increase on a regular basis. One of the most popular methodologies, especially around high-tech geeks around the world, to increase productivity and to deliver on commitments is called “Getting Things Done” and has been defined by David Allen in his book with the same name. Wikipedia and 43 Folders have very detailed entries about GTD, abbreviation under which this is known by its followers.
To help implementing the GTD methodology, many software and online implementations that have been specifically developed. One of the software I used initially is called ThinkingRock, a Java based software that works on Mac OS, Windows and Linux, and applies GTD to the letter. Many more are available and there are even sites that index all the GTD applications available. While the data file saved from ThinkingRock works on all platforms, I ended-up carrying a USB stick with me at all time when going from my home computer to the one I have at work. I also wasn’t able to quickly add something to my inbox when on the go or check my lists while away from my computer(s).
I therefore decided to move to an online solution, and the one I selected is called “Remember The Milk“. While not specifically designed to implement the GTD methodology, its approach at managing lists and its support for off-line, keyboard shortcuts, notifications and mobile access, including an iPhone compatible version, ended up making this my solution of choice that is both fun to use and easy to maintain up-to-date.
It took me almost a year, but my private web site is finally back online. I’ve slimmed it down compared to previously, and moved from a complete Zope site to a set of web pages created with RapidWeaver. You’ll find my previously available photo galleries. Next step, unify the look and feel with my blog… hopefully I’ll be able to do that within the next year or so
For the last few years, I’ve used Newsfire as my RSS client of choice. Simple, clean and very well designed, it is a great piece of software. I did try a few other alternatives such as Vienna or the RSS reader integrated in the beta version of Yahoo Mail, but none where enabling me to go through all these news feeds as quickly and efficiently as Newsfire. The other software versions of the RSS reader weren’t as elegant and simple as the tool I used, and other online solutions where lacking off-line and keyboard shortcuts to get through the feeds quickly. A few weeks ago, I decided to give Google Reader a try, now that there is an off-line more as well as keyboard shortcuts, I’ve made the switch. The only question to Google: I thought you where a search company… so where is the search field?
First, European states look at (or are) taking action against Apple because of the tight integration between iTunes and iPod (especially the Digital Rights Management for the music sold online), then Steve Jobs posts an open letter to the music industry on February 6, 2007, and now I am hoping that my favorite artists are all signed by EMI and not the other majors… and it’s not because of DRM
I’ve never been a big fan of purchasing music online. Yes, DRM has always been a key element playing against purchasing songs online, but more importantly, the sound quality was just not good enough. I was ready to continue purchasing CDs and encode them at 192-256 kbps AAC myself, to then pile the new physical media somewhere and never touch it again. The only things I’ve purchased online are those I wasn’t able to find in the physical world (there are quite a few exclusives on the iTunes Store). But now, with the recent Apple / EMI announcement, looks like I won’t need to purchase (certain) CDs anymore.