Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Coming of the iPhone

I finally got an iPhone 3G in August, and after some initial difficulties getting rid of my previous Blackberry service (entirely procedural, nothing technical) I have connectivity with my employer's mail system and all is good. I'm finding the phone much better than the Blackberry (it was a Pearl): the call quality is better and the screen easier to read. And of course the applications available for the iPhone make it so much more than just a phone.

When I got it, the first thing I wanted to sort out was my old "Portable databases" problem. How to move three simple databases (Fiction, Non-fictions and DVDs) off my Palm Pilot and onto the iPhone. Answer: CSV Touch, from Ozymandias Software. This app takes a comma delimited file, and presents it as a database. I had some initial problems, mostly to do with cleaning up the data files. Exporting out of my old HanDbase application produced a CSV file, but it had some blank lines, no end of file marker and all the line endings were CTRL-M (sure sign of something with a nasty DOS heritage). However, one of the many joys of Mac OS X is a terminal window, and access to the vi and sed editors. A few minutes of work to sort out the file formats, and the data imported cleanly. The databases work fine, and I have been able to ditch HanDbase.

Next, portable passwords. I've used the old Cryptinfo Palm application from NormSoft for many years, but I've been moving to 1Password on my Mac, and behold, the lovely people from Agile Web Solutions have released an iPhone app of their product. Again, some tooing and froing to get data off the Palm and into the new repository, but no real dramas.

What else is on the Palm Pilot? Well, a lot of word processing documents that I use for reference and various notes and aides memoir. Answer: DataCase from Veiosoft. DataCase has taken all my old Word docs, and PDFs of things like the Handbook for Justices of the Peace in New South Wales (which I need rapid access to routinely), and works like a charm.

By the time I had moved that lot, the Palm Pilot was almost unnecessary. A subnet calculator and a Checklist app were really all I lacked, and there are lots of those in the App Store. OK, I have a copy Bejewelled on the Palm Pilot, and the game is available in the App store, but I'm afraid I refused to shell out $12.99 for another copy of an application that I already have licensed on Palm and Mac.

I've also loaded Stanza, the ebook reader, which is fantastic, and some wonderful person has created an app to allow you to view the Roads and Traffic Authority's web cams on the iPhone. The is a jewel beyond price, as anyone who has to navigate Sydney's all too easily gridlocked roads will tell you. Measures, a unit conversion app, helps me convert imperial measurements to metric (essential when all American equipment is specified in inches and everything local is specified in centimeters).

The Palm Pilot has been relegated to running Solitaire and Bejewelled, which is just as well, because I think its screen is beginning to fail.

So I no longer have to carry the Palm Pilot, which has allowed me to reorganize my handbag. The Palm Lifedrive is a chunky object, and I don't miss its added bulk one bit. I'm not a small-handbag person at the best of times: my notion of the bare essentials takes up quite a lot of space, and I'm always looking for ways to rationalize, minimize and organize my handbag. I hate not being able to lay my hand instantly on whatever I want - keys, purse, glasses, whatever - and I hate bags that are nothing more than a sack on a strap. Everything gets tangled up at the bottom, and there is nothing more pathetic than a woman removing articles from her bag one after the other in the search for the one thing she can't find.

And then there is the "changing handbags" issue: if you are not very careful, you miss transferring something from bag A to bag B, and trouble follows. If you have bags with a lot of pockets, it's easy to miss something. Like your house keys. Or your security pass.

Enter the Borne Naked handbag liner, answer to a maiden's prayer. A clear plastic liner with multiple pockets, it keeps the contents of my bag clean, organized and accessible. I can change bags in seconds, and be sure I haven't missed anything. The liner is very well made, all edges bound neatly, with a good quality zip. Guys note: it doesn't look girly, and would work well in a brief case, too.

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