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February 2010
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April 2010

Take Control of your Paperless Office

Regular readers know that I use DEVONthink Pro to manage my paperless office. (See this article for details.) I recently updated to v2.0 of DEVONthink (so far, so good), and now TidBITS publishing has released a new ebook, Take Control of Getting Started with DEVONthink 2. It looks fantastic, despite the mouthful of a name, and I'm sure it's well worth the low price if you're using, or thinking about using DEVONthink. I've read many of the books in the "Take Control" series and I've consistently pleased and impressed.

The future smart alarm clock

I have tinkered with some of the various alarm applications for iPhone OS-based devices, but I've always returned to using the built-in Clock thanks to its simplicity and reliability. Reliability is very particularly important, of course. If the third-party alarm app crashes, the alarm won't go off.

iHome, manufacturers of both sublime and ridiculous iPod-centric alarm clocks, has an interesting idea with their forthcoming iA5 alarm clock. It's the first of their "app enhanced" models that more fully integrates an iPhone OS device with the clock.

That is, settings you make using the free Sleep app (iTunes link) apply to the iA5 hardware. This provides a safety net in the event of an application crash, but also allows the entirety of the setup to be much smarter than an average alarm clock. (At least, in theory, I haven't tried the whole thing as the iA5 is not yet shipping.)

One of the more interesting features, or perhaps most ridiculous depending on your perspective, is the built-in ability to post your sleeping or waking habits to Twitter or Facebook. On a more pragmatic note, you can also view statistics about your sleep cycles.

Aside from the particular features, I think this represents a very interesting possibility of tightly coupling iPhone OS devices with other hardware, and the possibility of putting an older, retired device to good use.

A better Scooba battery

My four year old Scooba finally needs a new battery. It has been slowly degrading, as expected, and now has reached the point where it won't complete a full cycle before reporting that it's out of juice.

Rather than spend $70 for a new battery from iRobot, I opted for a $50 replacement Scooba battery from Amazon. A few of the reviews there indicated that it didn't fit correctly, and while it's not as snug as the original, it's just fine and charges fine when the Scooba is stored vertically.

The new battery is said to be an "extended" model, but the power specs match those of the factory battery that I replaced. That's fine with me, it's working well, and cost less. What more could I ask for?

If you have a Roomba, check out Roomba Battery Woes for power strategy information.

Journaling a sentence at a time

About four years ago, I wrote about a new five year project I was starting. A daily journal that consists of just a few sentences each day, arranged so that each page gives you a backward glance at the last five years. For example, when I write today's entry, I can see what I wrote on this day in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009.

It has turned out to be a fascinating and useful exercise. But my five year journal is nearly full, and I feared that I would have to try to make a new one myself, as Levenger stopped carrying them shortly after I purchased mine at a close out sale.

Fortunately, the Levenger 5-Year Journal is available again, but in a more affordable model. If you're intrigued, buy one. If you're optimistic and committed, buy enough to last the rest of your life. Hard to say how long they'll be available.

For another view on this matter, see Patrick Rhone's blog.

Book review: Occult America

I have to admit, for the first 30 pages of Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation, I was feeling disappointed in the book. I had purchased it with the expectation that it would be a serious, academic discussion of the topic. Instead, I discovered, it's rather light and breezy in tone and style. But soon enough, I was completely hooked.

It turns out that it's completely refreshing to find a book that takes such a serious topic none too seriously. The author, Mitch Horowitz, writes in a conversational tone and has a knack for pulling out the most interesting tidbits, without overwhelming the reader with the spider-web details that too many occult history books detail in order to rationalize their conclusions.

I learned a lot of fun and fascinating trivia from this book, such as the occult exhibitions at the Chicago World's Fair, and the history of the "Burned-Over District." (And I had the chance to road trip across this area shortly after reading the book, which greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the landmarks we visited.) My only suggestion for improvement is that the endnotes, which are equally interesting and worthwhile, would be more helpful if they were more clearly associated with the text which they're annotated.

If you're interested in American history, particularly of periods and fancies that are overlooked by too many accounts, I think you'll very much enjoy this book. I'm looking forward to reading it again soon.