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Random List: Open Protocols

Here is a list of open protocols and standards that I recently have learned more about. It was much to my benefit and hopefully will be to yours as well:

  • Jabber/XMPP – Jabber is an open, free and secure messaging and presence protocol built on streaming XML technologies. Sort of like a “Linux for instant messaging”. This is the protocol that Google Talk is built upon and is built into my lovely new Nokia N800. Also, lots of instant messaging clients on many platforms provide support for it (For instance, iChat, Trillian and Gaim). Due to it’s open nature and my desire to use my shiny new toy as much as possible, I am going to try to use it as much as I can and encourage my “buddies” to do the same. My Jabber ID is patrickrhone -at- gmail.com (at = @) for anyone who wants to get in touch with me there.

  • SIP – SIP stands for “Session Initiation Protocol”. I have installed Gizmo Project on my N800 so that I may make VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) calls and SIP is the technology on which Gizmo Project is based. Think of it as the “Linux of VoIP”. There are lots of other projects also based on SIP as well (Asterisk PBX for instance) and there has been some efforts to integrate SIP with Jabber.

  • OpenID – OpenID is an open, decentralized, and free framework for personal digital identity. As it stands today, lots of places you go online require you to log in or otherwise provide authentication for who you are. As a result, you end up with lots of usernames and passwords everywhere. With OpenID, instead you will have all of those credentials on an OpenID server and all you will have to do is type in the URI to your credentials and the servers will handle all of the authentication securely for you. Lots of big players like Microsoft are getting behind this idea and supporting it in their products and sites.

  • Microformats – Microformats are simple pieces of code that one can add to a web site that contain small snippets of data and can not only be read in a browser but also easily imported into other applications. For instance, imagine if you came across a website and that person had a business card published as a Microformat on the site. With one click you could then add it to your contact manager of choice. The idea is to make such data adhere to simple and easily readable standards and to make it highly portable. I am sure if I am not explaining this well, someone will jump in the comments and correct me.

Remainders 02.04.2007

Kathy at Creating Passionate Users has an good article on randomness and why one should introduce it into their lives. The idea being that adding unpredictability increases creativity. (via LifeDev)
Donald Norman, writer of such design bibles as Design of Everyday Things, has a list of some of his favorite household items. Great list with a few obvious choices and a number of ones I am betting you have never heard of before. (via BoingBoing)
Have a Mac? Have a Mac that is not running Mac OS 10.4 (Tiger)? Well, here is how to patch it for the upcoming day light savings change because it is looking like Apple has no plans to do it for you.
My friend Micheal over at Etherdust has given his site a major redesign. I have to say I really like the new look. It is less cluttered and easier to read.
Oh, one more thing… I finally broke down and got myself a Nokia N800 Internet Tablet. In short, it is very cool and being able to have access to my online actions and projects easily will be a sure boon to my prouctivity. Look for some mention and review in future postings.

Remainders 01.30.2007

Web Worker Daily has a wacky idea that just might work for some folks. Using a blog as a to-do list manager. Crazy.
The Apple Blog has a rundown of some note taking apps for the Mac although there are some notable omissions (MacJournal? DevonThink?). The many omissions are very well noted in the comments, so it is worth scrolling down to see the plethora of great options.
Speaking of MacJournal… As you may know, it is a favorite application of mine. I am using it right now in its glorious full screen mode to write this very post. I use it to write all of my posts, in fact. Well, my good friends there have a special offer going to celebrate the release of the latest (totally rockin’) version. Just type the word “Live” into the promotional code at checkout and you can get it for less than $25.00. It is well worth the price. The offer is only good until midnight on Feburary 1st so best get on over there to get yours.

Remainders 01.24.2007

Sorry for the long delay between posts. I am way overwhelmed both personally and professionally having lost most of December, back for a week, then gone for a week to Macworld. That being said, here are a few remainders for now. I will get back to the nice little run of regular posting I had going for a while once I dig out from under all the stuff…
YouMail looks like an interesting alternative to your cell phone provider’s stock voice mail service. It allows for the recording of unique greetings for specific callers (based on Caller ID), the ability to retrieve your messages on the web or have them sent to your e-mail, even a “DITCHMAIL” features that hangs up on unwanted callers after playing a message. It works with most existing carriers. I might have to give it a try…
Moleskine used to produce a travel model that they called the InfoBook. It had some pre-divided tabbed sections to record ious bits of information like “Food” and “People” and “Sights”. The idea being that you could record important details and facts for and of your destination. Well, this enterprising young soul has found a way to hack it into a GTD system. Kinda neat.
Do you know what time it is? It’s time to fight back against infomania!

The iPhone’s Not So Hidden Costs

You may have noticed by the clues in my last post that, while the new iPhone from Apple is cool, I don’t foresee myself getting one in it’s current incarnation any time soon (soon in this case being the moment it is released in June). I know this may come as a surprise to those who know me. I am usually the first one of my circle of geeks to acquire hot new tech from Apple. For those who have known me a longer time, this will really come as a surprise because I have been a long time fan of the idea that handheld convergent devices such as the iPhone are the future and a key element in the idea of ubiquitous information access. In other words, this is the device I have been waiting for since the demise of my much beloved Apple Newton Messagepad 2100. As a matter of fact, just about every aspect, it is the device I have been waiting for all of my life. That being said, there is one insurmountable barrier to my getting one anytime soon…
Cost.
It is not just the cost on the front end. When the Messagepad 2100 was released it was almost $1000.00 and I had no problem at the time paying that price. For a long time, I used it as my principle machine. My desktop Mac at home was simply a hub for my Newton. I could easily envision the iPhone becoming the same for me.
That being said, here is the cost breakdown and other items that will be a barrier to me getting an iPhone and, I suspect, many others. I am listing these in the order of the steps that I would need to take to get an iPhone:

  • Getting out of my current carrier contract – $250.00

    The iPhone is a Cingular exclusive. There are many, many people who are not Cingular customers and are locked into contracts that will take them way past June. In order to terminate a contract, most cell phone carriers charge an early termination fee to recover the costs of losing you and to make it difficult to leave.

  • Apple iPhone (8GB) – $599.00

    That pricing is with a 2 year Cingular contract which you must sign up for as you can’t use the phone with any other provider (Apple has a multi-year exclusive deal with them). I used the more expensive 8GB model as that is the one I would get if I were to get one. I should also mention that because Princess Bethany and I are on the same plan with our current provider, I would also have to get a new phone for her on Cingular thus adding to the cost of switching (a situation that, once again, a lot of people are in).

  • Cingular 2year Contract – 140.00 a month

    This pricing is based on the pricing for family plan with Cingular’s data plan for smartphones (SmartPhone Connect Unlimited w/Xpress Mail) This is the closest I could find to match the features on my current contract with Verizon. Cingular appears to break out it’s pricing for certain types of phones though (for instance, the pricing for push e-mail to a Blackberry is almost 50.00 a month!). So who knows how they are going to price all of that data flow to the iPhone. I am betting the price I have quoted above could be higher when that is weighed in.

My point being in all of this is that there are a number of barriers to entry on this product because of the traditional and confiscatory nature of the network providers.
That being said, Apple is a company that is known and respected for their innovation. While the iPhone may be the most innovative product they have ever produced, there are some ways they could bring that innovation to a whole new level:

  • Work with Cingular on customer migration from other carriers.

    Perhaps even offer a rebate to people who have to buy out of their current contracts to switch. In other words, reduce or negate the cost of people switching to a new carrier (Item #1 above)

  • Work with Cingular on keeping the pricing low.

    I simply will not buy a six hundred dollar phone if I then have to sign up for a 140.00 or more a month plan to use it. (Item #3 above)

  • Work with Cingular to throw out the contract model all together.

    The contract model that cell phone providers use today is based on the idea that you are getting a phone at a much subsidized price and therefore they must lock you in for a guaranteed time to recoup that subsidy. I highly doubt that they are in any way subsidizing the cost of the iPhone. Therefore, why must I be locked into a two year contract.

What is needed here in not just innovation in the phone or on the network. What is needed is innovation in the US cell phone industry as a whole. I feel that Apple has the vision and the leverage to be able to do this. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the fact that they have gotten the music industry to accept selling songs for 99 cents despite the fact that the record companies would like them to charge more than that. If Apple can use their leverage to control those money hungry, litigious, scumbags they can certainly do it here.
My hope is that this really is just the first of a whole line of devices and, short of my above suggestions they come out with a device with all of the features of the iPhone except one… The Phone. I can keep my piece of crap RAZR and remain in the feudal slave state that is Verizon and I can have what I want. But, I suspect, by then my current contract will be up, I will get both Princess Bethany and I an iPhone just as Apple wants me to and all of this complaining will be moot.

Remainders 01.09.2007

Oh you know I am going to have a word or two about the new iPhone. But I am going to save that until after I have a few drinks in me – I am at Macworld after all. For now, I have a bunch of remainders to post that have been piling up…
I can’t even begin to tell you how bad I want the new Nokia N800. Although, saying it like that tells you exactly how bad I want one (yes, even though there is this iPhone thing everyone is all excited about). I mean, a web tablet with a real browser, wi-fi, integrated chat and open source… What’s not to love.
PagePacker allows you to make a PocketMod style book out of a sheet of standard paper with anything you want printed on it. It does all of the layout for you automagically.
Like everyone else in the blogosphere, I am also real keen on the list of 20 Different Ways to Manage Your To Dos at Web Worker Daily. (via Lifehacker)
I don’t know if these really are the best unknown Mac applications but it is a nice list of ones you probably have not heard much about.
The new Circa Starter Kit is a gateway drug for Levenger to start you on the path of spending lots of money on their fabulous and luxurious office pr0n.

IMAP, iDisk, Yojimbo and MacJournal – A Backup Story

Last week was my first, full, uninterrupted week back at work. The trials of December had kept me away and not only made my work schedule irregular but also guaranteed that I was pretty well distracted even when I did make it in. The nature of my job means that there is not much that I can delegate to get done while I am away. All of the projects, tasks, e-mails, etc. just park there at my doorstep until I get back and am engaged enough to deal with them.
One of the first things I wanted to take care of once I got back to the office was to backup my PowerBook. With everything going on I had not been able to back up since December 5th – which from past experience I know is a dangerous thing.
But I was swamped. From the moment I arrived at the office I was deluged with an avalanche of items that had just been sitting there for me to return. Therefore, I was unable to even begin to backup until the end of the day. I was stressed. I was frazzled. I was tired… I also should not have been attempting to do anything as important and attention sensitive as backing up.
So despite the multiple dialog boxes. Despite the warnings and chances to say “no” to the question “are you sure” I plugged in my PowerBook and hit…
Restore.
That’s right, instead of backing up I restored my machine back to the state of my last back up. On December 5th, 2006. A month worth of changes. Lost. Or so I initially thought…
You see, after a few minutes of sheer panic. I realized that I, in fact, had not lost everything I had done for the month. Actually, I lost very little. I had some aces in the hole. Here is a list of the things that saved this from being a catastrophic failure:

IMAP – A couple of years ago, I switched all of my e-mail from POP to IMAP. Now, instead of my e-mail being downloaded to my local machine it is stored on the server. Therefore, zero loss of e-mail. I just launched Mail.app and it was all there.
iDisk – I am a slave to Apple’s .Mac service. Largely due to the iDisk. Apple’s iDisk provides up to 1GB of WebDav based storage. You can keep a local copy of it multiple machines that sync changes, online and off with the server. I have gotten in the habit of storing and backing up documents to the iDisk. Not just for added safety but also so that I can have access to them on multiple machines. Therefore, I lost none of those.
Yojimbo – As I have said in the past, I have gotten in the habit of throwing any document it can handle into Yojimbo . It has quickly become the center of my Mac universe. Not only do I use it for general information and document storage but I use it for a good many of my text processing needs. If I need to write a quick letter, take some notes, flesh out an idea – I use Yojimbo. I also use the sync services capabilities of Yojimbo to keep all of this stuff synced between machines through .Mac. Therefore, I simply took my Yojimbo database from another machine, replaced the “old” one on my PowerBook and all was well.
MacJournal – Everything I don’t write in Yojimbo I generally do in MacJournal. All of my journal posts, for instance, are written using MacJournal. It has a number of great features (the full screen mode is the best available in my opinion). The one that saved me though was “Download Entries from blog…” which synced all of the “missing” entries. Therefore all of the blogs posts that were missing from MacJournal were synced back. Zero loss.
These things, combined with the fact that so much of my other stuff is managed in web apps like Basecamp and Backpack, made all of the difference in the world. Through them, I basically have regular and consistent offsite backup. This, to me, is the real promise of the convergence of broadband, web 2.0 and online storage. The ability to not only have my information ubiquitously at any machine I am at but also to have multiple backups should anything go wrong locally.

Macworld Bound

I will be leaving tomorrow for Macworld in San Francisco. While my schedule is pretty full, I have absolutely no plans and don’t know anyone else who will be there tomorrow (Sunday 1.7.07). That being said, if any of my readers are going to be around in San Francisco and would like to get together for dinner and/or drinks, shoot me an e-mail to patrick -at- patrickrhone.com.
Sorry for the late notice… Been a busy week…

Remainders 01.04.2007

OmniGroup is holding an OmniFocus meetup next Monday at The Apple Store in San Francisco. OmniFocus is the much anticipated GTD app they are working on. I will be there. (via 43 Folders).
Speaking of 43 Folders… Merlin posts a great list-up of the most popular GTD posts on 43 Folders. If you’re looking for a good place to get going with GTD, start here.
Here is another Moleskine GTD Implementation. Looks like lots of people are breaking in the new year with new systems.
David Seah has been uupdating his beautiful, printable, productivity forms. His Emergent Task Planner 2007 Updates are not only yummy but they may be good for you too.

You Say You Want a Resolution?

You know those New Year’s resolutions you came up with? The ones you wrote down in that apparently important place? The ones you felt so smug sharing with your significant others telling yourself that you were doing that so that they could help keep you accountable? The ones with such nebulous goals as “Lose weight”, “Travel More” and “Be a better friend”? The ones you will most likely never think about after the first week of January?
Well, I hate to break it to you but they are as worthless as a glass of tap water in a fresh water mountain spring.
Oh I know you had good intentions when you wrote them. You really do mean to try to kind of, well, you know, DO them. Well, you can’t. Not as they are right now. They mean nothing because they are not tangible, actionable, regularly reviewed and evaluated parts of a process. Let’s make them mean something. Let’s take the first one as an example…
Lose Weight

  • First off, how much weight do you want to lose in a year or so? How about 10 pounds? That is a very realistic and achievable goal right? Take that goal and make it a part of the 30,000 ft. section of your vertical map. This level is ideally suited for 12 to 18 Month goals and objectives.
  • Now, let’s break that down a bit. How are we going to get there? Probably by eating healthy and regular daily exercise. OK, put that down at the 20,000 ft level which is for personal lifestyle checklist stuff and is reviewed monthly. But first, let’s rephrase it to have meaning and purpose:

Lose 10 pounds through healthy eating and regular exercise.

  • Now we need a project. A 10,000 ft., action driven plan to get you down about a pound a month. OK, start listing out the steps you need to do to make this a reality. Maybe you can start by “Call health club for membership pricing”. Next you can “Buy membership to health club”. Then you can “Make appointment with personal trainer”. Maybe even “Research diet plans”… You get the idea. Decide all of the things it will take for you to get your flabby arse down to the club and part of a regular workout. Review this weekly.
  • Now that you have a plan, put the rubber to the runway. Take the first item on that list (or the next one that you can take immediate tangible action on) and put it on your Next Action list.
  • The bottom line of all of this is that resolutions belong either:

    a) As part of a real, actionable, tangible system that is reviewed regularly and maps vertically into your overall life goals.
    or
    b) Parked on your someday/maybe list, which is also reviewed regularly and the items therein are evaluated for inclusion into a real, actionable, tangible system that is reviewed regularly and maps vertically into your overall life goals.

    Then and only then will your resolutions hold any weight worth sharing with the world. Then you know it is going to be… alright.