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ATPM 15.02
February 2009






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Xmas Exchange

I waited two years for the iPhone and bought the 3G this past year. I am not unhappy about this, but I would not give it a 10 either. I think not sending pictures with text messaging is a disadvantage! I was surprised I couldn’t do this. I do send pictures via e-mail, but it isn’t the same thing. Some of my recipients want to get pictures on their phones. I am very disappointed to find out after the fact that my Bluetooth headgear does not support voice mail, a service which came automatically when I was at Verizon. I feel this is a necessity in the car, and after spending all this extra mula with AT&T for this phone, I don’t want to give them another $5+ a month. There are apps that sort of have voice dial, but I would still have to look at my phone while driving, which is unsafe and illegal. Also, another disadvantage is when I talk on the phone my cheek usually touches the phone screen and puts me on mute, calls another person, or cuts me off. That is annoying! Last but not least is the rapid rate that the battery drains, but I’ve dealt with it by purchasing a small external battery source that fits in my purse and additional chargers for home and car.

—Ellen Lerner

Freeway 5.3.1

Very nice review, Ed. I’ve been running the demo of Freeway 5 for a couple of weeks, and it looks like I’ll purchase it. Your comments cemented that decision.

—Jim Larson

Next Actions: Article Line-up

Thank you for this article. Two comments:

  1. Check out XMind. It is the best free mind-mapping application on the market. The Pro version allows for task GTD-like management.
  2. Despite all my previous gripes about Circus Ponies NoteBook I am using it to manage my tasks using a system that is very GTD-like. It is important to remember that NoteBook can clip e-mail or Web sites and append it to the user’s Inbox list for later sorting or it can clip to a particular GTD category (e.g. Someday/Maybe). It is certainly one of the most attractive applications on the market.


Thanks for the recommendation about XMind—I will check it out. And good tips on using Circus Ponies NoteBook for GTD.

—Ed Eubanks

• • •

Thanks for continuing to write on these topics. For 2009 I’d love to see more of a focus on moving structured data in and out of these applications. Please focus more on issues of importing data, exporting data, and to what extent data is “locked” into these apps and therefore binds users to an application.

—John Gordon

By “structured data” and what you go on to say, I assume you mean something like an open standard?

It would be nifty if all of the GTD application developers all agreed to use XML or OPML, or some other existing standard. The trouble is, even with just XML or OPML, which do you use? It would depend on what application(s) you want to share that data with. That was, in a sense, one of the great advantages of the original KinklessGTD, which—because it was based on OmniOutliner with its inherent power—could export the data in a scad of formats.

I’m not entirely sure about the nature of your question, though: is it your wish to use multiple GTD-style apps, and move data regularly between them? Or is it simply to have the flexibility to export and import a variety of data types?

—Ed Eubanks

• • •

Great article. You touch on one of the big challenges for me—creative idea management—>simple ongoing planning/necessary idea refinement—>fruition of idea into reality.

The system I’ve developed is this:

Curio: My digital white board with mindmaps, lists, drawing tools, shapes, arrows all working together to help me see my own mind. It is the quintessential creative mind tool (I’ve tried outliners, NoteBook—Curio stands out for me)

Evernote: As they say, my brain in my pocket. Call logs, details, idea capture, and much more. Wherever I am. Beautiful.

Things: It’s as yet incomplete. But Culture Code do depth with elegant simplicity—so I’m happy to wait for their excellence vs. other’s premature answers. (Yes, I’ve tried them all.)

Here’s what’s missing: a protocol for helping them all work together. Along with contacts and e-mail. It’s a cobbled together system, with some integration, but no seamless flow. It’s improved a lot in the last year or two and will continue to do so, but the system that works for me, doesn’t work for you. What is needed is a way for these programs to share this data in a live link and update way, with thumbnails etc. so there can be an ongoing dashboard auto-updated. That’s what I’m looking for.

—Patrick Jones

Good summary—and you’re right, a clear protocol, as you call it, is the hinge-pin, isn’t it? I want to begin to work on that idea with the “Task Tracking” article—but I think such a topic is bigger than one or even several articles. Maybe my thoughts will, at least, provide a petri dish in which your workflow might emerge.

—Ed Eubanks

• • •

Great series of articles. Still, your description of Life Balance’s Distinguishing Features is incomplete. Yes, it “gives ‘meta-feedback’ about tasks: how much time are you spending in different areas of your life…,” but the main feature that stands out is that it combines an outline view (of all your various nested projects and tasks) with a to-do list view that is sorted for you—combining the importance of the overall project with the urgency of the specific task. So you always see the most important tasks at the top, and you don’t have to always scan your whole list. It seamlessly connects actions in contexts with their projects. I’m just a user, and there are many features that it doesn’t have that others like OmniFocus have, but it is an excellent application for making quick decisions about what to do, especially if you want the synchronization to the Palm and iPhone.

—George Garrett

I realize my coverage of Life Balance is spotty. Thanks for pointing out the advantage of the outline view—I can see how that would be an asset to many users for sorting and planning. I’ll include it in my summary next time.

—Ed Eubanks

Whoomp Earbud Enhancers

Update: I’ve just tried these out with the headphones that ship with the iPhone 3G, and they don’t work at all. They’re too big for the iPhone earbuds. I’m not sure if Apple has redesigned all their iPod earbuds or just the iPhone buds, but these definitely won’t work with the latest iPhone earbuds.

—Chris Lawson

Harmon Kardon Soundsticks II

This is without a doubt the nicest audio review I have read!

I would like to know which recordings you use to test the products you review (not just these) because I’m making a list of CDs I should get!

Also, are the SACDs or Ultradiscs from MFSL really worth their price in comparison to normal CDs?

Oh, and can you tell me where I can find other reviews by you?

Thanks a lot,

—Rodrigo Euan Pacheco

Thanks for your kind remarks. It’s good to know that even 4+ years on this review is bringing readers some laughs.

There is no definitive list of recordings for auditioning speakers or sound equipment. You can find albums on Stereophile’s R2D4 (Records to Die For) and The Absolute Sound has their own list as well. But my advice has always been to bring albums you know very well so that you can detect differences in the reproduction easily. That having been said, there are obviously albums which are more demanding in terms of their bandwidth, tonal or dynamic range, etc. or are of higher fidelity in terms of the recording quality. It would be hard for me to provide a list here for you—networking with other audiophiles and reading some of the magazines may help. I have discovered a lot of music by spending time with other music lovers and audiophiles who spread the word about great albums from artists who often fly below the radar.

My advice is to bring a variety with you so that you can cover a wide cross section of your own music library. Personally whenever I audition equipment I bring at least one very demanding large scale orchestral recording (Mahler, Beethoven, etc.). The two recordings I mention here, the Dvorak and Mahler, are good examples but there are countless others. I always bring a vocal recording or two—at least one male and one female, as human voice can be very challenging to reproduce accurately. I typically bring something big that rocks to make sure the system isn’t just sterile and “audiophile” but can actually swing too. Pink Floyd, The Who, The Stones, etc. whatever your particular preference. I also typically bring one or two small scale ensemble recordings—a jazz trio or quartet (say Keith Jarrett Trio, Oscar Peterson Trio, etc.) and a chamber music recording, say Bach or something along those lines, to ensure the system can handle delicate passages as well as bombastic ones.

In terms of your other question. I am not a big fan of SACD personally, but there are others who feel differently. There is some merit to the MFSL discs, but they run the gamut—some are really no better than the original aluminum CD release, some are significantly better, and many fall somewhere in between. The prices out there can be kind of goofy, so use your own judgment. MFSL was really mostly about their high-end LP releases, which typically were worth the extra money and did sound significantly better than regular LP releases (there were some exceptions, and people spend hours online debating this stuff—but overall the MFSL LP releases were excellent, especially given when they were released). The MFSL CD concept didn’t really offer the same level of improvement.

One format that is absolutely worth the money is the XRCD, which is a standard aluminum CD, but which is mastered using a proprietary process by JVC in Japan. The resulting sound quality is vastly superior to a conventionally recorded/produced CD. There is a limited catalog in large part because they go back to the original master tapes to create the discs, but most of the titles are really excellent so the collection makes up in quality what it lacks in quantity.

At the end of the day I am very cynical about digital formats and SACD vs. CD etc. because I am really an analog guru and I listen to LPs about 90% of the time. So to me the digital debates are pretty uninteresting. But then again I am an audiophile and willing to deal with all the hassles that come with LPs.

As to your last question—I have never actually written any formal audio reviews. I am an audiophile, and for years I owned a store by the name of Symphony Sound in Chicago where we designed, sold, and installed high-end audio and home theater systems. But I have not written any reviews. I mostly wrote this piece as a send-off of the typical audiophile reviews out there because after spending a number of years in the industry the reviews started to really drive me nuts.

Trust your own ears, find a good store—one which treats people the way I’d like to believe our customers would say we treated them, a store that will spend time with you and is serious about good sound and about music and not just about the next sale. And recognize it is a gradual process. It took me about 10 years to get my system where I wanted it, in part because I couldn’t afford to do it all right in one fell swoop, and in part because I needed to spend more time listening and learning what I like and dislike, and in part because some products in my system only recently became available. So it’s unlikely to all come together overnight, but now that I have my system the way I want it, I don’t fiddle with it anymore. I just leave it alone and listen to music. And that is what I call reaching audio nirvana…

Thanks for reading,

—Evan Trent

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