Mac Information Managers Review

Having recently changed over to Mac completely in my home office, I am researching the best applications to use for my business needs, blogging and personal computing. I scour the web for information and find myself wanting to save sites, graphs and articles and I need a Personal Information Manager for Mac. Zaharenia Atzitzikaki wrote an article for UX Magazine That I found to be very informative.

I’ve realized I’m the traditional type. When I find something interesting online, say a nice article on typography or an inspirational CSS snippet, I don’t del.icio.us it: I want to save it locally.

That, and the fact that I amass a huge amount of information over the day, led me to search for what you essentially would call a PIM (Personal Information Manager) of sorts, to keep it all organized. I’ve tested Yojimbo, Soho Notes and Together which I feel are three top contenders on the Mac. But I feel Together has the most to offer. Here’s why:

1. Drag and Drop

I love the ability of dragging and dropping stuff to a shelf on the edge of the screen, instantly saving them. All three apps offer this kind of functionality, but I found that Together’s approach felt more fluid. Yojimbo on the other hand didn’t fare so well. I wasn’t able to import images directly to my library, for example.

2. Just the right features

Soho Notes is so, so bloated. It is full of features I never use (Contact Manager anyone?). It sure does what I want (and a ton more), but it has a tendency to be very slow. Together on the other hand keeps its featureset lean and focused on information gathering.

3. Intuitiveness

Together is intuitive. I love its Portrait Preview pane. It supports nested folders, tags, smart folders, all kinds of notes and snippets, and it’s very lightweight and fast to boot.

So…

If you’re on a Mac in the lookout for a nice, simple and effective PIM application which supports .Mac syncing, download Together and give it a go. I’m sold.

Best Of 2009 Consumer Guide

consumer money

As the year ends, there will be a plethora of ‘best of’ lists. best song, best movie, best album, best cheese, best web app…

I thought that with the struggling economy, that it would be helpful to have a list of the best ways to spend (or save) your money. I gleaned this information from many sources, including Forbes, Kiplinger’s, Consumer Reports and, of course, my own experiences and those of my colleagues.

  • Best Carry-On Travel Bag – With its rounded sedges and flexible nylon sides, the Red Ox Air Boss hasn’t met an overhead compartment it couldn’t squeeze into.
  • Best Online Savings AccountING Direct is simple, has a clean web interface with great rates.
  • Best Low Cost Travel Destination – Panama! panama vaction It’s like the South Pacific without the outrageaous airfare. In fact, recently found a 6-night stay for 2 in a 4-star hotel for less tha $2000, including the $351 roundtrip ticket.
  • Best All-Around Retirement AccountRoth IRA is still the best vehicle for long-term retirement savings. You can even tap earnings early to pay for college or buy a first home.
  • Best IRA for KidsCharles Schwab is one of the few financial institutions that lets you set up a custodial IRA for your child. Minimum investment: Only $100.
  • Best Online Broker – Better known for their mutual funds, Fidelity does well when it comes to online brokerage. Great research and a user-friendly website (important to me) as well as reported great customer service, they came out ahead for an online stock picker.
  • Best Mutual Fund for a Bear Market – The aptly named Grizzly Short Fund (GRZZX) is the ultimate hedge for a falling market. When the market fell, it was up over 83% for the year compared to the S&P’s 38% loss!
  • Best Last Minute Travel Deals – Some of the best airline and hotel deals pop up at the last minute, and www.USLastMinute.com shows you how to take advantage.
  • Best Car Insurance Web SiteInsWeb.com lets you compare price quotes form several major insureers and offers tons of tips on how to save money on premiums.
  • Best Stock for Dividends – Like P&G, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) J&J logo is an “all-weather” stock that can be expected to survive all kinds of economic turmoil. With recent yields of 3.3% it also provides much needed income.
  • Best Non-Dividend Stock – What a great time to be Warren Buffet! (was there ever a bad time?) Stock prices are low and if you have extra cash laying around (and don’t want to donate it to me), the “Sage of Omaha” will be like a kid in a candy store. You can join in the fun by buying some of his Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) shares.
  • Best Stock to Buy and Forget – Even during lean times (recession), people still buy razor blades and potato chips. Procter & Gamble (PG) is a steady ship in stormy markets.
  • Best “Starter” Fund – If you are new to investing, the Amana Growth Fund (AMAGX) is a great way to get your toes wet for just $250. By folowing conservative investment principles, it managed to sidestep the recent debacle in financial stocks.
  • Best Web Site for Cheap Gas – Rater than rely on “spotters” Gasprices.Mapquest.com updates fuel prices daily via a data feed from the Oil Pricing Information Service. Just type in your zip code.
  • Best Airline – There are no “gotchas” on Southwest. southwest logo You can check two bags for free, and you’ll pay no extra fees for changing tickets or selecting seats. I was reminded of this several times this year when I had to fly on other airlines and had to pay several SURPRISE! fees at the ticket counter.
  • Best Hybrid Vehicle – Although it gets slightly lower mileage than the Toyota Prius, the honda civic hybrid Honda Civic  Hybrid is a better overall value and just plain cooler.
  • Best Non-Hybrid Car for Fuel Economy – Though it is new on the scene, the new 2009 Honda Fit has the best combination of fuel economy (28 mpg city/35 mpg highway with manual transmission), utility and overall quality.
  • Best Place to Fill Your Prescriptions – Unfortunately, Wal-Mart comes out ahead as far as price is concerned; $4 for 95% of the prescriptions written in most drug categories if you can stand being there long enough to get it filled.
  • Best Smart Phone – The iPhone. iphone 3g Need I say more?
  • Best Small Digital CameraSony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 has a fantastic view finder as well as easy to use controls and slides into most pockets easily.
  • Best Credit Card for Low Rate – If you carry a balance, consider transferring to the Wells fargo Prime Rate card for its 5% interest reate and $19 annual fee.

Scrapplet takes portable site creation to a new level

scrapplet demo

RadWebTech, a company that specializes in Web technologies, announced Monday that it has opened its hallmark service, Scrapplet, to the public. Scrapplet was formally in private beta.

In essence, Scrapplet is a blank, browser-based canvas that allows you to drag-and-drop practically anything from any Website and place it on your Scrapplet page.

Want to grab your Twitter stream and put that on the same page as your Friendfeed? With Scrapplet, that’s possible. In just a few simple maneuvers, Scrapplet allows you to highlight portions of a Web page or an entire site, drag it to the Scrapplet page, and modify the design of that page to make it fit. In fact, you can resize the site, change the site’s colors, and remove borders. In essence, you can create an entire Web page out of existing sites for your own consumption.

Scrapplet

The Scrapplet Dashboard

(Credit: Scrapplet)

Scrapplet, which originally started as a Facebook app, has quickly morphed into a full-fledged Web app that performs extremely well. RadWebTech’s CEO, Steve Repetti, believes Scrapplet could be the tool that replaces Netvibes and simple Web design, and I tend to agree.

If you want to have news updates from the Associated Press, scores from ESPN, and images from Flickr on your Scrapplet page, it’s as simple as highlighting portions of the page you want or the entire site and dragging them to Scrapplet. From there, they will be updated just as they are on the company’s page.

More importantly, each page is portable and can be placed in individual social networking profiles, blogs, or anywhere else across the Web thank to full Javascript code, which is readily available in the app’s menu.

Scrapplet

Scrapplet customization

(Credit: Scrapplet)

Scrapplet canvases offer default objects to add and create news feeds, flash objects, mashups, animation, sliding panels, custom menus, special effects, and more. Each page also automatically generates search engine optimization functions, tracking, and privacy controls to keep unwanted visitors out.

Of course, not everything Scrapplet offers is perfect. Its not clear whether other companies would be happy with users taking elements of their page and adding it to their Scrapplet page and aside from a fee of $2.95 per month for a non-ad membership and an undisclosed amount for professional members, I’m not sure how easily RadWebTech will be able to monetize the service.

Regardless, Scrapplet, one of the few truly unique services you’ll come across, is available now to anyone willing to register. If nothing else, it’s worth trying and playing around with.

RadWebTech offered CNET readers a Premium offer with registration. If you want to use it, type in “CNET” upon registration to get the freebie.

Developer Strikes it Rich with iPhone Game

I don’t think it makes me want to quit my current job and try to develop an iPhone game, but it is a great story.

With its glassy touch screen, powerful graphics, crisp sound and tilt feature, the iPhone is more than a smart phone for some users — it’s a portable entertainment system.
"Trism" developer Steve Demeter demonstrates his game via webcast to CNN.com's Nicole Lapin.
“Trism” developer Steve Demeter demonstrates his game via webcast to CNN.com’s Nicole Lapin.

It’s also become a potential gold mine for entrepreneurs who create games for the device. Just ask Steve Demeter, developer of the popular puzzle game “Trism.”

A former ATM software designer for a large bank, Demeter created “Trism” in his spare time and pitched it to Apple last spring. The company made the game available for download with the July launch of its App Store, an online provider of applications for its iPods and iPhones.

Priced at $5, “Trism” earned Demeter $250,000 in profits the first two months.

“It’s done phenomenal business,” said Demeter, 29, who lives in the California’s San Francisco Bay area. “I’m very honored that so many people would enjoy my game. I get e-mails from 50-year-old ladies who say, “I don’t play games, but I love Trism.’ That’s the coolest thing.”

It can take dozens of professional developers and millions of dollars to create a video game for a traditional console such as a PlayStation or an Xbox. But the iPhone and the App Store have helped democratize game development by opening the field to any software coder with talent and a clever idea, industry observers say.

“A single one of these titles can be turned around for pennies by comparison in just weeks by a single hobbyist working in their off-hours,” said Scott Steinberg, publisher of DigitalTrends.com and author of “Get Rich Playing Games.” “The overhead and barriers to entry are so low that virtually anyone can afford to take a crack, if not several, at hitting a home run.”

Demeter took his crack after attending an iPhone conference in the summer of 2007. He spent months afterward brainstorming, by himself and with friends, about how to create an original game for the device. Once he got the idea for “Trism” in February he spent another four months coding the game on nights and weekends.

The result is a puzzle game, like “Bejeweled,” in which players manipulate a colorful grid of triangles. Players score points by lining up three or more like-colored triangles in a row, with an iPhone twist: The triangles rearrange themselves depending on which way the player rotates the phone.

“I did the game myself, basically. I had a buddy of mine who actually came up with the name ‘Trism.’ I paid him a couple of grand. But other than that it [was] just me,” Demeter told CNN. “It’s a very simple-to-learn, hard-to-master puzzle game. It wasn’t as hard [to develop] as a 3-D, gun-and-battle kind of game. But for the one-man team that I was, it was definitely a challenge.”

Demeter quit his bank job two months ago and has launched a company, Demiforce, to develop more electronic games. Now he has a salaried staff, five games in development and two coming out by Christmas, including a spinoff to “Trism” called “Trismology.”

Apple has made it so easy to put [game publishing] in the palms of developers,” he said. “You just make it and then you submit it to Apple. If you have a relevant, fun game or application, I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be approved.”

Developers earn 70 percent of App Store proceeds from the sale of their games, with Apple taking 30 percent.

The field is getting crowded, though. There now are more than 1,500 iPhone games available from the App Store, up from about 900 two months ago.

“It’s a rich and promising vein that several independent game publishers have been able to successfully tap,” said DigitalTrends’ Steinberg in an e-mail interview. “However, success stories remain the exception, not the norm — as with any gold rush, what we’re presently seeing is a massive number of prospectors looking to stake their claim.

“Many of the overnight successes we’ve witnessed enjoyed the benefits of timing and visibility, advantages quickly being eroded due to market oversaturation,” Steinberg added. “Let’s put it this way: I wouldn’t tell anyone to quit their day job just yet. As with any Cinderella story, chances of recreating this kind of success are few and far between.”

posted on CNN.com

Game Over

An awesome stop-motion montage of classic videogame deaths. It’s made of snack foods and other small items, which means that the graphics are about 1,000 times more delicious and fun than the originals.

Made by Pes