Time Winding Down for Software Deals

November 12, 2009 at 12:45 pm (MacHeist, shareware) (, , , , )

OneFingerDiscount.png-1.jpgTime is winding down on a couple of great software deals. MacHeist, as previously noted, has tried an interesting bit of marketing to bring new users into its fold, by bundling six applications together and offering them up for free (well, in exchange for the all-important contact information). That bundle, dubbed the “nanobundle” by MacHeist, officially ends tonight. According to the counter on their website, there are twelve hours left.

In response to the Macheist deal, one independent Mac software developer, Daniel Jalkut, came up with an idea to have a promotion of his own, called the One Finger Discount. As he noted, “Everybody loves a deal. We’re banding together to give customers a price break, and to spread the word about Mac software they may not have heard about.” I asked him last night on Twitter if he’d had much feedback regarding sales from others. He said, “Every dev I’ve heard from has been “stoked” by the response.”

The One Finger Discount officially ends the same time as the MacHeist bundle, but Jalkut says he’s recommended everybody keep running thru Friday or later. Show your support for Mac software. There are over 100 developers on the list, and many have more than one app listed. Therefore, there are potentially several hundred apps listed from which to choose. Now that sounds like a great shopping spree!

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One Finger Discount Gives MacHeist the Finger

November 8, 2009 at 12:19 am (MacHeist, shareware) (, , , )

One Finger Discount.jpg
I noted a couple of days ago that MacHeist has begun an interesting ploy to garner contact information for the next iteration of their highly successful MacHeist series. For the low, low price of “free”, along with your contact info, you can download a nice little bundle of six various applications, ranging from a popular Twitter client to an organizer to a tower defense game.

To tie in to the promo, Daniel Jalkut, of Red-Sweater Software, came up with his own idea to have a One Finger Discount. He initially told folks on Twitter to pick up the MacHeist bundle, and “with some of the money you save, spend $20-$60 to make some developer’s day”.

I thought it was a great idea, and began to retweet it. Apparently, a lot of other folks thought it was a great idea as well, because it grew…rapidly! Before long, several high-profile blogs (Ars, MacWorld, TUAW) had picked up the story, and Jalkut found himself barraged with takers to add to the hastily crafted webpage he put together at One Finger Discount. He has taken a beating in many comments about the design of the One Finger Discount “Website”. True enough, he obviously didn’t see it taking on a life of its own so quickly, but he’s also the first to admit he’s no webmaster. Still, I wish someone would cobble something together for him (heck, even in iWeb!) that didn’t look like my 3-year old niece did it!

Friday morning he tweeted “Developer reaction insane. Now I have a taste for what it’s like to be @sethdill during PMC. Trying to keep up.” He was referring to Seth Dillingham, and his Pan-Mass Challenge annual software bundle auction to raise money for The Jimmy Fund/Dana-Farber Cancer Center. I volunteered and helped Seth and his wife, Corinne, with that auction a few months ago. I could just imagine Seth sitting back shaking his head, wryly smirking, saying, “Dude, you have NO idea….” πŸ˜›
By last night, he had added, “Jeez, if this keeps up we won’t need a reference page. Just assume all software on the planet is 20% off.”

Now THAT sounds like a deal!

The One Finger allegedly comes from 1/5, or a 20% discount, rather than a free five-finger discount. It’s still almost a steal. I suppose which finger you want to use depends on your perceptions of MacHeist and its creators. It’s no secret that many developers, including Jalkut, have been critical of MacHeist in the past, largely because of its practice of giving independent software developers a lot of exposure and customers, but keeping most of the profits for itself.

In an email response printed in MacWorld’s article about it, Jalkut responds to some Twitter users raising questions about the negative connotation of the ” One Finger Discount ” name. He says, “The name is just something that came to mind when I was making the coupon code for my own store. It is entirely inspired by ‘five-finger discount’ and it only occurred to me afterwards (with the help of Twitter followers) that it had a potential negative connotation. MacHeist jokes with the idea of software thievery, so I thought I’d play along.”

In a tweet tonight, Jalkut said, “It started as a whim, and took over my weekend. I bet One Finger Discount will be >100 developers on Monday.” I’ll bet he’s right. So far, more than 75 developers have tossed their hat into the ring. I’ve already found several apps that I was unaware of, have purchased a couple, and will likely purchase 2 or 3 more before it’s over. I’m posting this using one of my all-time fave apps, MarsEdit!. If you blog and you don’t use MarsEdit, you seriously owe it to yourself to check out this app.

The promo runs during the same time as the MacHeist NanoBundle, until November 13.

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The MacHeist NanoBundle

November 6, 2009 at 11:12 pm (MacHeist, shareware) (, , )

MacHeist nanoBundle.jpgMacHeist has rolled around again, and has an interesting ploy this time. If MacHeist is good at anything, it’s marketing.

With this one, called the “NanoBundle”, 6 “top apps” are “free”, so long as you supply your contact information. Plug it into the blanks, and you get prompted to download your free bundle. True enough, there are some decent apps to be had. The reason some of them seem a little “meh” for the MH faithful is because we’ve had some limited versions as “loot” in the past. Still, it’s a nice little package. See it at MacHeist.

As with MacHeist, there is usually an ‘extra’ along the way, and this time is no different. As the hoopla began with a Twittering about an incoming asteroid, which garnered the user a free app, DaisyDisk, there is also a FaceBook tie-in. If you download the bundle, then share it with your FaceBook brethren, you can get a copy of VirusBarrier. Who knows what else will follow? Rumors (and the time of the year) suggest that this is leading up to MacHeist 4. Time will tell. The MacHeist Forums are generally a good place for such information.

Meanwhile, grab a bundle of free apps, spread the word, then go enjoy your new apps. Who knows? You might find your next gem of an app hiding in there.

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Get More Done with Jott

June 29, 2008 at 7:45 am (shareware) (, , , , , , , , , )

jott_logo.jpgIf you are not using Jott, you are missing out on some serious chances to be more productive when those little random thoughts, that I call ‘popcorn thoughts’, jump in and out of your head before you can make notes. Β Enter Jott. The premise is deceptively simple. It is a program that uses voice recognition software, and a few humans, to transcribe what you say to text. The uses have grown almost exponentially as the application has matured. It is still in beta, but it is quite stable and has a very long list of features. This review will just scratch the surface, but I hope it will interest you enough to head over to Jott.com and check it out for yourself.

We’ll start off with the most basic function: sending yourself an email message. This is affectionately known as “Jott to Self”. First, you pop over to Jott.com, cell phone in hand, and set up an account, which takes about 30 seconds. Now you’re ready to start Jotting. Enter Jott’s phone number, 866-JOTT-123, in your cell phone directory (mine is in my iPhone favorites, so it’s right there on the front screen so I don’t have to search for it). Call Jott. You will be asked, “Who do you want to Jott?”. You can say “me” or “myself”, or press 1. When you hear the beep, leave your message; for example, “Add more contacts to Jott”. Jott will confirm by saying, “Got it”. You may then hang up, or stay on the line to Jott again. You will then receive an email message (and also a text message if you set it up to receive confirmation texts) of your Jotted message.

That’s how you get started. You can leave a Jott to remind you about meetings, birthdays, special events, or anything else for which you need a reminder. You will get an email and a text message approximately fifteen minutes prior to the date and time you specified. You can set up lists for things to do, movies to see, places to go, etc. Those lists can be printed as well. When you set up your friends as contacts, you can choose to send their Jott as an email, text message, or both. The accuracy is quite good, but if for some reason the message they get is unclear or doesn’t sound right, there is a link that will also let them listen to your spoken Jott.

In addition to setting up friends as contacts, you can also set up groups. Let’s say you need to let the members of your softball team know that the time of your game was moved up an hour. Rather than call a dozen people, you only need to make one call to Jott. You’ll Jott the message to your team (group contact), then the whole team will get the text and/or email, and everyone will be on time for the game. How’s that for efficiency?

Jott has links that you can add for integration with other sites such as Remember the Milk, 30 Boxes, and many others. They even give instructions for developing your own link! If you use Google Calendar, by all means, link to it. You can set up events and reminders thru Jott that will sync to your Google Calendar. If you use iCal, you can still use it by using a third party shareware application such as BusySync or SpanningSync. For example, if I Jott a reminder for “Karen’s Birthday Party” Saturday at 3pm, it will post to Google Calendar, then BusySync will sync with iCal. When I connect my iPhone, I will have the notation for the party in iCal and on my iPhone. How cool is that?!

If you like to Tweet, add Twitter as a link, and you can Jott your tweets (you just have to keep up with those 140 characters in your head!). You can also blog to WordPress and other popular blogs using Jott. I even Jotted part of this review (see the brief post below this one)! You have to keep in mind that Jotts are limited to thirty seconds. If you want to add a lot of content, just edit several Jotts together.

Jott Feeds was recently added to the growing list of features. You call Jott, and say “Jott Feeds”. Then you tell Jott which feed you want to hear (they have a few there by default, but you can add more to your account). If I say, “Lifehacker”, it will read the latest Lifehacker updates to me. Score another point for safety. It’s kind of funny to hear the relatively pleasant, but still quite mechanical voice reading this to me. There are a lot of run-on sentences and a lot of it is really hard to understand. I’m sure this will likely be refined over time.

Jott is now integrated with the incredibly popular Evernote application. Evernote is cross-platform, and also has a desktop client. It recently went public (it had been in private beta). Evernote generates a special email address for members. I made a contact named Ever Note and listed the Evernote email address. Then I called Jott, and Jotted to Evernote. It sent the text of my Jott to Evernote via the Evernote-specific email address. Nice.

There are a few important guidelines to remember when Jotting. Speaking clearly is paramount. Pronounce the words clearly, and you can even spell out proper names or difficult words if you want. The voice recognition software can be a little tricky sometimes, but for the most part, it just works, and works very well. The accuracy is amazing. I have a little bit of a southern accent, but I haven’t run into any major problems so far. I looked over the longest paragraph that I Jotted to my blog, and it was spot-on, 100% accurate.

I have to give a shout out to the very responsive staff at Jott. There was one feature that I wanted desperately, and that was the ability to send myself text messages separately, not associated with emailing a Jott. Kevin over at Lifehacker had come up with a way to do this several months ago, but the application had undergone a few revisions since then and it was no longer possible to do it. I tried to implement a few workaround hacks, but I just could not get it to work. I emailed support a few times and talked to Brooke about it. That’s when I got the bad news that I couldn’t send myself just a text message.

I pleaded for her to work on it. A couple of weeks went by, and just the other day I got a message from Brooke saying that, because of my emails, they changed some things and re-introduced that bit of functionality. Yay! For anyone else wanting to do this, here is what you do. First, I only have my email address listed for my contact information (to Jott myself). I did not list my cell phone number with my main contact info. I added a contact called “Text Me” and added my phone number to it, but not my email address. Inidentally, I tried saying both ‘my phone’ and ‘phone’, but it had voice recognition conflicts with those, so I had to get a little more creative. However, Brooke told me she used “phone” and it worked fine for her…probably my southern accent! Now, when I call Jott, and I am asked, “Who do you want to Jott?”, I say “Text Me”. I leave my message, and a few minutes later, it sends it to my iPhone as a text message. Perfect!

So, if there is a feature you would like to see, just let them know. They have implemented so many new features in the past several weeks and there are even more to come. This is only the tip of the iceberg as far as what you can do with Jott. There are many more suggestions and examples at their website.

Another very important point to bring up is the safety aspect. By using Jott, you can use a bluetooth headset with your cell phone, BlackBerry, or iPhone. This makes it much safer for you to be productive while on the road. You don’t have to try to scroll through a list of contacts or rummage around to find pen and paper.

Jott is free while in beta. No word yet on pricing when it comes out of beta, although the free application will remain. According to posts at their forums, they will be implementing a premium service that will allow longer Jotts, possibly including transcription services, and more features. It’s practically impossible not to get hooked on it. Give Jott a try.

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It’s Easy to Jott to a Blog…

June 29, 2008 at 3:53 am (Applications, How-to, Productivity) (, , , , , , )

It’s easy to use Jott to post to your WordPress or other popular blog. You just have to keep your post to under 30 seconds each. So if you think it will run longer, just string several of them together. Remember to speak slow and clearly. I’m using Jott now to post this message to my blog. The accuracy is really amazing. However, if something comes out really wrong, you can always go into your Jott webpage and correct it manually. I just Jotted this post!

Powered by Jott

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Ryu’s MacHeist pulls a heist of his own

June 10, 2008 at 10:18 pm (shareware) (, , , , , )

Well, there’s been quite a little uproar at MacHeist today.

The new and improved bundle was released today, ostensibly to increase less-than-stellar sales of the MacHeist Retail Bundle. The Retail Bundle was released a couple of months ago and has been sold online, plus there is a boxed version that is being sold in brick and mortar stores like Apple.

The bundle was essentially a “greatest hits” compilation of favorite applications from previous bundles. As such, many of the MacHeist faithful did not jump onboard to purchase this bundle as they had in the past because they already had most or all of the applications. They bought some for gifts, but the sales were nowhere near what previous MacHeist events have been.

So, the MacHeist “Directorate”, Phill Ryu and John Casasanta, decided to jump-start things with a ‘new and improved’ bundle, with a few new applications. Vector Designer was added to replace Wallet (the developer supposedly had a prior commitment and only contracted for a short amount of time). TextExpander and Sound Studio were added as “locked applications”, which would be given to buyers once a certain amount was raised. TextExpander was unlocked quickly, and Sound Studio probably won’t be too far behind. There was also a “Bonus App”, the highly popular Voodoo Pad, for people who bought during a specified 24-hour period.

Always in the past, people who had already purchased the bundle were given the additional applications as sort of an “early-buyers bonus”. Well, the early adopters, who supported MacHeist by buying a lackluster bundle, were given the added apps…except Voodoo Pad.

There was a lot of talk and angry postings over at the MacHeist forums. Things got worse when Ryu suggested that Voodoo Pad could possibly still be had…provided customers buy the bundle again during a 24-hour period when the bundle is advertised on a collaborating-but-yet-unnamed “interesting, highly trafficked site”.

So, early adopters, some of MacHeist’s best and most vocal supporters, essentially got screwed by buying early. Fence-sitters were rewarded with a premium application. One poster stated that “it’s a shame that people who bought in through a random promotion got a better deal than people who were loyal from the beginning.”

Ryu commented on the criticism about not including Voodoo Pad by saying, ” We try to be fair, but quite frankly, we’re in the red right now, mostly due to the decision to try to improve this bundle for you guys, and MAINLY because we wanted to reward any previous customers with the three main additional apps. There’s no way we can afford to do that. Sorry.” Another poster shot back, “If you’re in the red, it’s because most of the loyal MacHeist people already had most, if not all, of the apps in the bundle; therefore there wasn’t much incentive for us to buy.”

True enough, previous MacHeist bundles have resulted in enormous sales. Also, it isn’t a problem with the applications themselves. They are very good. The problem is just that the overwhelming majority of people who support MacHeist already have one or more copies of most of the programs. Even two of the three bonus programs that were added were in previous bundles, one in a MacHeist bundle and one in a MacUpdate bundle.

It doesn’t look like Ryu is going to change his position on this. However, it will probably hurt initial sales when the next bundle is up for grabs. A lot more people will likely wait to see what special deals will be offered before committing their support, and their money, to MacHeist.

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Something’s brewing at MacHeist…

June 9, 2008 at 5:42 am (shareware) (, , , )

So, Phill Ryu, of MacHeist fame, sent out a tweet a few hours ago that said “been working my ass off over the past month to really improve the current bundle and redo the MacHeist sale page…stay tuned”.
Then Twitter pops up with a message from MacHeist that said: “Lockdown at macheist.com…cool stuff coming soon…stay tuned agents!”

Going over to MacHeist’s website, the welcome screen that had been advertising the current retail bundle has been replaced with the following:

Let the speculation begin!!

Of course, the message boards at MH lit up like a xmas tree, and Phill posted that there “are some interesting things” going on. “This isn’t MacHeist 3 for sure, but we’re putting some kick into the previously existing bundle…” He went on to say that much of what they are doing will probably be used for MH3’s sale page, “so, in a way, you guys will get a glimpse of the future with that as well”. He closes the post by saying, “I think a bunch of you who skipped the retail bundle or were on the fence may be convinced with the additions, especially if you hit the right site tomorrow. But we’ll see!”

Umm, “hit the right site tomorrow“??? (tomorrow being the day of the keynote at WWDC being given by Apple’s Steve Jobs). MacHeist’s IRC chat channel says to check the MH main site on June 10.

Do I smell a mini-heist in the works???

It has not been a big secret that sales have seemed a little slow. Many of the MH faithful have passed on this bundle because they already have most of these apps (which is essentially a “best of” collection of popular past applications).

In all fairness, though, this bundle was targeted more at people who were not the regular MacHeist fans. Part of the reasoning behind doing the MacHeist retail bundle was to expose consumers to really good shareware who might not otherwise be aware of these sources for great software. These people will see the retail box packaging at their local Apple store or other retail establishment and be more likely to purchase it in a brick and mortar store than they would online.

Phill commented several weeks ago that at least one developer was pulling out because of a prior commitment, and his software would be replaced (it was also noted that early adopters would automatically receive the new product without having to pay extra for it – sort of an early adopters’ bonus!). Also, the “prize cabinet” did not go over exceedingly well, at least in the beginning.

The points system is essentially like a prize ticket system where you get 1 point every time someone uses your referral link to buy the bundle. The cabinet was initially stocked with eight or ten prizes varying in value from 1 to 4 points. There were good software apps for being used for prizes, but there were very few people with enough points to redeem for said prizes, even at the lower levels. The pre-launch buzz was talk of some spectacular prizes to be awarded to the top point-getters at the end of the bundle sale, such as ipods and even an imac — remember, points would accumulate during the year, so that could potentially be a large number of points. The referral system has not gone over as well as they had hoped, so that is one of the things that they have been working on.

MacHeist is still giving 25% of their sales to charity and they hope to bring the total amount donated to charity to over a million dollars with this bundle. Let’s hope whatever Phill, John, and company have planned for the next couple of days will jump-start things in the MacHeist community.

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Recovery Software for Your Mac

May 20, 2008 at 3:03 am (shareware, Standard) (, , , , )

Resourceful – 1. having the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties; 2. teenage Apple employee in NY who helped police recover her stolen laptop and other goods.

There was a story in the New York Times recently about the teenage girl in New York who had approximately $5000 worth of computers, tv’s, and other electronics stolen from her apartment. When a friend called to ask if she was online because he saw that it appeared she was online from her iChat profile, she logged onto a friend’s computer and remotely activated the Back to my Mac feature on her laptop. It is part of Apple’s $99.95 per year .Mac subscription package (http://www.apple.com/dotmac/). She was able to take a picture of the thieves using the computer and found that they were friends of friends. She took the photos and the thieves’ ID to the police, who arrested the two men.

There is another application that utilizes the Mac’s built-in iSight camera for its recovery of stolen laptops. It’s called Undercover from Orbicule Software. http://www.orbicule.com/undercover
Once you alert Orbicule that your laptop has been stolen, it activates the software, which pings Orbicule when the Mac logs on to the internet. The iSight camera takes pictures of the thief and the screen at predetermined times. In addition, the IP address is recorded so the thief’s location can be traced.

If that fails, a hardware failure is simulated causing the screen to gradually dim until it is black. The premise is that the thief will take the laptop into a repair shop. Orbicule has a list of Apple Service Providers’ IP addresses and if the computer is logged online from one, a message will be displayed telling them that the Mac has been stolen. It will also begin screaming at the loudest volume that the laptop has been stolen, and the computer will be locked to prevent any further use.

A single-user license is $49 and a household license is $59. They also have student licenses, site licenses, and volume licenses available.

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Get Time Out!

May 16, 2008 at 8:05 am (shareware) (, , , , , )

Dejal’s Time Out helps you combat RSI (Repetitive Stress Injury) and encourages you to take frequent breaks while working or playing at your computer. As Dejal (pronounced Dee-Jill) developer David Sinclair says, “It is easy to fall into bad habits when using a computer for hours on end”. You get into what you’re working on, and before you know it a couple hours have passed, your neck is on fire, your shoulder is in knots, and your eyes are seeing double, or worse! That’s where Time Out comes into play. It reminds you to take regular breaks.

The program can be set up in several ways via the Preferences menu. Breaks come in two flavors: “normal” breaks last for 10 minutes every 50 minutes, and “micro” breaks last for 15 seconds every 10 minutes. The screen gradually dims, a zen-like logo comes forward, a countdown timer displays the time remaining in the break, and you cannot type or do anything else during the break. Those break times are just recommended parameters. You can change the duration of both the break and the time between the break via the preferences pane. There is also a button present that allows you to postpone the break or to skip it altogether.

A really cool feature is that you can run Automator workflows, AppleScript, or Python script or applications at the beginning or end of a break. Some of these are included, and there are also user-submitted scripts to add functionality. One of the scripts shows a status change in Adium at the beginning and end of breaks. Another pauses iTunes during your break, then cranks it up again when the break is over. Many of these features will be included when v. 2.0 is released, but it’s nice for now. Many other user-requested features will also be present in the upgrade.

I can tell you from personal experience that this app works quite well. I have had a decrease in headaches since I started using Time Out. I was also having issues with hand and wrist pain. While not totally alleviated, it is improved.

For now, Time Out is free. Use it, love it, and get attached to it. Consider making a donation to further Time Out’s development. Anyone who makes a donation in any amount prior to the upgrade being released will receive a free license for Version 2. You can’t beat that! There will continue to be a free Time Out Lite for those who do not want the added functionality that will come with version 2. Download Time Out. Your body will thank you.

Time Out is available at http://www.dejal.com/.

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I’m a Mac…

April 20, 2008 at 2:46 am (shareware) (, , , , , , , )

I went to a trade show yesterday, and was prepared to purchase some items from one of my favorite vendors. While waiting in line, I happened to look over and see her husband working on an Apple laptop. An Apple laptop that said “Vaio”. He was using a Vaio but had a white Apple logo sticker in the center of it. I asked him what that was about, and he said it was “just to irritate Steve Jobs and the other Mac users” (nevermind that I’m sure Steve has never been anywhere near the same zip code as this guy, but that’s beside the point).

I’m a PC…

Then he launched into the same old anti-Mac rhetoric spewed by middle-aged folks who haven’t kept up with technology…you know the one statement common to all of them: “None of the applications I need run on a Mac”. I asked what he needed to run, and he said he definitely needed accounting software to keep track of expenses. And it had to be something his accountant would use. He looked like a deer in the headlights when I suggested QuickBooks or MYOB. I tried to explain to him that Macs can run Windows now since the switch to Intel processors. He said he didn’t want to use “BootStrap” – I’m assuming he means BootCamp since he didn’t appear to have a clue about either BootCamp OR Bootstrapping Statistical sampling πŸ™‚ He said he didn’t want that program “that they make you use” (he was referring to BootCamp). I told him he was free to use any application he wanted if he had some proprietary software that required him to run Windows. I told him that both Parallels and Fusion worked quite well (clueless again) but that chances were good that he wouldn’t need any of those.

“Donate to my relief fund”

I told him there were a lot of excellent shareware applications available and widely used for both personal use and small businesses now, and that there were a lot of really good independent developers in the Mac community. You know what he did? He laughed in my face. He said something to the effect of “yeah, just donate a dollar to my relief fund and use my application at your own risk”. What a jerk! He obviously doesn’t have a clue about what shareware is. I attempted to explain it, but he cut me off. I decided I would just be wasting my breath anyway. After our brief exchange, I don’t think he really has a clue about much of anything!

The Challenge

He, like most of the other folks at the show, have a small business and they display and sell their wares (jewelry and crafting supplies in this case) while traveling from venue to venue. The apps they need are very basic…just good old common small business applications. I talked to a couple of other vendors who had heard our exchange, and they told me they had been looking at switching to Macs because of the ease of use and because you don’t have to spend countless hours trying to stay ahead of issues with viruses, adware, spyware, and crashes. They asked me to help them figure out what hardware and software they would need that would serve their needs both at home and on the road. Cost was an important factor as they don’t have an unlimited amount of money to spend. They wanted to start with something more “entry-level” that they can expand upon later after they see how it works and make sure they are comfortable with the solution.

I shared with them what works for a few of my friends and me, as we all have a small business of some kind, from consulting to graphic design and desktop publishing to jewelry sales. This is geared toward someone who runs a small business on the road. It could be any number of products, but the folks I was dealing with happen to sell handcrafted jewelry and materials so that others can make jewelry to sell themselves. For example, Missy makes glass beads and does wirework. She sells individual components so that I can go home and make jewelry to sell using the beads she crafted. She also sells the finished products which, in her case, are beautiful earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. With that in mind, here’s what we came up with.

The Hardware

Because they are just starting out, Missy opted for the mid-level MacBook. It comes in three configurations: two white ones, and a higher end black version. The price points were $1099, $1299, and $1499. She went with the middle one. It’s a white MacBook, and it has a larger hard drive and more memory than the entry level version. At $1299, it’s a very powerful computer. Just a few years ago, people traveled with a “dumbed down” laptop…they were slow, had small hard drives, and not much memory. These travelers needed a desktop computer to use at home. These days, thanks to ever-faster processors, smaller hard drives, and falling memory prices, Apple’s laptops carry just about as much processing weight as their desktop counterparts. For a printer, Missy wanted the functionality of an all-in-one so they could easily scan and store important documents and make copies when needed. It didn’t take long to decide on the Canon Pixma MP520. It wasn’t very expensive, especially with the $100 rebate given for purchasing a computer at the same time, and the quality was excellent. Plus, the footprint wasn’t much larger than a standard printer. It also had a bonus feature as far as they were concerned: duplex printing. Granted, because of the volume of printed material they distribute, they use Kinko’s for most of their printing needs. But for the occasional emergency when they’ve run out of brochures, Missy said it’s nice to know that can print them quickly and easily if needed.

The Software

I’d been thinking about what Missy’s needs were regarding software: a word-processing program for instructions and signage, an internet browser to surf for information, maps, weather, etc. while traveling, a financial app, something for project and contact management, and a game or two to play when sales are slow or they’re in the RV between shows. I’ve never seen anyone use a POS app. They just use a calculator and write out receipts by hand on generic receipt books.

Here’s what they could use to get started nicely:

1) Finances – QuickBooks Pro ($169.95) or Moneydance ($39.99). Moneydance would be a good tool to keep track of both their business and personal finances. QuickBooks Pro has long been the gold standard of business accounting software, and most accountants are familiar with it. However, you and your accountant definitely would not have to have the same software. Both apps import and export the common financial forms, and they both download your transactions from your bank.

2) A word processing app such as NeoOffice (free), OpenOffice (free), or Pages ($79, part of iWork ’08) to print instructions, signs, business cards, brochures, etc. Swift Publisher ($34.99) and Pages are both easy to use, inexpensive, and have some nice templates for brochures and business cards as well. MicroSoft Office ($399.95) is the most expensive of the bunch, and the folks I talked to really didn’t need it.

3) Promotion – iWeb (comes pre-loaded on new Mac computers, $79 as part of iLife ’08) could make a nice website for a beginner with virtually no experience. For more control and more choices, RapidWeaver ($49) will make quite a nice site. The developer, RealMac Software, has a very active support community, lots of templates and plug-ins, and the sites look great. Sandvox ($49 regular, $79 pro) is also a consideration, as it has been gaining steam with new users lately.

4) Project Management – SOHO Organizer ($99), Project X ($199.95). I’ve been hooked on SOHO Organizer for several years, since they had a great little app called “Sticky Brain”. You input all the bits of info into it that you’d have all over post-it notes like login info, passwords, serial numbers, account info, due dates…you get the picture. They changed the name awhile back to SOHO notes (I still like Sticky Brain better!) and added a lot of functionality. I upgraded from the notes to the organizer because the organizer has contact management built into it, as well as templates for invoicing, which look really nice. I’ve heard good things about Project X, but haven’t tried it myself. I’ve probably got way too much stuff in SOHO now to ever leave it for another app!

5) Anti-productivity apps (i.e. “games”) – Hey, you can’t work all the time!!! The thing is, there are tons of Mac games out there. It totally depends on what you like. I’m addicted to World of Warcraft, a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) that is played online with people all over the world. I met one of my best friends playing WoW. For quick time-killers, though, I like puzzle-type games such as Bejeweled, Bookworm, and MahJong. Frenzic and Enigmo are addictive, fast-paced puzzle games that are very popular. There are casino and card games such as slots and Texas Hold ‘Em. There are also sites where you can play different types of games online for free. Just do a search for “Mac online games” and you’ll get a lot of hits.

The cool thing about Mac shareware is that they have a “try before you buy” policy. You can download, install, and use the software for a period of time (usually 15-30 days) before you have to pay for it. That gives you time to try out a couple of different offerings in each category to see which apps work best for you. As you can see from the included pricing info, really good software doesn’t have to cost a small fortune. For around $250 you can get a good app in each category and even have enough left for a game or two πŸ™‚ Not a bad deal in my opinion.

The Results

I presented my recommendations to Missy regarding software, and she’s going to try two apps each from the different categories (except she wants to go with SOHO Organizer after I showed her how I use mine!) for two weeks, and that will give her two weekends of shows to use them. That should be sufficient time to see what best meets her needs. These are just suggestions. If you guys have had success with other apps, drop me a line and let me know. I’ll add them to my arsenal πŸ™‚

By the way, in case you’re wondering, I left my favorite vendor without making my purchase. I’m not sure if she knows her husband cost her a few hundred dollars with his bad attitude and ignorance, but she will when I send her a copy of this post! Until next time, cheers!

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