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An Efficient and Fun iOS E-mail App: Spark by Readdle

Except for a few months of BitNet e-mail on a VAX mainframe server, I have been using the default UNIX mail app for almost 25 years now. Started with a SUN workstation, moved from SunOS to Solaris, Linux RedHat distribution (and a few others) and ended up on OSX. The nice thing about this is that all my e-mail archives transferred easily from one UNIX flavour to the other!

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BusyContacts: a simple and easy to use CRM alternative for OS X

The guys that brought you the famous OS7 Now Up-to-Date, followed by BusyCal, have done it again with a contact application on steroid: BusyContacts.

I have been using the beta version for the past few weeks and I must say it turns out to be a very stable, useful and easy to use piece of software. Much easier to set-up and deal with than CRM software such as Daylite and others. The software is now out of beta and V1 is available to buy…and you do get a reduced price (“Sidegrade” they call it) if you are a BusyCal user!

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OSX Yosemite and iOS8 Keynote: an interactive classroom duo

When Apple decided to rewrite the iWorks’ suite over 18 months ago, many were disappointed by missing features. Zoom to Yosemite and iOS8 versions, and I must say that not only do Keynote, Numbers and Pages are now greats apps, but there actually work extremely well both on the desktop and on the iPad (I do not really use these apps on the iPhone).

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Heartbleed Exploit as viewed by xkcd!

xkcd: Heartbleed Explanation.


The good news: iOS, OSX and 1Password not affected 😉

Human-computer interaction took a dramatic turn 30 years ago

Let’s go invent tomorrow instead of worrying about what happened yesterday.

– Steve Jobs

The release of the first Graphical User Interface or GUI for the masses happen on January 24th 1984 when Apple release the Macintosh. It deeply changes the face of the computer industry and how we interact with them.


In 1985, our school dumped its old language lab (with tape players) for a network of Macintosh. That same school year, we did a fully digital school year book of the 1985-1986 graduates. Photos were actually scanned using a manual B&W scanner . All texts and final page preparations were done on the Mac! It took years to replicate any of this on another platform, replicate what was done with such facility by a bunch of teenagers. A few years later at the University, one of the major student journals, using a “specialized” DOS program called Ventura Publishing, was still not able to do true WYSIWYG publications.

Of course the famous 1984 commercial, By Ridley Scott(!), also became one of the best commercial ever produced. You can also find the Steve Jobs’ Mac introduction to the world video.

At the time, I had gone through the very beginning of the general public personal computing first hand with the TRS-80, Apple IIe, Vic 20 and Commodore 64. But what we did with the school Macs was, for the time, really exceptional. It was obvious to me that this was the future of the PC. I went on to work on mainframes and UNIX-based workstations (SUNOS and Solaris, HP AUX, Linux, …) for most of my early researcher career. But OSX changed everything again, no more secondary Linux box necessary, I could have everything on a single platform: the best of both world. In that, Steve Jobs’ NEXT Computer was really the next step… The NEXT computer was to play a role in the development of the World Wide Web!

What is going on at Mekentosj with Papers 3?

Having a PDF management system, which allows in-app citation (e.g. WORD, Pages, Mellel, …), is a necessity for scientists and researchers. On OSX, we have the chance of having the choice between extremely well-design and efficient applications such as Sente, Mendeley and yes, Papers (there are of course free options, as always it depends how much time you want to spend working with your tools relative to working on your tools!).

 In the past I have used Endnote, Zotero, Sente and finally settled for Papers starting at version 2.0.8 for its extremely well thought-of citation mechanisms, PF editing options and nice interface. A review is available here in the e-office series.

Zoom to the latest version (still a beta) of Papers. Yes the interface changed quite a lot, both on OSX and iOS. Mekentosj seems to have adopted the design element of iOS 7 as a reference across the board. Quite frankly, the only thing I do not like in iOS 7 is the color scheme used for certain icons. Otherwise, I like it very much: it is clean, simple, introduced great new stuffs and does not get in the way. 

Below are the screen captures for iOS version of Papers and Papers3. 



So, you say great this guy love Papers 3. Not at all. Design change you can get use to it (assuming it is for the better) but key missing feature is a problem.

Papers 3 allow syncing via DropBox or import/export of the whole library…Gone is the great WiFi sync of the previous version. Why it is this important? My library is large, closing in 5 Gb. I do not want to put that on DropBox (or on any servers for that matter) nor do I need to have all of that in the Cloud. The DropxBox options look interesting for a small library but for large libraries I am not convince and I feel it is unnecessary to pay for cloud storage space to store my library (this is why I do not like Mendeley for example). Even my library at close to 5 Gb is not that large and only contains over 4000 entries.

When I ask Mekentosj about it, I received the following from the support staff:

Hi there

Thank you for your feedback regarding this. I’m afraid that Dropbox is the only solution at the moment. However, we hope to include a possibility to sync via Wi-Fi in some point as well. However, depending on the technical aspects and Papers release cycle, it’s hard to know yet when that’s going to happen, so please be patient

So it might or might not happen in the future. For now, I would think that this is a big deal for users with large libraries. I reverted back to Papers2 like a number of my colleagues.

Overall, very disappointing first contact with Papers 3


NOTE: Academic workflow on Mac also has a coverage of Papers 3 which describes other important issues

OSX 10.9 (Mavericks) is available and free!

Wired is running an interesting piece about the latest operating system from Apple. In part past, Apple provided free or very low cost upgrade for its “minor” version of OSX but paying upgrade for significant new version. 10.9 is a significant upgrade but will be free: Apple Just Ended the Era of Paid Operating Systems | Wired Business |

In a related news, iWork (Numbers, Keynote and Page) will be free with each new Apple computing devices, Mac or iDevices! Office productivity and MS Office compatibility out of the box. That should be interesting…

Digital Office I: Introduction and Hardware

Working efficiently in the digital world is not as easy as it sounds, in particular as you get more and more files to deal with. Furthermore, while eliminated paper sounds like an excellent (and green) idea, it is not obvious to fully to eliminate all of it and yet still be productive without putting too much time on the gadgets themselves. I am have been toying with the idea of going fully digital around 2009 by bringing my notebook with me everywhere, including meeting. The truth is that many people around the table find typing and looking at a computer while having a meeting quite impolite. I further find it impractical. However the coming of the iPad change all that. The next few posts will look into the digital workflow I settled in since then.

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