Gadget Wish List

Sammy G's picture

I appreciate all the calls over the past weekend asking what I want for the Holiday season. Just to make it easier for all my friends, I've decided to throw up my gadget wish list here. :)

Anyone have any kudos or warnings about the list? Or the fact that I'm too dumb to figure out how the html list code works (Matt's help appreciated for formatting purposes)?

**Sprint Treo 700wx, 700p -- need my NHL Mobile and my live video feed
**Microsoft Zune or Zen Nano Plus (Creative)
**JVC HA-FX33 Marshmallow earbuds, $20, www.jvc.com
**Jabra BT125, $40, Bluetooth headset, www.jabra.com
**Parrot Minikit, $125, Bluetooth hands-free speaker phone, www.parrot.biz
**SanDisk Ultra II SD Plus, secure digital card, memory storage

What is everyone else looking at for a stocking stuffer? Geeks like me want to know.

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Ben's picture

Zune

While I am not, in any sense, a gadget guy, I read an article the other day about the Microsoft Zune that was not complimentary.

When compared to the iPod, the Zune is bigger, clunkier, and less user friendly. And exactly the same price.

Here is the New York Times review.

I actually don't know what most of that other stuff is. :) My wish list, like most years, basically involves Barnes & Noble gift cards.

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Ben

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Ben

Sammy G's picture

Another Gadget -- Alternative to MS Outlook

Does anyone know of an email client that can serve as an equal or more powerful alternative to MS Outlook?

MS Office 2007 will be released in January along with Vista. As part of this release, Office 2007 suite will be altered to force compatibility conflict with prior Office versions by changing extensions of certain files. For example, Word docs will carry a .docx extension. Because my daily life is dependent on Outlook, and because I don't see the point in paying $300+ for the upgrade when there are more affordable (even free) alternatives, I'm trying to find a software solution for severing dependency and use of Office without losing the Outlook functionality.

First, OpenOffice is free, but it doesn't offer an email client. Second, Corel WordPerfect Office X3 at $200 entails WordPerfect Mail, which offers such features as email, calendars and contact management. Uh-oh. Doesn't seem like WordPerfect Mail offers a 'Task' feature, which could be a problem, as I manage a lot of my work life in this area. Even as a stand-alone buy at $29, WordPerfect Mail may not be worth it if the app can't import and support 'Tasks' (of course, I could just spent the 2 hours to manually move everything over). I even tried looking at Matt's beloved Mutt, but it certainly doesn't offer what I need as far as calendar and contacts.

One solution is to download OpenOffice for free and then buy Outlook separately...but we all know MS won't sell Outlook separately. There are plenty of variations on this mix-and-match theme, I guess.

Anybody have ideas for an Outlook alternative?

matthew's picture

Thunderbird + Lightning, or Sunbird

Along with the fantastic web-browser "Firefox", the Mozilla foundation produces a lesser-known stand-alone calendaring application called "Sunbird". Sunbird is functional, standards-based, and works well with many other export formats from calendaring applications.

If you really prefer your calendar integrated with your email client so that you can, for instance, send and receive meeting invitations, they also have Mozilla Lightning, which is basically Sunbird integrated as an extension to Thunderbird. Just download Lightning somewhere convenient, then in Thunderbird go to "Tools-Extensions" and install the extension.

I use it and it works fine.

There are other alternatives, but for a person who isn't running a large enterprise around Outlook already, this is a great, free, open-source option.

I actually stopped using Mutt about six months ago. I just received too much critical email in HTML for it to continue to be convenient. I'm a Thunderbird user pretty much 100% of the time now, though I long for the simplicity of my Mutt days...

There is also Gmail, and Google Calendaring. Fact is, that option works really well for a lot of people, and you can share it with other gmail users. If you set up your existing mail account to forward to some_user@gmail.com, all your email will begin arriving there shortly. And there are tools you can use to upload your existing mail. Downside: You're hosting mail with a big company who, while their first corporate rule is "first do no evil", could revert that stance at any time...

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Matthew P. Barnson

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Matthew P. Barnson

rowan's picture

Office 2007

The Beta's available for download right now, I've been using it for a few months at home and in a testing environment at work.

It's completely backwards compatible, from what I've seen. You have the option to save as an Office 2007 document (a .docx) or as a standard 2003 document (.doc). The translation seems pretty solid. I guess the one issue you'd run into is that you couldn't use 2003 to open a 2007 document saved in its native format. But then, you wouldn't be able to do that with WordPerfect either. Seriously, give the Beta a try. It's only like two bucks to download.

Not to sound like a shill for Microsoft or anything (I have serious, serious doubts about Vista), but they really have hit the ball out of the park with Office 2007. They've completely redone the user interface, making it much simpler and much more streamlined.

But even if you moved into another office suite, say Wordperfect or Lotus, I guess I'm confused as to why you just couldn't keep using your Outlook 2003 as your email client. Email is email, much more universal than wordprocessing or spreadsheets. The messages I POP or IMAP from my server to my local client are the same, regardless of whether they're going into Outlook 2007, 2003, Eudora, whatever.

-----------------------------
"You of all people should know that plastic surgery can do wonders." --Amber Fitzgerald
"And you're living proof that mistakes are sometimes made." -- Charisma Weaver
[a hlink="htpp://buffydc.com"]DC After Dark[/a]

Arth

weed's picture

Does it work well

I thought there were bugs with Sunbird/Lightning? I've been patiently waiting for Mozilla to get that app up to speed, so I can dump Outlook and go back to Thunderbird. I was hoping when Thunderbird 2 comes out that Lightning would be mature enough to start using daily.

My $.02
Weed

My $.02
Weed

weed's picture

Not Sure

As usual, the Microsoft Office 2007 web site is not very clear on the subject. I haven't found anything that definitely says Outlook will or will not be sold separately, but I did find a site with individual pricing for Outlook: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/products/FX101754511033.aspx?pid=CL100...

Rowan, Are you using Sharepoint 2007 at all? We're looking to take the leap into an Enterprise Content Management system next year, and we were going to evaluation Sharepoint 2007 as one of them. Any info would be welcome.

My $.02
Weed

My $.02
Weed

Sammy G's picture

Providing The Full Situation

Rowan,

Let me provide the full situation: I'm still using Office 2000 on an XP box, and within the entire suite only using Outlook 2000 for industrial use. A portion of my business' customer service, customer management, communication, time management, and project management functions have become dependent on Outlook's features (I know, I know, bad Sammy G). The rest of the Office suite is disposable because most work is done with Abode CS, Intuit QB, Finale, etc.

Regardless of how much improvement has been done with Office 2007, those improvements are judged in comparison to previous Office releases and not to Adobe CS. Thus, why pay $300+ (upgrade) to $650+ (full version) for Office 2007 if I can find an equal or superior alternative to Outlook, when Outlook is the only thing I need? A reason certainly wouldn't be for the outstanding MS customer service. :)

Meanwhile, I'm dealing with another issue. I'm going to have to buy at least one, likely two, new CPUs in early Jan 2007 as I'm moving into a bigger office at the year's turn. The workstations will be needed for new staff hires. The Vista/Office 2007 release couldn't have come at a worse time for me, as I certainly don’t want to buy a ‘Vista upgrade-ready’ PC in early Jan (what a joke!), nor pick up Office 2007 in late Jan and run it on an XP platform.

This is why I am looking for an email client solution that offers the same functionality as Outlook. Unless you have warnings to the contrary, I would like to get out of MS Office, given that there are alternatives to the Office suite (mentioned above), and given that most office documents I share with outside parties are converted to .pdf before going out.

Thanks for everyone’s input. For somebody who sits alone most of the day, I am really glad to get your thoughts because I have no interaction with IT.

weed's picture

More Input

Can you list what it is exactly you need such a tool to do. Don't say what you do in outlook, but list the things your perfect opensource tool would do...

My $.02
Weed

My $.02
Weed

Sammy G's picture

Needs

Quickly writing here, no organized thought...

email for at least seven accounts, email storage and management in folders, definitely need the folder system to be strong, flags on the emails, calendar, calendar sorting by category, shared calendars, recurring appointments, contacts, contacts synched to email to/from, distribution lists, task and project management organized by category and by date...

Sammy G's picture

Almost forgot the big one

Synch with handheld.

matthew's picture

Which one?

Handheld synchronization is a big deal. Which one do you have? If you have Palm, one set of solutions works great; if a Windows CE or other device, you're really locked in.

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Matthew P. Barnson

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Matthew P. Barnson

Sammy G's picture

Palm OS

I don't have it yet, but within the next month I'm getting the Treo 700P

rowan's picture

I unfortunately have no

I unfortunately have no experience yet with Sharepoint 2007, I've only handled the standard Office suite so far. Although I've never much liked Sharepoint, to be honest. The fact that it's a web interface and, really, ONLY a web interface makes it slow on good day and positively infuriating on days with high network congestion.

What kind of content are you looking to manage? I know of a few third-party CSM products that have gotten great response.

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"You of all people should know that plastic surgery can do wonders." --Amber Fitzgerald
"And you're living proof that mistakes are sometimes made." -- Charisma Weaver
[a hlink="htpp://buffydc.com"]DC After Dark[/a]

Arth

rowan's picture

Ah...I didn't realize you

Ah...

I didn't realize you were still on Outlook 2000. Yeah, probably best to phase that out, wonderful and robust as it has been.

This is just a thought, and I haven't explored too much of it, but you might want to take a look at what Google's offering. Besides gmail, it's now offering some pretty good (from what I hear) calendar functionality... I get the feeling that they're trying to move into that area of project management. If it's got the features you need and you're ok with the security... hard to go wrong with free. Again, don't know too much about it, but it was a thought.

If Weed is right, and you can buy Outlook 2007 on its own, that would still be my strongest recommendation. It's very, very similar to 2003, so the learning curve won't be too steep. It even has some additional functionality in message sorting (now they've got easy to use "categories" as well as flags).

So far as I know (which is a huge caveat), the only email software cheaper than Outlook don't offer nearly the same kind of features (calendars, tasks, etc.), and the only things beside it that offer the same features are serious project/customer management software that while incredibely useful will also be more expensive.

And I can attest that it runs just fine on XP. (Though my computer is also a fancy spankin' new dual-core, so I don't know how well it would run on a three or four year old machine.)

Oh... your final option would be to explore a web-hosted solution. I think there are even a few things like Hosted Outlook. Basically, you log into a web portal that holds your email as well as has all sorts of nifty other functionality things. A company called Blue Tie offers this for something like 5$ a month per user, and it has contact management (with groups, and shareable), calendar management (also shareable), tasks, the works. One nice big bonus it has online file storage for file sharing. You can put multi-gig files onto your account then sent an email with specific access codes to whoever you want to be able to access it. And Blue Tie's not the only one, I'm sure. The downside is that it's going to be slower to access than something that you have installed locally. And God help you if your internet goes down.

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"You of all people should know that plastic surgery can do wonders." --Amber Fitzgerald
"And you're living proof that mistakes are sometimes made." -- Charisma Weaver
[a hlink="htpp://buffydc.com"]DC After Dark[/a]

Arth

Sammy G's picture

Solution - leasing

I came up with a solution over the weekend -- leasing. I think I may lease a couple computers (monthly) until March while searching for a longer-term system.

Sammy G's picture

Pricing Follow-Up

Rowan, PC World concurs with your positive review and they're showing the upgrade price at $239, lower than what I originally listed above. This price is for Microsoft Office Standard 2007, the package without Access.

http://pcworld.com/article/id,127919/article.html#

At that price it's probably worth it to pay for the upgrade.

weed's picture

Dude

Didn't you check out the link I posted above? They had prices for ALL the various options on Office. They even list a price for just Outlook, but I couldn't find if they'll sell Outlook standalone.

My $.02
Weed

My $.02
Weed

Sammy G's picture

OpenOffice 3.0

OpenOffice.org has just released their 3.0 Beta...and it apparently fails the Office 2007 Test. This article reads that OpenOffice's free office suite's support for MS' XML-based Office 2007 falls way short of compatibility.

matthew's picture

Lightning Bugs

Heh, I just wanted to say Lightning Bugs...

OK, so I've been using Lightning as my calendaring app in my daily job for two months now. Rock-solid, read/write to Google Calendar and my company's proprietary but standards-based calendar works great.

Just wanted to update there: for my calendaring needs, it works fine. I think the only thing that doesn't work as well as I like is seeing free/busy status on non-public calendars in my company's calendar. GCal free/busy works fine, so I suspect it's their implementation that's lacking.

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Matthew P. Barnson

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Matthew P. Barnson

matthew's picture

2003

It may fail on Microsoft's brand-new, proprietary, not-fully-documented Office 2007 format (despite claims of openness in OOXML, it's not nearly open the way they use it!), but 2003 support has been very solid for years.

My only complaint about OO.org's 2003 support is that if the fonts on my machine don't match the fonts available on the creator's, display is really funky. While that's a problem with MS Office, too, I'm more likely to be missing fonts if I haven't bought Microsoft's fonts in their Office product.

Good update, though, I wasn't aware of the teething pains supporting MS Office 2007 in OO.org 3.0.

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Matthew P. Barnson

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Matthew P. Barnson

Sammy G's picture

You Still Think This Is The Way To Go?

Matt,

As my business is starting to hire more people, we're adding new computer workstations. Unlike my situation three years ago, the new hires do not enter the scene with Outlook dependency as a preexisting condition crutch. I'm buying basic desktop boxes (Vista/2.2ghz/3GBram) at prices around $400. An inside connection isn't able to hook me up with a free, licensed copy of Office 2007.

The new hires are doing basic marketing and sales work. Simple word processing, spreadsheet maintenance, and full email, calendaring and contact management functions are their daily needs. What do you think about OpenOffice + Lightning? Still the most viable and powerful solution for free, open-source software?

Sam

matthew's picture

What you don't really want

As a nerd, allow me to toss a few things you really don't want off this list (oops, it's three years later):

[quote]**Sprint Treo 700wx, 700p -- need my NHL Mobile and my live video feed[/quote]

Treos are dead tech. You want one of the following next-generation phones instead:
* Google Android-based phone
* Palm Pre-based phone
* iPhone

[quote]**Microsoft Zune or Zen Nano Plus (Creative)[/quote]

iPod won. You could get yourself an iPhone and do a twofer on this.

[quote]**JVC HA-FX33 Marshmallow earbuds, $20, www.jvc.com[/quote]

Great choice, got a pair :) Superb when I'm riding my motorcycle.

[quote]**Jabra BT125, $40, Bluetooth headset, www.jabra.com[/quote]

No, no, no, what you want is this: http://us.jawbone.com/

--Matt B.

EDIT: I just realized that Sam played "Thread Necromancer" here, resurrecting a long-dead post from 3 years ago... and I bought right in, thinking it was a modern post...

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Matthew P. Barnson

matthew's picture

Yeah

OO.o and Lightning work great. I'd use Google Calendar as the shared back-end; it's $50/seat/year for the commercial version, but I've moved my family over to Google Apps and love it.

--Matt B.

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Matthew P. Barnson

Sammy G's picture

The Update

I'm on the Pre waiting list.

The Sansa mp3 players totally outrock the iPod if you're looking for pure plug-and-play functionality with decent interface at a fraction of the cost without the threat of having it break whenever it drops. Unless, of course, you're just a zombie who buys everything Apple releases without thinking. Creative mp3 players are okay as well.

The Jabra BT125 is weak. I got a Plantronics 330. Weak. The jawbone is slammin'. When the Pre gets in my hands, so will the Jawbone.

In general, I like keeping similar content organized in the same thread. No need to create a new post when there's already existing chatter. I realize this destroys Matt's goal to have every date in that calendar blacked out.

Sam

matthew's picture

Update to Update to Update

[quote]Unless, of course, you're just a zombie who buys everything Apple releases without thinking. [/quote]

You rang?

[quote]In general, I like keeping similar content organized in the same thread. No need to create a new post when there's already existing chatter. I realize this destroys Matt's goal to have every date in that calendar blacked out.[/quote]

I got rid of the calendar; it was too depressing :) Now I'll just write what I want to write when I want to write it without worrying about when or what I last wrote.

--Matt B.

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Matthew P. Barnson