NeoOffice (OpenOffice for OS X) : Compeditors Watch Out!!!

NeoOffice is officially deemed Alpha-level quality, so I wouldn’t go whole-hog using as my primary document system quite yet. You could, just hit the “save” button frequently if you do. And I say this as a “cover-my-ass disclaimer” rather than a condemnation of stability. I haven’t gotten the app to crash yet, and I’ve been kicking the tires pretty hard now. Color-me more than impressed: I would call myself stunned.

If you’ve never heard of OpenOffice (and I’m not just talking Apple here) you should educate yourself. It is a full “office suite” that can compete fully with the likes of Microsoft Office, Corel Office, Lotus SmartSuite and Apple’s “iWork” suite. It actually has a rich and fascinating history, dating back to its origin as “Star Office”, a German product that was proudly touting advanced Object Oriented design and cross compatibility between Windows and IBM’s OS/2. We’re talking circa 1995 here.

I don’t remember the particulars, but Sun bought Star Office and did the split-personality part-open-source, part-commercial development thing, like Netscape had with Mozilla. Essentially they made it an open source application “OpenOffice” to attract a wide developer base while keeping a closed-license version they could charge money for. OpenOffice is really a viable product on two platforms: Linux/Unix and Windows. For a long time it has been a viable alternative to Microsoft Office, and some government agencies in the US and abroad have attempted to standardize on it in order to escape Microsoft’s expensive licensing. (To mixed results.)

“So where’s the Apple OS X version?” you may ask. Well, the answer to that is far from simple.
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For a brief moment I thought of i + Do It = iDoIt. I even like how it sounds when you pronounce it: I Do It. I typed ‘idoit’ into Google for a search and suddenly realized my folly, as Google politely asked me “Did you mean: idiot?” That could have been a disaster in the making. Kinda like the old Chevy Nova that didn’t sell well at all in Latin American communities because in Spanish “no va” means “doesn’t run”!

Although it’s jumping the gun a bit, I’m trying to figure out a name for my upcoming Task/Project Management application for the Mac. I’ve internally called it iProject, but a quick Google search comes up with a product that I think is made in Germany. I’ve tried the combination of adding “i” + any common related term: Task, Todo, GTD… everything there has been taken. Granted, my product doesn’t have to start with the letter “i” but I wanted to emphasize my own design goals which are (a) to have something that is as simple and easy-to-use as it is powerful and (b) an incredible level of integration and “plays well with others” with the existing iCal and other Apple applications.

For a brief moment I thought of i + Do It = iDoIt. I even like how it sounds when you pronounce it: I Do It. I typed ‘idoit’ into Google for a search and suddenly realized my folly, as Google politely asked me “Did you mean: idiot?” That could have been a disaster in the making. Kinda like the old Chevy Nova that didn’t sell well at all in Latin American communities because in Spanish “no va” means “doesn’t run”!

I’m happy to entertain any application name recommendations. Until then, I’m going to keep calling this thing iProject.

Learning OS X Cocoa Programming: MandleTry

MandleTry screenshotI wrote a few days ago about how I had this killer (simple but useful) Mac application idea bouncing around in my head for a year now. I have to confess I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the last three days in refreshing my Cocoa programming skills, and I’ve written my first decent test-app: a Mandelbrot generator.

Back when I was a teenager I was fascinated with the Mandelbrot set. It was kind of the “hallmark image” of the then-newly-emerging field of fractal geometry. This was the same field of Mathematics that was allowing computer-generated landscapes like moon in the Genesis Planet Demonstration video from Star Trek: Wrath of Kahn. I remember staring at the strangely beguiling image in a Scientific American article, fascinated with its strange features. Also incredible was the fact that no matter how closely you “zoomed-in” to a point of the Mandelbrot set, you got a uniquely different-yet-similar picture.

I remember being about 16 years old and reading and re-reading the article, trying to understand the relatively simple mathematics behind it. It was just the equation z=z2+c but in the complex number plane. I understood complex numbers and had a year or two of algebra under my belt, but couldn’t get it. Then one day I had that “eureka” moment and it all made sense. I jotted down the simple quadratic, translated it into a computer algorithm and set to writing a program to test it.
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Apple .vs. Windows, my own 2¢

In this article I come up with my own theory of how Apple could leverage the new Intel architecture and Microsoft’s failure to add anything substantial to the upcoming Windows Vista in order to take over the PC business—using the Apple playbook that has enabled them to move from Motorola 68xxx to PowerPC, from OS 9 to OS X, and now from PowerPC to Intel. The article also mentions how a similar “dual-OS” strategy had been accomplished with the now-defunct IBM OS/2.

There’s been so much wild speculation about what Steve Jobs is up to with the new Apple Boot Camp tool for Intel-based Macs. For those who haven’t been already inundated, Boot Camp is a boot manager that makes is possible to install both Max OS X and Microsoft Windows XP on 2 different partitions of an Intel Mac. When you start up the computer, you can pick which one will start up. (I don’t know if it provides any ability for one OS to see the partition of the other.)

Speculation has included some crazy ideas like Steve Jobs wanting to get out of the Operating System business by embracing Windows Vista, writing a OS X compatibility layer to cover old Mac software. Others talk about Windows Vista and OS X running “side by side” at the same time on Intel Macs. I’ve got my own 2¢ on a specific angle, and it has to do with my previous rant about how the new Windows Vista is nothing but Windows 2000/XP with a slight face-lift.
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The Search for the Perfect Task Manager

So I’ve been bandying-about an idea for that “first great Macintosh application” that I’ve been wanting to write for about a year. I’ve always known enough Cocoa programming to get through some book examples, but I’ve never had a chance to write a Real Life application. I know the exact app, and I think it would be a killer.

Personal Information Management has been on my mind for years. There’s never a time when I’m not striving to improve the way I organize “bits of daily information” like my calendar, phone numbers, etc. In fact, a number of close friends and I have been experimenting with some of the (life) organizational techniques in the (slightly cultish) book Getting Things Done by David Allen.

Being a Mac enthusiast, I’ve embraced the Apple PIM (personal information management) offering, which consists of the Address Book, Mail, and “iCal” calendar application. One other very important addition is Mac’s iSync application which, at the cost of $100 per year for a .Mac account, allows me to effortlessly synchronize my Address Book and Calendar between all my Macs (my desktop and laptop) and my Palm Pilot and my Razr mobile phone. It also allows my Safari (the Mac web browser) bookmarks to be synchronized between the desktop and laptop.

iSync was the must-have application which locked me into Mac’s Address Book and iCal—and by extension, the Mail program which I really like anyway. Keeping contacts between the laptop and desktop was simply impossible and trying to do so drove be bonkers. I also hate hand-programming (and updating) phone numbers in my mobile phone. I revel in not being stuck when my phone dies, I change providers, or just want to upgrade it.

But this total buy-in has locked me into using iCal, whose “todo list” management is it’s weakest link.
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