Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Syncing..., Part 3

In a couple of prior posts, I described some of my requirements for syncing my iPhone with my laptop computer. A couple of months ago, I solved the problem (and a whole bunch of other ones, too). I'm very pleased with the solution I chose, which I'll share with you here.

I bought a new MacBook Pro. Not one of the new solid-brick-of-aluminum ones, but one of the slightly older aluminum ones held together with screws. It has a beautiful 15-inch matte-finish monitor, and it's faster than any portable I've ever used. It runs Windows XP applications in my Fusion VM about 33% faster than the native XP laptop I replaced.

It was a big investment, but I love it. Every time I open up my MacBook, I feel good. Thirty seconds later after it has booted completely from scratch, I love it even more.

VMware Fusion, by the way, is a brilliant penetrant to the barriers I had perceived about moving from Microsoft Windows to Mac OS X. With Fusion, you can make your whole Windows PC run on your Mac if you want to. As you gain comfort in OS X, you can migrate applications from Windows to the native Mac operating system. I digress...

So, now I use iCal, which gives me the ability to subscribe to iCal feeds like the one from TripIt. And ones like webcal://ical.mac.com/ical/, which automagically populate your calendar with US holidays, so you won't accidentally book a course on Labor Day. (Visit iCal World for more.)

My new system completely solves the travel problems I was talking about. Now, I do this before I travel:
  1. Book travel.
  2. Forward the confirmation emails to plans@tripit.com.
  3. Print my TripIt unified itinerary for my briefcase. (Or not.)
  4. Sync my iPhone with my laptop.
And that's it. No data double-entry. None.

One more requirement I had, though, was syncing my iCal calendar with Google Calendar. I found a solution to that one, too. I tried using the Google Calaboration, but I really didn't like the way it forced me to deal with my separate calendars. The tool I chose is called Spanning Sync. I used their 15-day trial, liked it a lot, and bought a subscription. I love the way I can map from my list of Google calendars to my list of iCal calendars. However, I don't like the way it syncs my contacts, so I just turn that feature off.

I'm intrigued by the Spanning Sync business model as well. You can save $5 on Spanning Sync by clicking here. It works like this (I'm quoting here a Spanning Sync web page)...
After a 15-day free trial period, Spanning Sync usually costs $25/year, but you can save $5 by using my discount code if you decide to buy it:

39PKXV

Also, if you use my code I'll get a $5 referral fee from Spanning Sync. Once you're a subscriber you'll get a code of your own so you can make money every time one of your other friends subscribes to Spanning Sync. Pretty cool!
Anyway, I'm very pleased with the new system, and I'm happy to share the news.

8 comments:

Mahesh said...

Wow...This sounds so cool. Can it solve the travelling salesman problem and populate a schedule for him?

Happy New Year
Mahesh

Aman Sharma said...

Happy New Year sir!
Regards
Aman....

Kerry Osborne said...

Welcome to the dark side. I made the switch to Mac a few months back. I love it most of the time, but once in a while the Mac is just too smart for it's own good. VMWare is pretty awesome, but of all the software that I use regularly, it is the one that I bugs me the most. The performance does not seem as good I would have expected, but I haven't tried to do anything to make it better. (any hints would be appreciated!) Here's a little top output:


Processes: 83 total, 4 running, 5 stuck, 74 sleeping... 453 threads 19:19:05
Load Avg: 2.02, 1.59, 1.59 CPU usage: 16.46% user, 27.98% sys, 55.56% idle
SharedLibs: num = 8, resident = 53M code, 52K data, 3632K linkedit.
MemRegions: num = 21817, resident = 679M + 23M private, 503M shared.
PhysMem: 1968M wired, 1372M active, 723M inactive, 4066M used, 30M free.
VM: 17G + 375M 1031167(0) pageins, 341100(0) pageouts

PID COMMAND %CPU TIME #TH #PRTS #MREGS RPRVT RSHRD RSIZE VSIZE
249 vmware-vmx 32.4% 61:27:55 24 201 2543 13M- 9060K 210M- 2139M
74574 top 16.0% 0:02.56 1 18 29 1344K 188K 1936K 18M
51 WindowServ 12.7% 2:10:01 5 468 1985 14M 176M 192M 614M
270 iTerm 6.8% 23:26.39 8 119 259 13M+ 28M 32M+ 390M
539 firefox-bi 5.8% 23:19:09 28 730 2569 111M 33M 164M 1539M

(hopefully that will format OK).

Anyway, VMWare is burning about 32% of a cpu - which is a lot considering it's not doing anything. And this is actually fairly mild - I have seen it consume close to 100% of a cpu. On our linux boxes it is common for the vm processes to consume close to 100% of a cpu even when no users are connected. But the benefits it provides on the Mac are compelling. So I guess I will quit complaining.

The switch for me has been very positive and VMWare has provided the safety blanket that has allowed me to migrate at a more reasonable pace. (I'm assumine Mathmatica is running under VMWare for you) I don't know if Quicken is available for the Mac but that is the main app that I am still using on the Windows side (and of course the various VPN clients).

I haven't tried the iPhone, but the sync capabilities have worked quite well with all my apps and other devices. (I did a couple of posts on it on my blog as well)

Always interesting to hear what your thinking about. Keep up the good work.

Kerry

Cary Millsap said...

Actually the folks at Wolfram let me transfer my license from Windows to OS X at no charge. I agree with you on the Quicken part. The only things I use the VM for are: (1) Quicken, (2) QuickBooks online (which is an ActiveX application that requires MS IE—yuck, yuck, yuck), and (3) our Profiler.

I haven't seen anything resembling the CPU take-down problem you've described on my Mac. I've been quite pleased, especially since upgrading to Version 2.0.1. They apparently profiled the Virtual Machine Library panel, because when I went from 2.0.0 to 2.0.1, the latency on waiting for the "play" button to activate went from tens of seconds to sub-second. Startup used to be my only problem, and now that's really quite snappy.

Mark Burgess said...

The Mac is a great tool for working in the Oracle world.

Have you tried using Quicksilver on the Mac yet? Its a very handy utility esp when you start working with some of the plugins for the various tools.

Cary Millsap said...

I have not tried Quicksilver. I had heard the name, but I didn't even know what it did until I looked it up in response to your note. Sounds great, but the caveat I saw about stability looks a little worrisome. Have you found that to be a problem on 10.5?

Cary

Mark Burgess said...

Hi Cary,

I haven't noticed any problems with it on any of the 10.5 releases. The only problem I have noticed is occasionally the ~/Documents folder does not seem to get indexed - I think this has been logged as a bug with the QS developers but it is certainly something that you can live with until they have a fix.

The SSH plugin is especially useful for connecting to different accounts on different hosts:

http://boinkor.net/archives/2006/11/more_quicksilverification.html

Regards,

Mark

Cary Millsap said...

Thanks, Mark.