E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

Tools and Gadgets

11 Reasons Why I Am Becoming a Mac Fanboy

I am sure that if you have been reading through my blogs for a little while now you would know how, more and more, I am relying on my MacBook Pro to carry out my daily job rather than whatever else I have been using in the past. I know that for plenty of folks out there this wouldn’t be really any piece of news, but, believe me, to me it surely is. And very good ones!

I could talk about the many, many things I am thoroughly enjoying over the last few weeks. I could talk about the excellence on the multimedia components. I could talk about the really good quality of different Mac apps. I could talk about the incredible community of folks who share their passion about the Mac day in day out. And the list goes on and on and on. Yes, I know, I guess I could talk about that, yet, I am not going to. Instead, I am just going to share with you all why today is going to be a light blogging day and why every day I am becoming more and more a Mac fanboy:

4 Windows crashes, 4 Windows reboots, three of my most frequently used Windows applications out of order and still not knowing what is going on with them. Complete waste of productivity for the day… Enough said!

Yes, folks, I never thought I would be saying this, but I am becoming a Mac fanboy. Just wished that would have happened quite some time ago. So many frustrations would have been just a thing of the past. Sigh

(Stay tuned, because, as a follow up, I am writing up a blog post where I am sharing how this MacBook Pro is helping me improve my own overall social software experience, both inside and outside of the corporate firewall. Who would have thought about that, right?, just a few months back, eh? :-D)

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Vyew – FREE Anytime Collaboration and Live Conferencing – on the Mac

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As I continue to read how some of the folks out there on the blogosphere start making their transition successfully from their Windows to a Mac based machine, I continue to enjoy the experience myself very much so with my  own MacBook Pro. So much so that over the last few days I have been consolidating all of the different work-related tools that I use on a regular basis and I am in the process of creating another blog post where I am detailing what those different tools are. However, today I just wanted to mention briefly one of those tools that will become essential to my on the Mac from here onwards.

It is actually a Web 2.0 offering that I have been using already in the past, although perhaps not as heavily as you would have expected. But now that I am on the Mac I can see how I will get busier and busier with it from here onwards. If you have been off my ITtoolbox blog you actually know about it already, but just in case here you have a couple of weblog posts that detail some more the initial experiences I have had with this particular Web application:  Vyew 2.0 – Free Web Conferencing and Always-On Collaboration and Vyew 2.0 – Free Web Collaboration.

Yes, I am talking about Vyew, perhaps one of the most solid and competent e-meeting tools available out there at the moment, and, best of all, free of charge. In a world semi-dominated by Windows based virtual meetings applications, it has always been refreshing to actually find another offering that is not only browser independent, but also operating system independent. That is what Vyew is all about.

A couple of days ago I was actually attending a live demo with a lovely slide deck of some of the new functionalities from this particular offering, and at the time while we were going through them, I was actually making use of my Windows Lenovo 3000 N100 machine to attend the session. Making use of Flock, of course. While we were being explained why Vyew is one of those essential tools for any knowledge worker out there wanting to conduct effective virtual meetings, I decided to be brave and try out whether it would work in my Mac machine.

Well, it did! Yes, indeed, it worked beautifully! I was actually having two sessions, one from my Windows machine and the other from Mac, using Flock in both of them, and getting the most out of it. Performance was incredibly fast and reliable, despite the fact that there were a whole bunch of folks in it. We didn’t notice a single glitch and while I was making use of it on the Mac machine I noticed how I was getting an even much better experience. The Mac experience. I am sure those of you who are Mac users would understand what I mean. If not check out this quote from Jay Cross on something that I can certainly identify with him big time:

"[…] today the action has moved from the desktop to the web. web connectivity may flake out, but it’s not going to disappear forever as did my PC’s hard drive. relationships (the web) trump nodes (the desktop).

I plan to buy a mac to use as a terminal and to make the web my primary platform."

Yes, that is right. The Web user experience is way way different and if you give yourself a chance and try it out with Vyew, both on a Windows and on a Mac computer you would be able to see what I mean.

I was looking for an e-meeting tool that I could use in order to conduct ad-hoc e-meetings on the fly. Without hassle. Without hassle to install extra software. Just sharing a single URL address and off it goes. From your favourite browser! How cool is that?

Well, my search for an e-meeting tool, something that I use on a very regular basis, is now over. I have found my ideal productivity tool to conduct those virtual meetings effectively. Vyew is the word. Vyew is the application and if you haven’t tried out I strongly encourage you all to go through the set of features put together for the current version 2.5 and enjoy the ride. Because I am sure you would.

There are lots and lots of things I could say about Vyew and why I like it so much. Instead, I am just going to sum them up with a couple of words: Free, easy to use, instant access and works beautifully on the Mac. Need to say more?

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Vienna – The K.I.S.S. Approach to RSS / Atom Feed Reading for the Mac

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One of the things that I have been very conscious about this time around over the last few weeks, while I am putting things together to make my MacBook Pro my default work machine vs. the Windows notebook, is to actually apply the K.I.S.S. principle. Something that perhaps I should have done a long while ago, but that I didn’t. This time though I am learning my lessons and throughout the entire process I am keeping up with that minimalist flavour to get the most out of the Mac without having to clutter it right away.

And when I put myself to the test I knew that things were not going to be easy in certain areas. One of those being using a competent RSS / Atom feed reader client, one of the various essential tools that I couldn’t live without nowadays. On my Windows machine, and over the course of the last few years, I have probably tried out for a number of weeks / months several RSS / Atom feed clients. Most of the times running concurrently to test them out and see which one would make the winner.

For the last few months, this winner has been, still is, Omea Pro. To me, it is one of the best feed readers for offline reading available out there! No doubt! I would recommend it any time to anyone who may want to get things going. Still do. However, on the Mac things are different.

To start with, there is no Omea Pro for the Mac, so I had to dig in quite a bit and try out a number of different feed reader clients that I have been getting through recommendations, performing several searches or just by bumping into their Web sites and decided to try them, just in case. That is how I got to try out endo, NetNewsWire, Shrook, Google Reader, NewsFire, BlogBridge, etc. etc. The list goes on and on and on.

Overall, most of those readers do a pretty decent job. However, none of them cut it for me for one reason or another. Surprisingly for something so relatively simple as basic functionality. Perhaps at some point in time I will detail why each of those feed readers fails to meet my needs at the moment. And this is where Vienna comes into place, because after having played around with for a few days I can share with you all that it has now become my default RSS / Atom feed reader for the Mac.

You may be wondering why, right? Well, because apart from being freeware, which we all know is an attractive option for us all on its own, it also applies the K.I.S.S. principle very nicely: subscribe to the feed, get the subscriptions / articles, read them, flag those you want to keep and delete the others. Believe or not, this is where most of the other feed readers I have tried failed to come up front with what I would call some key basic functionality: delete what you don’t need and keep what you just need.

It may be pretty simple, but you would be amazed as to how many of those readers would not allow you to delete items you are not interested in. You would expect that the tools would allow you to keep things clean and tidy, but alas, it is not going to happen with most of them. On the other hand, Vienna does this job beautifully with just a single key stroke, which for filtering and quickly scanning through feeds is just … ideal!

So much so that I have been using it for the last week or so and it has become one of those tools I cannot live without in my Mac. Just brilliant, how can such a piece of simple software can get the job done without the hassle, the clutter, or complicated features that most of us are not going to make use of. Yes, I knew I was right when I decided to go minimalist on the Mac, and so far the software I have put together to be as productive as ever, if not more, has been working out like a charm. Vienna has got all you ever wanted to have in an RSS / Atom feed reader client and before you pay some $$$ for some piece of software I can certainly recommend you give it a try. I bet you will stop your search there. Just like I did. For good.

Vienna, simplicity at its best on the Mac!

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Goodbye Qumana, Hello Windows Live Writer?!?

James Governor, a.k.a. monkchips, mentioned to me, not long ago, how I should have another look into Windows Live Writer as another powerful offline client, next to Qumana, which is my current default, for the time being. At the time I was not really very sure about it, so I put it in my to-do list. However, later on I found out Neville Hobson talking in very favourable terms about it, too. So that to-do item went higher up into the priority list.

And just this morning, one of my fellow IBM colleagues and good friend of mine as well, Andy Piper, blogged about it as well saying how nicely it is starting to integrate with IBM’s Lotus Connections. Thus right away, with all of those pieces of good advice, I decided to get rid of that to-do item and have a look into it today and test it out, once more.

And to sum up my overall experience with a single word, after having created a number of blog posts in all of my blogs, both internal and external, I think it would be impressed. And very much so, I must add!

There is this last beta client made available over the course of the last few days and so far from what I have been able to see it’s pretty stable. Its user experience and ease of use is at the same level, if not better, than Qumana (You gotta love that Automatically save drafts after N minutes).

However, the main reason that has helped me switch and ditch Qumana for good for the Windows machine is the fact that I just got the confirmation that one of my other fellow IBM colleagues, James Snell, and one of the folks behind Blog Central (IBM’s internal blogging engine) is actually working with the developers from Windows Live Writer to make it compatible with the Atom Publishing Protocol, which will help us walk away from the MetaWeblog API with all of its issues and problems, mainly, the exposure and non encryption of the login credentials.

That, to me, is a pretty good move to make the switch and start getting used to writing blog posts in WLW, so that when the right time comes for such offline blogging client to support APP I can make a smooth transition to it. And forget about Qumana who I have contacted several weeks ago around this very same issue of supporting or not the APP and I am still waiting for their answer.

Sorry, folks, but life is just too short to hang around and wait for something to happen. If you cannot pay attention to the constructive feedback provided by your end-user community that spends more and more time trying out and testing your tool(s), don’t be surprised if they decide to move elsewhere.

So far Windows Live Writer has made an impressive come back into the offline blogging client scene by staying one step ahead of the curve, that is, listening to their end-users and putting together some of the features that we have been asking for, is what will drag ourselves on to it, like I am doing and apparently like Andy, Neville, Monkchips and a whole bunch of others are doing.

They cannot be all wrong, right? … I don’t think so!

Goodbye Qumana, Hello Windows Live Writer?!?

(Oh, and the process of inserting a picture, one of the things I really liked the most from Qumana is just beautiful! As easy as it gets)

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10 Essential Windows Tools for the Mac (That I Am Keeping)

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After the initial couple of weeks using more and more the MacBook Pro I must say that I am still enjoying the experience quite a bit. I have already started the migration of most of the productivity tools that I use at work and over the next few weeks I shall be sharing some further thoughts on what the new environment is like. However, I thought I would get started with this series by mentioning the first round of Windows tools that I am still going to keep using in the Mac. I consider them essential, even more when the experience is even much more enjoyable.

Thus from here onwards I am just going to detail the first 10 tools I am keeping in the Mac and which I will continue using rather heavily. Then in subsequent blog posts I will share some further thoughts on other tools I am adopting and which are native to the Mac. And, in between, and throughout those entries, I shall be sharing further thoughts on the various options from IBM tools I am using for the Mac. And see how far I can go. So, let’s get started:

1. Opera: Yes, I know, Safari is the default Web browser for the Mac, but I feel that Opera is still the fastest one out there, so it will continue to be my default application for everything related to browsing Web 1.0 sites and  some of the Web 2.0 ones. In case you may not have tried it out I seriously encourage you to take it for a spin for a week and you will see you will not be back.

2. Flock: Oh, and for the Web 2.0 applications that I get to use on a regular basis, Flock still remains my default Web browser. Just as good as in Windows it allows me experience different social software tools without not noticing whether I am on Windows or the Mac. Just perfect.

3. FireFox: And for the different Web sites where neither Opera or Flock work I am making use of the good old (slow, CPU hog, incredibly slow) FireFox. I just wished that when people would put together those superb extensions they would also make them work for Flock. Not too much asking, don’t you think?

4. Skype: Definitely, my default VoIP and Instant Messaging client. It was one of the first tools that I installed in the Mac and I am just as happy with it as I was with the Windows version. Put simply, it just works (Despite the recent outage for several hours after years of not seeing anything like it. Not too bad!)

5. Qumana: I know that a few of my friends and work colleagues have recommended that I get to try out ecto, as perhaps the best offline blogging client for the Mac, and for a few days I did give it a try. However, I wasn’t sold on it too much. Perhaps I will keep testing it out and see how it goes, although having to pay for it is not what I am really looking forward to thus far. Why? Because in Windows I am rather content with how Qumana works. I still think it is one of the best offline blogging clients, rather solid and incredibly easy to use. In fact, I am writing this particular blog post with it and it feels exactly the same as in Windows, but with the Mac flavour 😉

6. iTunes: Yes, you could surely make use of it directly in the Mac, after all it is an Apple product, but I am surely glad that I am not missing anything out on the good stuff I had in my Windows machine. And on top of that, it already came installed with it. So it will still remain as my default podcast and vodcast player, amongst many other things. By the way, you can really see how this particular app. was designed for the Mac, and not for Windows. Nifty!

7. Audacity: This is perhaps one of the very first Open Source applications I am porting over from Windows in order to continue making extensive use of it to create, record, produce and edit different audio files. It is ideal to record podcasts, audio conference calls and webcasts and whatever else. And the user experience is just the same. So I am keeping it. No doubt.

8. Adium: Ok, this is not a Windows tool. We all know that. But if I wanted to keep in touch with colleagues, friends and family using whatever the IM network I needed to have an option for the Mac. And most of my friends suggested Adium as probably one of the best and although I am not making use rather heavily from the various IM networks as I used to (As I said, most of those interactions are now coming through Skype) I still went ahead and installed it. And will still be making use of it, specially since it would also allow me to connect with Google Talk, my second default VoIP and IM client. Perhaps, at a later time, I will provide some more details on what the experience is like for the Mac.

9. Lotus Mobile Connect: This has been the first of the IBM applications for the Mac that I have installed. And right on the same day that I bought the machine, since I wanted to check it out and get that one fixed. And avoid surprises. And boy, does it work beautifully or what? With it I can access the IBM internal network without a single problem. If there is anything else that I can say about it is that it works! Really nice!

10. Lotus Sametime 7.5.1:  And, finally, here you have got the second IBM tool that I have installed in this machine. I have been using this particular VoIP and IM client for a number of months and to date it is one of the tools that I am using on a regular basis for most of my real-time interactions. And it works beautifully. Something that I am really happy about as I couldn’t leave without it, specially with the various social networking capabilities it offers. But more on that as time goes on.

And that would be it. Next step would be to talk about the next round of tools I have decided to continue making use of in my MacBook Pro. There are quite a few to be honest, so one of the things that I have been very conscious of is to keep those tools to a minimum, to help avoid some clutter and ensure things are running smooth. After all it is a Mac. So how much clutter can you add to it? Very little, right? … You bet!

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Finally Joining the *Expensive* Mac Side!

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A couple of days ago Dennis Howlett commented over at his blog AccMan on a recent post I created myself over here myself where I was mentioning how it was finally about time that I joined the Mac side and he was not surprised that I have made the move a few days back already and so far I am really enjoying the Mac experience. Certainly, to the point of not going back any time soon! And how spot on he is!

Yes, that is right! So far I am really enjoying the experience quite a bit. There certainly has been a bit of a learning curve, I am not going to deny that, but once you are over it, you come to appreciate one single aspect that I didn’t think of for quite some time while I was making use of different Windows machines: simplicity! That is probably how I could describe the last few days of working with my MacBook Pro: getting the job done with a lot less hassle and without having to figure much out! Good stuff, indeed!

However, over the course of those few days that I have started to make heavy use of my MacBook Pro I have found out that there is a price associated with it. And I am not just talking about how pricey the overall machine is (A whole lot more expensive than most notebooks and laptops out there!), but talking about the software applications available for it.

One of the things that I have come to notice is the fact that most of the applications I am heavily using on a Windows environment are not available for free on the Mac. On the contrary, they cost money and they aren’t cheap! That is how I have found out that I need to upgrade to iLife08 by paying a fee, if I would want to have a similar experience to Picasa (My favourite default app. for managing large amounts of photos). Or how I would need to pay for ecto, if I would want to have an offline blogging experience similar to Qumana, if not better. Or how I would need to pay for another tool called endo, if I would want to have an aggregator I could remotely compare to Omea Pro, my default offline RSS / Atom feed reader.

And all of that without even considering iWork08, which I am not sure I will be going for in the end, since I am anxiously awaiting in anticipation for the GA release of Lotus Notes 8, which includes the super fine IBM Productivity Tools that I am currently making heavy use of in my Windows machine. But more on that later, when I get to detail how I am successfully transitioning most of my work apps. into the Mac environment and enjoying every minute of it!

However, one of the major disappointments that I have been confronted with so far is one application that I make use of rather heavily in the Windows environment and which, apparently, hasn’t got a Mac version for it: Camtasia. Yes, that is right, I make use of it to create screencasts and I have been told that not only isn’t there a Mac version for it, but the only capable option offering similar functionality is iShowU, for which I would also need to pay a license fee (Thank goodness it is not as expensive as Camtasia’s is!).

And that is just some of what I am seeing at the moment while I am starting to consolidate my list of essential tools that I keep using in Windows and which I would love to make use of in the Mac. Well, it looks like I may need to adapt myself to the new needs and continue to pay for some expensive software, and hope that tool developers would think once and for all that to create a state of the art application for everyone to use you need to figure it out and make it OS independent, pretty much like in the Web you focus on creating applications that follow Web standards, instead of being browser dependent.

Thus yes, it is a completely new experience and one I am probably not going to walk back from any time soon, as I have mentioned above already, but I am hoping that over the next few days I will be creating a number of different weblog posts on how I have made of my MBP my default work machine without having to pay much more money for it, specially for the software. Thus stay tuned for some more to come, because I feel it is going to be a fun ride and if you have got some hot tips you would want to share with me from your experience … I am all ears 🙂

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