Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tool Poll

Hi friends, readers and sufferers.

I post this one today to ask on your advice and views on a particular topic.

I'm trying to find and decide on a nice set of software and hardware to use as an organizing and data moving system for my work and life.

So far, the ideas of Getting Things Done, to which foucist introduced me, have worked pretty well for me. I'm not an organizational expert and I'm still kind of a walking mess, but these ideas have permeated my brain somehow and taken hold, and I'm trying to organize.

As far as organizing myself so far I rely on Google Calendar for appointments, which I enter on my phone via Opera Mini, or in my Palm on the calendar and then sync with GooSync. Then the calendar warns me of upcoming meetings via SMS (thank the gods SOMEONE can use SMS to my country, unlike twitter). For actions I need to perform, code and such, I post them on via either Opera Mini on the phone, Email from the phone, or Firefox on the desktop. And then when I'm sitting and have nothing on my brain to do I check it either on Firefox or the Phone via the web.

I do all these centralizations on the internet because I have two jobs. I work with around 3 computers a day, and you never know when I need to be out of the office.

The only drawback is in the remote case I lose all connectivity, which hasn't happened yet, and which I think would anyhow send me into a panic attack (I live more than half my life online so far) so it wouldn't matter.

What's my problem so far? well firstly, typing is slow on the phone and worse on the palm. T9 helps a lot but it's not perfect, and it specially hinders bilingual people like me since we constantly switch between languages by context and it's a slow process with T9. And on the palm even with tealscript which helps, writting or virtual-keyboarding stuff is agonizingly slow, specially when I have to correct missinterpreted letters from the graffiti...

So far I was opting for carrying a small paper agenda onto meetings to annotate in pen (blue and red to denote importante), basically capturing stuff there that I latter need to enter into the computer sites and catalogue, since writting on pen and paper is much easier and faster than the phone's T9 or the palm for me. The troubles are varied. First I've noticed it's much easier for me to capture and organize actions at the same time. If I capture them on paper and then I have to sit and organize them and type them again it's not only a waste of time, but I offer subconscious resistence to it, so I actually "forget" a lot to enter stuff to the web pages from my paper agenda.

The other is that every time more I see that in meetings I need not only enter data but seek data too, when I am asked certain stuff I need to check my numbers, my online stats for some services and Knowledge Base (I have created an In-Office mediawiki KB), so the paper Agenda serves me to enter stuff but not to search existent, real time data to share during meetings.

So I think I need a new digital solution. And I'm trying to look for something.


Hardware wise I'm very constrained by money right now. As some might know or not, to avoid economical bleeding my coutnry has established an exchange embargo, in wich we're able to obtain a certain ammount of foreign currency every year, and nothing over that for anything that is not importing goods for sell and that would require lots of paperwork.

Considering this, my dream machine right now would be a CloudBook machine. You see it's not much much larger than the paper agenda I already carry around, and for the reasons I mentioned before I want a real, usseable keyboard. No on screen keyboards, not even the iphones which I've tried and is good but not confortable enough yet. And stuff like T9 and thumbboards are completely out of the question since so far I've tried a few and typing on them is hell.

Now I do have two devices that might help now, a 12" G4 iBook, and a Palm TX, the good thing about the iBook is the power, but even it being 12" it's too heavy compared with the agenda, and it's beautyful white is a little too enticing though a skanky folder/bag could disguise the machine. I could also get a bluetooth keyboard for the Palm, after all I have LOTS of bought software for the palm, and using it to it's extreme would be helpfull, the trouble there is that the palm is kinda slow and at the top of it's limitations in some areas, specially network wise, I'm very limited with my browsers in the palm, even the great Opera Mini runs slowly and barely on the Palm.

So I'm thinking of trying to save and somehow getting dollars, and buying either a cloudbook or an EEE, both are small enough, very powerfull, and most importantly linux based. I'm thinking the cloudbook since it's battery life is better afaik, and the HDD capacity makes it great for carrying even live apache based services on the road.

The rules basically are. cheap, if possible using what I have. It must have a keyboard a real keyboard, and it must be small. It must run only Linux, OS X, anything but windows/windows ce. and if possible symbian since all versions I've tried are terribly slow.


This is a particular need for software. For organizing so far I'm very happy with google calendars, and vitalist, both work well and both I can kind of sync around. My trouble is capturing stuff that will not become an action or a date. I need an efficient way to capture data for reference. Now I've learned the lesson, a lessom mom once thaught me. As a professional translator one of the worse days in her work life was when she was forced to move from Wordstar in DOS, to Word in windows. You see when she was typing fast (and she typed REALLY fast) it broke her stride to have to go to the mouse to select an option or command.

Likewise I've realized that while typing captured data it would be a real break to go for the mouse, doubly so if I am using a laptop pad to try and graph a diagram. So what do I think I need? I need something that can translate simple text to formated stuff, very much like a wiki works, using asterisks for unordered lists, and other wiki type.

For diagrams, something like built in graphviz, with a few more options, I've tought long ago that for a programmer like me it'd be easier to graph stuff on the fly programatically uwing the keyboard than trying to draw pretty diagrams by hand.

My trouble and where I want you to help me, is that I want all this in a standalone program, something I can drop on my usb pen drive, and run from Linux, OS X or even windows. And do this in a manner easy to save and search...

I'd preffer a native program rather than a Java based one, for speed reasons. I might even end up having to code my own in Qt4 for the 3 platforms, but I'd preffer not to. still. Well.

All in all those are my questions, and your feedback is very welcome and expected.

1 comment:

Michael Boman said...

I find the Cloudbook slightly better then the EEE (I have both) while on the run, as the hole below the screen and the position of the trackpad & mouse buttons makes it easy to use when you are standing up. I would however recommend replacing the gOS installation with Ubuntu or one of the related projects (xbuntu, kbuntu etc).