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All the Functionality of MobileMe for Free

How to get (almost) all the functionality of MobileMe (previously known as .mac) without paying for MobileMe

Email – Use Gmail with IMAP turned on and you can sync mail between your iPhone and Macs. If you’ve got your own domain you can use Google Apps to use a personalized email address. I use Gmail without ever opening the browser based gmail but it’s nice to know that it’s available. IMAP keeps your computers in sync with each other and with your phone and works great.

Contact and calendar syncingPlaxo will sync your contacts and calendar surprisingly well across your Macs, Gmail and Yahoo. In order to sync with your iPhone you’ll have to plug the phone in and Sync over USB. You lose the push sync for iPhone that MobileMe offers so if that’s the killer feature for you, you might be stuck paying.

Remote File Storage – There’s a service called DropBox that gives you 2gb free and syncs really well between computers. It’s in beta but they’re giving out beta invitations and I imagine it will be generally available soon. There’s which also gives you 2gb for free and has a web interface. Finally–Windows Live Foldershare it isn’t online storage, but it will sync folders between computers with no limit on the number of files, they’ve just got to be smaller than 2gb each.

OmniFocus to iPhone SyncOmniFocus syncs over WebDav. It’s almost impossible (but not quite) to find free WebDav hosting. I found some offered by Tomben called OFWD. You can set it up in just a few minutes and it works fine. is an oft-suggested solution but in my experience, it doesn’t work.

BackToMyMac – BackToMyMac is just VNC. One way to get around this is to turn on screen sharing in your Mac’s system preferences under sharing then use the built in Screen (copy it from /System/Library/CoreServices to /Applications). You can set up a friendly name for your computer with DynDNS and then configure your router give your computer a static internal IP address and forward port 5900 to your computer and you’re done. There’s a great article explaining some of this on Macworld. If all that sounds like a pain LogMeIn works really well and it’s free and easy to set up.

GalleryFlickr is free for 200 pictures. You can upload to it for free from iPhoto with Connected Flow’s FlickrExport. FFXporter is also free. It’s not as pretty or easy as what you get with MobileMe, but it works for basic needs. The gallery is another area where MobileMe still beats free solutions.

It’s not perfect, especially if you want a push contacts/calendar sync and a gallery, but you can get most of the way there with free stuff. The reason I started looking is because MobileMe just wasn’t doing it for me. The last straw was when ALL my phone numbers randomly disappeared from contacts on my phone after syncing with MobileMe. I was able to recover them, but I decided MobileMe wasn’t worth it.

If I’m missing anything, or there’s a better way to do something than what I’ve listed, I’d love to know.

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SlimTimer – The Best Timer for GTD

I’ve looked at several options for making sure I “use my time wisely” while I’m on the computer including:

None of them fit my criteria of being easy to use, easy to see where my time went (some type of reporting) and inexpensive. Then I went back to SlimTimer. The concept is simple. You open up a little window that sits on your desk all day (I open mine in Safari so tabs don’t accidentally pop up there from my default browser, Firefox) and click the name of the activity you’re doing at the time. That’s it. Here’s my window right now.

Screenshot 01

When you’re done you close the window, click another task or toggle the task you’re on. Then the cool part is the reports that are available on the main SlimTimer website. You can see where your time went specifically for the day, week month, per task, tag etc. Here’s a screen capture of a report:

Screenshot 02

SlimTimer is simple, powerful, quick and free. Can’t beat that.

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11 Web Applications that are Ready for Primetime

I’m looking forward to the day I can use any computer with a web connection to be as productive as I am on my own computer. Most websites that try to replace desktop applications fall far short off their counterparts. In the meantime, here’s what’s ready and what’s not:

Ready to Use:

  1. Gmail – this one is obvious and nothing new. With well over 2gb of space I’ve completely stopped using a desktop mail client. I have about 6 email accounts and all go through Gmail. It’s nice getting it all in one place.
  2. Google Talk – while Google Talk isn’t as full featured as other IM clients, it has one great feature–logs are saved to Gmail and searchable right within Gmail. This is the case whether you use Google Talk from the web interface in Gmail or from a desktop client.
  3. Meebo – IM in the browser with meebo feels almost as natural as IM in a desktop client. Meebo is great for friends who don’t use Google Talk since it supports AIM, Yahoo, Jabber and others. It also saves chat logs, though they aren’t searchable yet. I’m not sure how meebo makes money since there are no ads, but I’m sure that will come.
  4. Google Spreadsheets – I’ve seen complaints that it’s not as full featured as it could be, but for the type of spreadsheets I make, it’s perfect. I love being able to collaborate in realtime on spreadsheets and even chat with people in the same browser window as the spreadsheet. I am a pretty basic spreadsheet user, but for me it’s already replaced Excel.
  5. NetVibes – I recently switched from Google’s custom homepage to Netvibes. I went kicking and screaming, but the tabbed pages, more compact interface and a few other things made their customizable homepage better for getting the news and reading blogs than Google’s. I guess this really isn’t a desktop app replacement, but it’s great to be able to log into it anywhere get a quick news fix.
  6. Google Calendar – this has completely replaced my desktop calendar application. It is full featured and integrates nicely with Gmail. Inviting others to events and sharing calendars is simple. Overall a very well done web application.
  7. Bloglines – there are a million blog aggregators out there. Bloglines was one of the first and is still the best. Some of the more interesting desktop aggregators let you sync your feeds so you can read them within the browser or within the desktop application but they still seem like more of a hassle than they’re worth. Why not just do it all from the browser?
  8. Remember the Milk – I defy anyone to find a faster, more featured to-do manager than Remember the Milk. It it excellent. Complete with keyboard shortcuts it makes managing to-do lists simple and much more pleasant than any desktop to-do list I’ve tried.
  9. Basecamp – This one is fairly specific to web development type projects, but Basecamp has been perfect for managing projects. I can’t even imagine going to MS Project after using it. The simplicity and effectiveness of Basecamp is excellent. Basecamp is the only one that I don’t pay for out of the list.
  10. Google Notebook – I use this for storing bits of information on random things. It’s been a hard switch from Notational Velocity (which is much better overall) but the convenience of having it all online has made it worth it.
  11. – It’s been more than a year since I bookmarked anything in a browser. has completely replaced browser bookmarks making them available wherever I am. Google Search History is also useful and falls in this category.

Almost there:

  1. Writely – I’ve tried using Writely for online word processing a la Microsoft Word, but they still just aren’t quite there. Imported documents don’t maintain all their formatting which is of utmost importance when using a Word Processor (otherwise I’d just make a text file). I’m sure that at some point Google will get Writely up to par, but for now I haven’t made the switch entirely.
  2. Flickr – I love Flickr for managing photos and hesitate to put it in the “almost there” category, but I still don’t feel comfortable enough keeping my photos ONLY on Flickr to say that it has replaced iPhoto or Picasa. Fluxiom looks like it might be featured enough to fully replace Flickr, but none of the plans fit my budget–even the one that costs 89 euros a month only lets you store 3gb of stuff.

Someone make this please:

  1. Online Budgeting – I subscribed to Mvelopes for a month or two but couldn’t get used to the strange Envelope budgeting mentality. I just want something decent with double entry accounting online. The one thing Mvelopes did do extremely well was pull data from all my financial institutions. From Paypal to my bank to my credit card companies, they connected to everything perfectly. They also offer bill pay to companies that don’t accept online bill pay. Mvelopes would be excellent if it weren’t for the whole non-traditional envelope paradigm.
  2. Online CRM – I’ve tried Sugar CRM and looked at for long enough to know that they are too tedious for me to ever want to use them. I’m looking forward to Sunrise from 37Signals.
  3. Online Outline– I love Omnigraffle, but don’t get to use it as often as I’d like since I’m always going back and forth between Mac and PC. I would really like to see an online outliner that had similar functionality. I’ve tried Sproutliner and some of it’s offshoots but found them to be pretty lacking.

Might never happen:

  1. Photo Editing – I use Photoshop and Illustrator quite a bit for work and play. While there are basic image editing programs online, nothing comes even close to these.
  2. Video Editing – Again, there are basic video editing programs online, but I don’t foresee being able to connect my video camera and edit video in a browser like i would in iMovie or Final Cut.
  3. Text Editing – (programmers only) – TextMate is my choice of text editor. I still see text editing as the domain of desktop applications. Maybe later I’ll go into more details here. When TextMate isn’t available, I’m comfortable using Vim, but to use that I still have to have an SSH client.
  4. Music – Things like Pandora and are really nice, but I can’t see anything completely replacing desktop music applications in the near future. It’d be nice if something came along and surprised me though.
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How to Find a Great Domain Name Revisited

A couple months ago I wrote about how to find a great domain name. Since then, I’ve found several other tricks, related articles and sites… here they are:

1. Instant Domain Search – This is the site I’ve been using most. Start typing a domain name and as you type it shows you if it’s available or not. No submit button, no waiting, just good quick results. Can’t beat that. There is a similar site called Ajax Whois that’s not quite as fast (it requires verification), but adds the functionality of seeing whois results.

2. Domainers – Turns out there are people making a bit of money off buying and selling domains, or buying domains hoping people will land on them and click a link. By a bit of money, I mean millions of dollars a year. Business 2.0 has a great article on the subject.

3. – If the domainers article piqued your interest, check out Sedo–a quick place to park your domains to make money off ads or put them up for sale. I’ve parked a few there myself until I have time to develop them. If Sedo doesn’t meet your fancy, check out Afternic, DomainHop or DomainSponsor.

4. Looking for a different way to sell your hot new domain? Check out DomainState or DNForum. The former appears to be less trafficked and free while the latter is not free but is always buzzing.

5. All existing domains – This one is a gem sent from Beau (the guy who made Instant Domain Search). Fax in your address get access to a list (available over FTP) of all active .com and .net domain names. Very cool.

6. 2.99 domains – From Yahoo, sign up for them all at once because the offer is good for new customers only, after you’re signed up the price goes up to $9.95. I was able to get 5 domains for 3 bucks a pop. After that offer expires, I’d recommend checking out Namecheap. Their domains are 8.88 each and the tools to manage them are outstanding.

7. A ton of other name finding tools. My last post generated some good ideas in the comments. Here are tools that people recommended:

  • WordConstructor – This one is awesome. It comes up with short, catchy names with greater ease than any of the other tools I’ve found.
  • OneLook – Dictionary that supports wildcards. Could be useful. There’s also a reverse dictionary.
  • RhymeZone – This one also comes up with some surprisingly good made-up word.
  • Whois Source – A smarter-than-average tool for domain name spinning.
  • Nameboy – Enter two words and get suggestions. This one wasn’t as useful as some of the others, but I figured I’d add it here anyway

8. DomainsBot – I mentioned this one in the previous article, but since then they’ve pulled a few more tricks out of their sleeves. They now have a Lab where there are a few really cool tools.

  • WordTrends – Plugin a couple words and see how often they are used in domain names.
  • DomainStats – A couple interesting research papers on domain names. No charge to read them.
  • SearchCloud – I found this one to be the most useful, type in some words and get a list of related words and available domains.
  • SplitIt – Make sure your domain name will be interpreted how you hope it will be.
  • Shadow – I didn’t try this one, but it’s a piece of software you download to crunch data to find good domains… let me know how it goes if you decide to test it.

So.. there you go, more tools for finding domains than you can shake a stick at. Enjoy.

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How to Find a Great Domain Name

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Good domain names are out there, but they can be hard to find. Here are some tools to help you in your search.

  1. Dislexicon – Takes common words and adds suffixes and prefixes. It even gives you the meaning. This site is great for finding short domain names that look like they could be real words.
  2. JustDropped – This site lets you search for domain names that have recently expired. You get a few searches for free with limited results. I’ve found that the free searches are usually adequate for my needs.
  3. Word Mixer – This one lets you enter up to five words which are mixed up into new, semi-pronouncable words. The same website also has a couple other tools that are useful such as the random words tool which is hit or miss, and the mixer seeds page.
  4. WordFinder – This is actually a tool for crossword puzzles, but it can also be very useful for finding a domain name.
  5. DomainsBot – This search engine is geared specifically towards finding a domain name. It works best if you’re looking for a compound-word domain rather than an invented word.
  6. Online Generators – If all else fails, sometimes you’ll find a gem using one of these online generators. This is usually a last resort for me though, they tend to suck up your time without out producing much.

If you find a great one that you can’t use, but want to make some cash on, this is the place to sell it.

Once you’ve found one, there are about a million places to purchase it. I personally like – good price and easy to use. Good luck… there are a ton of great names left!

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Tasktoy – GTD Done Right

Tonight I stumbled across tasktoy (after following links from 43Folders, the mecca of GTD). Tasktoy is a web application that tracks tasks by context, date, recurring date and project. This may not sound like anything revolutionary, and in fact, it doesn’t look revolutionary but the implementation of Getting Things Done is almost flawless! If you haven’t read Getting Things Done, I recommend it, if you have read the book and haven’t seen tasktoy, you’re missing out!

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Gmail Invites

GmailThis is the mandatory “if-you-still-don’t-have-a-gmail-address-and-want-one” post. Comment with your email address and I’ll send it out tomorrow.

If you don’t get one here, you can always check the gmail’o’matic. Sometimes it seems like there are never invites available, but with patience you’ll get one. I did.

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Web based Weblog Tools

It seems like web based blog tools and tracking sites are popping up daily. I’m curious to see which ones stand the test of time. Here’s a list of some of the most popular sites along with their functions and my predictions for their chances of survival. Many of these sites are still in alpha or beta.

BloglinesBloglines – The best online weblog aggregator available. Easily keep up with weblog subscriptions, save clipping and links, publish your own weblog, search weblogs, share your links. Fully featured and if you ask me, in it for the long haul.

pubsub PubSub – Subscribe to searches and have them delivered by email or RSS. You can also get a browser sidebar to be updated immediately of changes.Bloglines also allows you subscribe to searches. I imagine PubSub will be around for awhile, but it’s not one of the most useful weblog tools in my opinion.

TechnoratiTechnorati – Search for blog content as well as view the popularity rank of blogs by how many sites link to them. Technorati was one of the first weblog tools and remains one of the most popular.

BlogtreeBlogtree – A blog genealogy site. It shows how blogs are related. It’s an interesting novelty, but I don’t think it will stand the test of time.

DaypopDaypop – A Technorati / Google like blog/news website search tool. It gives rankings for search terms and weblogs by citations. Overall, I’d say it’s a pretty good service. It’s not unique, but it’s speed and simplicity give it a good chance of sticking around.

BloogzBloogz – Another blog search engine / popularity rating website. They also have an aggregator online, but in testing. It is similar to Bloglines, but with far fewer features-notably no OPML support. The site isn’t too bad but it’s slow and they really should employ some translators, some of the grammar on the site is pretty humorous. I’m not counting on this website standing the test of time either.

Syndic8Syndic8 – Gathers syndicated feeds, lists and ranks them. Actively encourages non-syndicated sites to syndicate their content. While the design of this website makes it hard to see anything, I doubt they’re going to disappear any time soon. It’s clear they already are making money and that should ensure the longevity of the site. They have what many of these other services seem to lack–a business plan.

Blogstreet – This is a tool to find blogs similar to each other. To be listed they require you post an image similar to the one on the left. I’m not sure about this site, but my first impression is that it’s too close to Technorati, but too strict on entry to survive.

BlogsharesBlogshares – A fantasy stock market for weblogs. By far the most unique site in the list. Play the blogmarket and trade shares based on a which weblogs you feel will gain or lose popularity. I think Blogshares will be around for years to come.

BlizgBlizg – A blog index that focuses on metadata. Another blog search engine. This website has motivated me to work on my metadata, but I’m not sure if that’s a good enough reason for me to keep using their site.

Those are a few big ones. There are several others I haven’t included that I’ll add later.

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gMail – Webmail Google Style

Google is doing webmail, called gmail as reported here.

Supposably there will be a 1gb storage limit… and other goodies programmed by the google gurus in their “spare time.” I have a server and plenty of email addresses, but from the looks of it, this could become my web email address.