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ATPM 11.09
September 2005




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Bloggable: Get a Clue

You know, the reason all those “just don’t get it” guys don’t get it, could be because they really don’t get it! Maybe when you sit them down in front of a Mac, they really can’t see why it is so much easier to use than Windows (not just the graphical user interface, which is already awesome, but the way things are done on the Mac).

So, when it comes to the iPod:

Hey, look here a sec, this other MP3 player plays MP3s. It also looks fairly cool—it’s got different shades of rainbow. You Mac guys like different colors right? This MP3 player also syncs with my PC. It’s got a hard disk and a color screen. It’s also cheaper than the iPod! So, what gives? Why is the iPod so popular? I don’t get it!

—Angus Wong

FileMaking: Welcome to FileMaker

This article should occupy a place in the tutorial shipped with FileMaker. It is that good. The example provided is exactly like the database I was trying to set up and the problem I had was not understanding how to use the pop-up. I was just about to drag my butt back to Borders to order a real book when I came across this site. I hope the articles keep coming. This is a fantastic introduction.

Thank you very much!

—Bob Cook

Boswell Review

Thank you for your article. I’ve been using Boswell for a couple of years now. I am a Shop Steward for my Union, and use it to keep track of all of my interviews, facts and contentions, notes, information requests to management, etc. I’ve been able to get notes from a meeting that took place more than a year ago to help solve new problems.

I would also like to say that Copernican Technologies tech support is great. When I first upgraded to version 4.0, I had a problem with transferring my old library. I e-mailed in my problem. We exchanged a couple of e-mails. I still couldn’t solve it. Then I received a phone call from their tech support. We were on the phone for more than 30 minutes, and Will talked me through the import problem. This is great tech support. My upgrade to version 4.0 was free. They didn’t make a lot of money off me, but I am a very loyal user.

It’s rare that I find software that I use every day with great support. Just for the record, I am not affiliated with Copernican Technologies in any way.

—Cody Bryan III

• • •

Thanks for the thorough review. If I’d read this a year or two ago, I’d have bought Boswell instantly. But since the advent of OS X, I’ve been continually astounded by the speed of development. Countless times, I’ve come across new programs that promised to meet all my needs, and now own Tinderbox, VoodooPad, Circus Ponies’ Notebook, StickyBrain, DEVONthink Pro, OmniOutliner Pro, MindCad Pyramid, Inspiration, Webstractor, Ulysses, and MacJournal. That excludes more narrowly focused apps like Bookends (for references and citations) and Delicious Library.

For keeping a comprehensive library of data, I find it difficult to imagine anything better than DEVONthink Pro. For other purposes such as keeping snippets and storing my own I’m still not sure. In fact, I have a feeling that any of these programs could have served me well if I’d stuck with it and used it exclusively for a long period of time. I know I probably read too many software reviews and part with my money too easily. But I have several specific questions, and would appreciate any insights you or readers can provide.

  1. Is it better to have separate programs to store one’s own writing and miscellaneous snippets? That’s what you seem to imply in this review, though other reviews suggest Boswell as the ultimate snippet keeper.
  2. Anyone who’s familiar with some of the programs I mention (and/or other competitors): Is any of these superior to the others? With so many new programs available, all boasting functionality that we could hardly have dreamed of a few years ago, is there any systematic or principled way to choose?
  3. Reviewers such as yourself who regularly review software: When you find something that seems to be better than your present setup, do you adopt it wholesale after finishing the review. So for example are you doing all your writing in Boswell now? And if something even better comes up next month will you happily abandon Boswell for that?
  4. Boswell seems cheap when you think about the mega-apps like Office, Photoshop, QuarkXPress, FileMaker that I used to think no computer could be without. Yet it’s expensive compared to programs developed by people who didn’t used to develop for Classic Mac OS (VoodooPad, StickyBrain, Notebook, OmniGraffle, etc., etc.). Do these prices reflect different degrees of functionality?

—Rick Lewis

I tried DEVONthink some time ago, and I didn’t like it at the time. It felt like the user interface was getting in my way, in a way that I didn’t feel with Boswell. I’m not surprised that the two are being compared, though, because they are similar in some ways. I also didn’t get the impression that it’s well-suited to storing as much data as Boswell.

Let me answer your questions, though:

  1. I keep my snippets in Boswell, too. Are you referring to my remarks about keeping separate libraries? For that period of time, I kept everything in Boswell. It worked out quite nicely.

  2. I can’t answer this question fairly; I didn’t use DEVONthink as heavily as Boswell, and I haven’t used any of the other applications beyond a couple days’ trial. I wouldn’t be comfortable evaluating them. I tried to use MacJournal that way, and it didn’t work out. Otherwise, though, we’ll have to rely on other readers, Rick.

  3. This will depend on the software you’re reviewing, really. I’m still using Boswell currently, and it’s worked out quite nicely. But if it’s software you might otherwise not have used, or if you had to make a concerted effort to use it, then, sure, you’ll see some drop-off. In the case of Boswell, I found that it worked better than writing everything out on sticky notes or in my Moleskine, in spite of the time advantage of being able to write while on mass transit. So I’ve stuck with it. If something came up, though, sure, I’d abandon it, at least for that month, and I’d even export everything out of Boswell and into the new application.

  4. I don’t think the application pricing has anything to do with the application development platform, no. We’re really talking about three entirely different classes of software: really, really big-name applications; geek applications; and workhorse geek applications. The big-name applications are expensive because they’re very expensive to develop and maintain, and because they always have been and Adobe has no reason to cut into their revenue. (I won’t touch Quark, because, well, I might say too many mean things about Fred Ibrahimi.) As far as the distinction between the geek applications, OmniOutliner is the one that doesn’t fit in. Boswell and DEVONthink are designed to store everything you write, period, and in my own experience VoodooPad, StickyBrain, and Notebook just aren’t designed to hold everything. They’re better suited to jottings and notes, but they’re not really designed for you to write a book in them. And, in general, you pay more to get that stability and functionality and the je-ne-sais-quoi of Swiss Army knife-ness. OmniOutliner is the exception to this rule, but that has more to do with Omni’s pricing structure, I think, than anything else.

Thank you for your comments, and I hope my answers are helpful to you, Rick! I hope everybody else feels free to chime in on the matter.

—Wes Meltzer

Tiger Fix

Although initially excited about Mac OS X 10.4, I decided to hang fire expecting some sort of major upgrade. Sure enough, shortly after launch there is a multi-megabyte, multi-hour download to “fix” some issues (I think over 50 MB probably covers more than a few issues).

How am I supposed to stand up to my Microsoft-centric workmates and smugly praise the security of OS X when Apple’s updates are becoming almost as frequent—if not more so—than Microsoft’s?

Oh, and while I’m in full flow, when is Apple going to realise that whilst the US may have almost universally cheap broadband not all of the world is so favoured? What with updates to OS X, iTunes, iMovie, iPhoto, iCal, security updates, etc., anyone on a 56K connection would have to spend a small fortune every few months to keep up to speed.

Apart from widgets, and possibly a small speed bump, I see no need to update to 10.4 at the moment and especially not until all the updates are included in the shelf version.

Sorry Apple, ring up one no sale.

—Phillip Davis, Kingston upon Hull, England


I just came across your three columns on converting LPs to CDs in ATPM in 2003, and found them very helpful. What about the iMac G5, which has an audio input? Can you just go directly from a stereo preamp audio out to that via a cable with RCA jacks? I can’t find out from Apple!

—Ed Kearns

Yes you can basically just go right out from the preamplifier outputs on your preamp/receiver into your iMac’s audio input. You will need a 2x RCA to stereo 1/8" minijack converter, but you can get these at Radioshack easily, or at any number of other stores like Best Buy, etc.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that if your preamp or receiver does not have a true phono stage on board, you will run into problems. What I mean by this is that you cannot simply plug your turntable into the CD or Aux input on a receiver/preamp and then go into the iMac’s audio input. The reason is two-fold. On the one hand, the turntable’s output is around 2 mV whereas a CD player or comparable “line level” device is about 2 V, so you’re talking about a huge difference in output level. Or simply put, the signal will be so low on the turntable you will not be able to get much sound on the Mac without amplifying the soundwave a bunch, and that will introduce significant noise. Secondly, if your preamp/receiver does not have a phono stage it will not equalize the RIAA curve that records are cut with, and as a result your recordings will have very little bass, and the high frequencies will be too pronounced.

You can solve this two ways—either buying an outboard RIAA phono stage for your preamp/receiver (you could get one for probably $99, even cheaper at Radio Shack) or using Griffin’s iMic with Final Vinyl. You could then plug your turntable directly into the iMic because Final Vinyl compensates for the low output of your turntable by boosting the input gain, and it also corrects for RIAA using software equalization.

However, if your receiver/preamp has a phono stage built-in none of this is a concern and you can go right out of the preamp outputs. Be careful, however, not to overload the iMac’s audio input. Preamp outputs are variable outputs, and the signal will be controlled by the volume knob on your preamp/receiver. If you use the tape or line outputs you will get a fixed 2 Volt signal that will not be affected by the volume control. This will ensure you do not overload the front end of the iMac’s audio stage.

—Evan Trent

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