Super Analyzer

Super Analyzer is a nifty little Java app that will parse the contents of your iTunes library and then spit out statistics like song plays by album release year, library growth over time, most played artists and albums, and how often you play each album compared to the rating of the album. Furthermore, for each metric, you can break down the results by decade, genre, album and artist. For me, it’s all about the 2000’s.

Reeder for iPhone

Reeder for iPhone. It’s the user experience of Fever with all of the functionality of Google Reader, including shared items, plus bonus features like Instapaper integration, save to Delicious or Pinboard, and offline syncing that. just. works.

What’s more is that I can’t believe Gruber hasn’t linked it yet. A well-deserved hat tip goes to Pete Karl.

Syncing contacts, Spanning Sync, and trust

My second attempt gets a B-.

I’m a big fan of services that can reliably keep my data in sync across multiple computers. Dropbox is likely my all-time favorite, and allows me to effortlessly sync 50 GB of documents, code, and media between my laptop and my desktop (ahem, .Mac). CoPress has a folder we’ve shared amongst the entire team for making accessible meeting notes, documentation, legal information, etc. Evernote, even with a mediocre user interface, enables me to quickly have access to my notes across any device. My notes are organized in the way of the GTD and I can easily search or filter by tag to get what I need.

Trust, however, is a very critical component of any relationship with a cloud or syncing service, and transparency is one method for achieving it. Dropbox is a pro in this regard; every account has at least 30 days of version history for anything that’s being synced.

Early yesterday, I made the move to Adium and decided that I finally wanted my Address Book accessible across multiple computers. Spanning Sync was the most obvious choice, as I’ve been using it to bring my calendar from iCal to Google Calendar and then to another iCal for several months now with no serious complaints. It’s blind trust in the service, though. Spanning Sync has a sync log, but the only way to revert to prior versions is to make your own backups and brute force it. The same thing applies to Address Book information which, in my situation, isn’t all that great of a solution.

I did as clean of a sync process as I could think of to get it right the first time. The Address Book on my MacBook has the gold master of my contacts, so I backed up and did a one-way sync to Google (overwriting all of my contact data) and then a one-way sync down to my desktop.

The result? I have 794 contacts on my MacBook, 743 contacts in Gmail, and 742 contacts on my iMac. It almost worked. Kinda.

Spanning Sync presents two significant issues for me that also affect the amount of trust I have in relationships with cloud syncing services in general. First and foremost, the numbers don’t add up. Not all of my contacts were synced properly, while some were entirely deleted along the way, and I have no way of figuring this out until I unsuccessfully try to find a person’s contact information. Of the 10 or so numbers marked as “favorites” on my phone, 4 lost their corresponding address cards. For the convenience of having contacts synced across computers, I’m willing to deal with this to some degree. Secondly, version history needs to be more robust than a log file. Every cloud service should keep a changelog of a week or more where the user can go back and revert an object to a prior state.

Intuitively addressing these issues in any web product means a greater amount of trust in the relationship.

Brilliant feature o’ the day: Skype’s Call-Forwarding

Why? Because now someone anywhere in the world can call my cellphone for trés cheap. If I don’t pick up, they’re forwarded to my cellphone’s voicemail.

This, my friend, is feature of sheer brilliance. I love you Skype!

To enable this functionality, you’ve got to have the absurdly cheap Skype Out. Once you’ve signed up:

  1. Open Skype
  2. Go to “File -> Preferences”
  3. Click on the “Calls” tab
  4. Activate the “Call Forwarding” box and enter your phone number with country code

It’s that simple! As an added bonus, when you’re not around a computer, it looks like you’re online anyway; you don’t have to be signed into Skype for someone half the way around the world to talk to you!

Mint: Great idea, but obviously not a finished product

I received an email earlier today from my friend DJ Strouse regarding what I felt about Mint, a newly launched personal finance organizer, and I thought: why not blog it?

Overall, it’s a wonderful idea for a niche whose surface has yet to be even scratched. Personal finance is an area I feel I’m extremely disorganized in and Mint does an excellent job of presenting, in web 2.0 fashion, my income and spending trends. I especially like the ability to receive alerts if I’m spending too much, or one of my accounts gets too low. Set-up correctly, this has the potential to be a very valuable tool in itself and could possibly make personal finance a brain-dead task.

The ability to track purposes with both categories and tags follows along with the web 2.0 vein, and shows that the company is forward thinking in its organizational philosophies. The user-interface for changing categories, however, could be drastically improved. If a purchase from a company is miscategorized, the user has to select all of the purchases on the list one by one in order to do a batch update. The smarter way to do this would be along the lines of gMail’s “filter” feature. I want the ability to apply my setting to previous purchases, not just future ones!

Presenting ways to save with sponsored companies is a brilliant, and often under-utilized, business model. It is smart and sustainable primarily because, ideally, both the consumer and the company win. Although I’m somewhat wary of switching credit cards when I don’t want to, I’m pretty sure Citigroup’s claim that they can save me $560 is a valid one.

Furthermore, the web-app appears to be (or at least according to my uneducated audit) very secure. From their security policy:

  • We require only a valid email address for login registration for the service. Notice that our signup page never asks for your name, address, or SSN.
  • Your personal information is never sold to third parties. You will not end up on someone else’s email list.
  • You can delete your account at any time.

and:

  • All data storage is encrypted. Not only are our hard-drives encrypted, our servers are in a secure facility protected by biometrics palm scanners and 24/7 security guards.
  • We hack our own site. Mint runs thousands of tests on its own software to ensure security. We scan our ports, test for SQL injection, and protect against cross-site scripting. We also update and patch our software all the time.

With all of that being said though, it doesn’t work at all with my financial information. I got the service to recognize my credit card account, but the account shows up twice and I can’t figure out how to stop it from doing that. Duplicate charges are no fun weeding out. On top of that, Mint isn’t even able to access my bank account and presents all sorts of crazy errors.

Mint, the recently-public personal finance manager, is a wonderful idea conceptually, but it will probably be a couple of months before I can recommend anyone dedicating the time to making it actually work.

AppDelete = Better than AppZapper (and it’s free!)

I love how there is almost always a free version of the software you’re expected to pay for.

A few days back, after I formatted my harddrive, I made the mistake of installing all the default software the Apple includes (whoops!). AppZapper came to my mind as a good piece of software to remove all of the files associated with iDVD and GarageBand, but five uses was a couple too short to do all of the removing I had wanted to do. Oh the frustration! I really didn’t want to pay 15 dollars in order to delete applications; that doesn’t make any sense, does it?

Google and a Lifehacker article saved the day by introducing me to AppDelete, a completely free application that does the exact same thing as AppZapper (minus the sound-effects). After 10 seconds of downloading, I was back on track deleting away.