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iMessage and Magic SMS Bills

Marco Arment:

iMessage is truly transparent: less-observant iOS owners won’t even realize that they’re using it.

iMessage is cool. I like it. I don’t know how useful it will be, though as not all of my friend have iPhones. It’s not cross platform and only compatible with the two newest iphones (iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4)

Their SMS bills will just start to decline next month.


Last time I checked there are only a few text message plans on AT&T and Verizon. Either unlimited or you buy a certain amount for each month and if you go over you pay for each message. Lastly you can just pay through the nose for each individual message. Most people I know have unlimited texting. So, they won’t see a decline in their bill at all. It’d be much better if people knew about this so they could actually alter their SMS plans, because that’s the only way their bills with “just start to decline next month.” Ha!

Using Dropbox to sync notes across platforms

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Dropbox is great. It seems like I learn of a new use for this amazing service every week. Here’s a new one to add to the books. You can use Dropbox to sync text notes across platforms and access them via note-taking clients.

Every since I purchased my first iPhone about 2 years ago I’ve used many different apps to make to-do lists and to take quick notes. The problem was that I could never find one that was simple enough, fast enough, and synced between all of my platforms. Evernote will do this but it has way more features than I need. It’s too distracting for me and the iOS client is slower than just firing up the native notes app. Simplenote is a new service that works pretty well and will do exactly what I need it to do, but I found the ads in the iOS app to be too distracting and I’m not willing to pay $20 a year to get rid of the ads.

So, I’ve found a solution to this issue that I’d like to share. Using several free apps, you can store all of your notes and to-do lists in DropBox and then access them from apps on all of your devices. If you don’t have a Dropbox account, go sign up here and thank me later. Now if you have an iPhone, iPad, or other iOS device go download a fee app called PlainText. It allows you to create and edit text files in your DropBox. It will automatically create a folder in your DropBox called PlainText and it will sync and store text files in that folder. The default folder is at the root of your Dropbox but you can change that if you like. To set up DropBox syncing, just go to settings and then select DropBox and follow the directions. Here’s a screenshot of the DropBox settings in PlainText:

Now you just need a desktop client. I recommend Notational Velocity for Mac or ResophNotes for Windows. Each of those apps allow you to edit and sync text files to your DropBox in plain text format. Notational Velocity is a super simple, minimalist app that just does note-taking and that’s it.

Here’s how to set up Notational Velocity once you’ve enabled DropBox syncing in PlainText:

Notice that you have to change the storage setting to “Plain Text Files” in order for it to sync to dropbox and the other clients. Also make sure you change the source folder to the same folder PlainText is synced to in your DropBox.

Once you have it set up you can create notes on your iPhone using PlainText or on your Mac using Notational Velocity and they will sync to your DropBox and be available wherever you go.

the switch


I’m sort of used to reinstalling my OS. At least I’m used to reinstalling Windows, because as you probably know Windows gets slower and slower the more things you install and the longer you have a running install. So, I tend to just start over at least 2x a year. There are some ways to make this simpler. The first is having an external HDD. This just needs to be big enough to hold all of the documents and media files that you don’t want to lose in the switch. I don’t have a ton of stuff so mine is only 120GB. I could certainly use a bigger one, though. I think that 250GB should suffice but 500GB is probably safer. If you do video editing then you probably need more than that.

Another way to keep things safe and make a transition easier is using cloud storage. One service I cannot recommend enough is Dropbox. I have used this service for about a year and I love it. It’s free for 2GB of storage and they have other options if you are willing to pay monthly. Dropbox is a program that lets you pick one folder on your computer that you would like to keep synced to the cloud. Dropbox runs in the background and keeps track of any changes you makes to files in that folder and its subfolders. 2GB is plenty for all of my documents. I keep all of my school and work documents in my dropbox. What’s really nice about dropbox is that you can install it on multiple computers and it keeps everything in sync on all of the computers. You can also access your documents from a web interface and they have mobile applications like this one for iPhone. I’m telling you; it’s great.

If you aren’t using some sort of service to keep all of your email, contacts and calendar stuff in the cloud, then you really should. I recommend Google sync since it does a great job and works with everything. Google has tutorials on how to set up their services on a variety of platforms here. Mobileme is another service that keeps everything in the cloud, but it costs $99 a year. Why do that when you can get all of those services for free from Google? I don’t know either.

Pictures are pretty easy to take from a PC to a Mac. Just put your photo folder onto an external harddrive and then import them into iPhoto on your Mac. Simple enough; be prepared for iPhoto to completely rearrange your photo folders, though. This doesn’t really bother me. I gave up on keeping my photos neatly organized years ago, so iPhoto actually helps. If you have a meticulous method for organizing your picture folders then you should probably stay away from iPhoto until you change some settings in there.

Music is another animal for me. I spend hours keeping the metadata for my music in order and I hate to see it all go to crap when I transition to another OS. If you are already using iTunes, then thankfully it is pretty easy to switch to a Mac and not lose all of that stuff. If you don’t then my advice would be to install iTunes on your PC before moving to the Mac. There are some tutorials for doing this. I found this one incredibly helpful. Since iTunes 9 came out you don’t have to use a hex editor on your itunes.xml file anymore. It is extremely easy to move an itunes library from Windows to Mac these days. Be thankful, it wasn’t so easy even a year ago.

Next blog will be about my transition to actually using my MacBook for daily tasks at work and at home.

fourth week of field

So this is my fourth week of field which is sort of hard to believe. As far as client appointments go I’m 0 – 4. Last week I has one appointment scheduled. She didn’t show up. Yesterday I had two scheduled and both canceled. Today I have two scheduled and one already no-showed. I guess this is just how it’s gonna be.

So what have I been doing with all of my time a field? Well mostly playing with my iPhone… Like, right now I’m listening to old TBTL episodes and touch typing this blog entry in the WordPress app on my 3GS. Until last Wednesday evening I had the ability to tether my iPhone to my laptop so I could surf the net. Unfortunately I blindly updated my firmware to 3.1 and lost not only my jailbreak but also my ability to tether. That was really stupid of me. Tethering is important because I don’t like to use the agency intranet connection to surf. I feel like someone is watching everything I look at. I don’t look at bad stuff, just blogs and such but still probably not the professional sort of material that the agency connection is intended for. Tethering gave me a seperate connection that I could use all day and remain anonymous in my surfing. Hopefully the dev team will release the 3.1 jailbreak soon so that I can install PDAnet and tether again. Or maybe AT&T will get off their asses and enable tethering and MMS like all of the other iPhone service providers in the rest of the world. Probably not…

School is going pretty well so far this semester. I’m really enjoying my group class, but there is a lot of reading for that class. I’ll probably do some of that today at field, actually. But overall I feel like I’m learning a lot from the class. Wodarski’s class is a joke.

So this current iPhone is my third. Let me explain. My first was a 3G that I bought February 2009. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I also dropped it repeatedly and it got all scratched up with some major dings on the corners. When the 3GS came out I told myself I didn’t need to upgrade…but I got tired of my beaten up iPhone and I decided to put it up for sale on Craigslist. I sold it the same day and used the money to offset the $400 price of the early upgrade to the 3GS. So that was lovely…a white 16GB iPhone 3GS. It is much snappier, very responsive and in general pretty awesome. I use the camera a lot since I always have it with me, and the extra megapixel, autofocus, and video features make a big difference. So I was very careful with my new 3GS and always kept it in a case. Then one day in late July I took it out of the case to clean it. To my horror I noticed several hairline cracks in the white casing on the back. I diligently waited till school started in August and made an appointment with the Apple Store in Knoxille. They replaced it on the spot after seeing the cracks. Sweet new, new iPhone. Then later that week I noticed a new problem: dust had somehow gotten under the screen. So I made another appointment. This time they replaced the screen assembly. So that’s where I stand now. My phone is still perfect, and I’m going to do everything in my power to keep it that way.