Time Machine

Posted February 15, 2009 by Graeme Ing
Categories: Uncategorized

For some time I have been doing my backups manually. You can see in an earlier blog post how I did that using Automator. Now that external USB drives are so cheap, I have been meaning to invest in Time Machine or a Time Capsule for a couple of months. I really like the idea of having backups take place without having to think about it. A very shrewd move by Apple, and frankly I am amazed why no one has thought to produce such an elegant visual interface to the backup problem before.

In any case, a trip to Best Buy found a FreeAgent 1.5Tb drive for just $150. That’s a complete steal. I don’t need such a large Time Machine partition, since my main Mac drive is 40G and my other external drive is 300G and only half full. So I decided to partition the FreeAgent into an 800G and 600G. The 600G partition is devoted to my RAW files from my digital SLR, which I don’t back up as yet, and 800G should make a suitable Time Machine drive.

Time Machine is super easy to set up. Just turn it on from preferences and tell it which drive to use. Since it defaults to backing up every drive it finds, I simply added the RAW partition to its exclusion list, and voila… done. That easy! I know some folks have a desire to alter the backup frequency, but every hour works fine for me, after all, it doesn’t back up anything that hasn’t been altered. My typical backup takes about 3-5 minutes.

I haven’t had cause to restore from Time Machine yet, but every now and then I take a peek, just to make sure it is doing its job, and also just to play with the trippy interface. Wheee.

The only issues I have had (both at home and at work) are about once a week it will give an error whilst backing up. No big deal, since it always continues an hour later.

EasyTask

Posted February 15, 2009 by Graeme Ing
Categories: Uncategorized

I abandoned Things before its full release in January 2009. I had begun comparing it to EasyTask and switched to the latter. They are very similar in many ways (both use the GTD principle) and I couldn’t say that there was a major thing that EasyTask did better than Things. It was a bunch of little things.

1. I liked the visual style of EasyTask.

2. Whilst they both cost about $40, the iPhone app for EasyTask is free, whereas the Things app is $10.

3. EasyTask has the ability to sync between Macs via the cloud, as well as to the iPhone. It is possible that Things does this now as well, so check it out before you choose between these two programs.

I’m very happy with EasyTask. Like Things, you can fully configure your projects and categories, and sync to iCal. I use it at home and work without fault. The only complaint I have is to improve the presentation of which tasks are due. Whilst you can set both priorities and date deadlines and sort on both, sometimes items hide in one of the many categories and the only way to see a definitive ordered list is to select everything.

On just one occasion have I contacted the makers of EasyTask, when I had an issue syncing on the iPhone. They got back to me very quickly with the explanation, which turned out to be a slight difference in the sorting of items between the Mac and iPhone versions.

At the end of the day though, the choice between both these apps is personal preference. I would recommend either.

Things

Posted December 14, 2008 by Graeme Ing
Categories: Uncategorized

My quest is continually on for a good Organizational tool. For a while I have been using iGTD, a variation on the Getting Things Done  methodology developed by David Allen. It is a great to-do list organizer and I found it very useful but I have been looking for more of a to-do, notes and general means to organize all my ideas into one place.

The to-do and notes in Mac Mail doesn’t cut it, nor do the little free apps that just allow you to do sticky notes, or to-do lists. I also looked at SOHO Notes, which admittedly is a great notes organizer. It allows you to build project pages, with links, videos, images and lots of rich text – a great way to organize ideas. It has an iPhone app too. But I am a big list user too, so I need to-do items with alarms. SOHO doesn’t do this unless you also purchase SOHO Organizer, and now things are getting expensive at $40 each, and probably a little overboard.

So, at the recommendation of a friend, I began to use Things.  This is a free beta right now, but will cost $40 in January when it hits 1.0. I like it. It’s simple and effective. You can organize your to-dos by project, by area, by date, or just throw them into the “someday” bucket. It supports alarms, tagging and automatically floats items to the today folder when they are due so you can use the inbox methodology to organize yourself. It supports notes tied to to-dos which is great for capturing the details relevant to your tasks.

However, what it lacks for me, is the ability to build comprehensive and lengthy notes that are not attached to a to-do. It would be nice to have my projects, to-dos and notes all in one place where I can capture all my thoughts before and during my tasks, and keep them for later searching. Of course I could use external text files, but that takes more effort. An all-inclusive solution would be nice.

Things 1.0 promises greater functionality, but I have yet to find a list of features to look forward to. They seem to be keeping mum about it, which is not fair when you are expecting users to shell out hard cash. Hopefully the feature list will turn up before I am forced to hand over the money.

You can sync to iCal and your iPod (but not iPhone??) as well as multiple macs, but I haven’t tried this out yet since I keep my home projects separate from my work ones. An accompanying iPhone app would be great. It is my organizer of choice right now and I eagerly await 1.0

CopyWrite and NeoOffice

Posted May 2, 2008 by Graeme Ing
Categories: Uncategorized

Have I blogged about CopyWrite before? I used to use it for all my novel writing. It is a neat piece of software that allows you to focus on your writing rather than the distractions of your desktop. Typically you turn it into full-screen mode, where all you see is your page, and your words in any font size; then just type away.

At any time you can return to the project mode. CopyWrite allows you to create as many documents in a project as you like, and assign them to different categories like chapters, background notes, research, outline, etc. That’s very useful. You can also attach notes to each document and the project as a whole, and have them available as a side drawer whilst you type – perfect for characters details that you don’t want to get wrong, or the outline of the scene you are writing. The only annoying thing is that you can’t take these notes into the full-screen mode.

The other interesting feature is the ability to version every document. Apparently this allows you to create alternate versions of a scene in a “single” document, and then flip between them by loading a different version. If nothing else, it serves as a history or backup of your work, although I never found this useful to me.

The main thing that put me off CopyWrite in the end was its formatting limitations and that it can’t export into anything else. It’s a closed system. Typically I need to print pages to take to my weekly writer’s group, and this meant cutting and pasting from CopyWrite into a proper word processor. I seem to recall that I couldn’t even do double-spacing in CopyWrite, so couldn’t just print from there. I certainly couldn’t do headers and footers.

So in the end I moved over to NeoOffice, for its powerful tools and industry standardization (Word). NeoOffice is basically a complete open-source and free replacement for Microsoft Office, and 95% compatible in my experience. The document mode outputs to Word in many flavours, windows or Mac, and the spreadsheet outputs to Excel format. I use both regularly. NeoOffice also saves in its native format which is the way to go, and then do an export when you need to share with others. I love NeoOffice: It is full-featured, stable, fast!, and they seem to update it monthly.

 

iLife ’08 & Apple Store

Posted May 2, 2008 by Graeme Ing
Categories: Uncategorized

A couple of weeks ago I made my first pilgrimage to my local Apple Store. What a fantastic experience. They really know how to make shopping fun and futuristic, right down to their “Genius Bar” help desk, and portable scanners that the staff use instead of regular POS tills.

After drooling over the Mac Air and iPhone, I purchased iLife ’08 and the new flat keyboard. Man, I love this keyboard, ever since I received one with my new Mac Pro at work. Like a laptop, it has low-travel keys that are very easy and fast to type on. And it looks so high tech! Awesome job Apple, as always.

I have been considering purchasing iLife ’08 ever since it came out. My main concern was over the new iMovie that a lot of people claim is dumbed down from the ’06 version, with which I have successfully made a couple of movies. In the end though, I really wanted the new features of the ’08 suite, and figured that I would try out the new iMovie and if I hated it, apparently it is possible to reinstall iMovie ’06.

So far I have only messed with iPhoto, since I don’t have any movie projects right now. The improvements are decent. I spent a whole evening editing my new Events, which are a great way to manage the photo library. Another of my favourites are the changes to import from camera. We have much more control now.

I had cause to try a couple of iBooks for the first time, and spent an enjoyable couple of evenings building 2 20-page books. The pricing was excellent (particularly as I cashed in on that Mother’s Day discount) and the results were impressive. The books came in a neat Apple-logoed box, but then I come to expect efficient and well designed packaging from Apple now. Each book was wrapped in its own cellophane envelope and the glossy pages were of very high quality. I am hooked. I’m sure I’ll be making books of every occasion now.

Expect a post when I get to use iMovie.

iGTD

Posted February 24, 2008 by Graeme Ing
Categories: Uncategorized

I’ve been using iGTD for a long time now, and it has become one of my staple, daily apps. GTD, or Getting Things Done, is the famous and very useful methodology by David Allen, for managing day to day tasks and lists, an excellent means of time management. I’ve always found the use of lists an effective de-cluttering tool. I tried out half a dozen less-featured apps on the Mac, including the built-in Sticky Notes and To-Do items in Mac Mail, before I decided that iGTD worked best for me.

It’s easy to use. You can create Contexts, which are broad buckets like Home, Work, Computers, etc., and also Projects that group items together, even across Contexts. For example, I have a “Shopping” Context which contains items from various projects, such as Computer Hardware, books, hiking equipment, etc. So at any time I feel like going shopping I can flip to the Shopping Context and get an overview of everything I have flagged for purchase across all my projects, and can plan by shopping day accordingly.

You can set a simple 1-5 priority to each task and I spend a lot of time sitting on the priority view, making sure I simply tackle high priority issues first. Recurring tasks are easy to set up. It has Sync functionality that I believe keeps your GTD lists in your .Mac workspace, though since I am not a .Mac member, I haven’t used this feature.

Check it out: It’s free, easy to use and very useful

Leopard issues

Posted January 18, 2008 by Graeme Ing
Categories: Uncategorized

I think I have mentioned before of my problem with Spaces under Leopard. To be honest I haven’t retried it since the latest patches. I must remember to do that.

There are two other applications that don’t work for me under Leopard. For my backups I was using Data Backup. It stopped working, refusing to recognize network drives. Prosoft’s technical support people were very prompt to talk to me and it turns out that Data Backup 2.x is not compatible with Leopard.😦 I would need to upgrade to Version 3 for $35. Hmm… Frankly I baulk about having to pay to get my application to work through no fault of my own. I think that Prosoft should offer a free patch. I haven’t fully decided whether I will chase them further, upgrade or simply not bother to use it any more. I could return to my old manual backup script.

The other problem is a larger blow. Synergy no longer works. I cannot get my Windows machine to connect to my Mac server any more. Damn. That is annoying. It seems that I am not the only person having this issue, but oddly many others are reporting that it works fine for them under Leopard. None of the so-called solutions on the web have worked for me. The only thing I have yet to try is uninstalling Synergy and reinstalling. Actually I did try but I couldn’t get the thing to uninstall cleanly from all the menus etc. A friend of mine just gifted me with a free copy of AppZapper, so I mean to try that. More news later.

Otherwise, Leopard is an excellent o.s.