My Ongoing Contact Management Challenges

If you’re like me, you’ve got friends all over the electronic landscape: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, you name it. Which means all of those are potentially also “contacts.” And, of course, you’ve got your real contacts — those people that would normally be in your Rolodex, if we still used such carbon-based approaches to managing contacts.

Instead, we use electronic contact lists. Outlook has an address book, as does almost every other mail program. The operating system itself might have one, as does our phone, and our tablet, and our work computer, and our home computer, and and and and.

And keeping them all in sync is a nightmare.

For a while, I had found the answer: Memotoo. Memotoo is one of the coolest tools I know. It exists to do one thing well: sync. It syncs your various contact lists into its own contact database, then syncs that whole thing to Google Contacts (and back). It will also do the same with multiple calendars, task lists, browser bookmarks, and other stuff. But I only used it for contacts, and for that it was perfect.

Essentially, it worked like this:

  • It would PULL data from Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and many other sources, into its own master list. As it did so, it would look for duplicates, and combine various records into single ones with all the data from all the sources.
  • It would also SYNC BACK with Google contacts.
  • I then set my Mac, my iPhone, and my iPad to use Memotoo as their contact list.

Any change I made on any of my devices would sync back with Memotoo, and propogate to everything else. Finally, contacts kept current!

And then Facebook broke everything.

In April, Facebook changed their API such that outside apps could not get your friends’ data unless your friends ALSO used the same app. This broke Memotoo, and Cobook, and Full Contact, and a bunch of other contact management apps.

So, I started looking around. Here’s where things stand at the moment.

  • I’m taking a look at a new app called CircleBack. It looks, on the surface, to be similar to Memotoo, but without as much functionality. Based on their web site, I thought they had figured out a way around the Facebook problem; but today, I got an email from their VP of Consumer Products, Andy Cohn (a very thorough and helpful email, by the way), and they are relying on the sync of the Facebook app on your iPhone to the contact list on your iPhone to sync in the Facebook contacts. So, even though I like their app overall, they haven’t solved the FB dilemma.
  • This then got me to thinking — can I do the same thing with Memotoo? Can I use my phone to sync Facebook to Memotoo? I tried it, and apparently the iPhone contact app keeps the FB contacts separate from everything else. So, the answer appears to be No.

I’m going to try the CircleBack system and see if it works for me. If not, I’m at a loss. I really want one contact list that is the “source of truth” list, and not three or four.

I’ll keep you posted.

::

How about you? How are you keeping your contacts straight?

dbPoweramp Comes to the Mac!

As some of you know, I recently switched from a PC laptop (Toshiba) to a MacBook Pro. I love the machine, I’m getting used to the differences, and eventually I’ll know the ins and outs on this box as well as I did on the Windows side.

One of the challenges, though, of switching platforms is replacing software. Some things are easy (Office to Office is fairly straightforward), some things are harder (Quicken Mac is a shell of Quicken Windows).

Then there are those special pieces of software that you just come to rely on, and that you miss on the new platform. One of those for me was dbPoweramp. It’s a multi-faceted audio tool, but my main use for it was ripping an entire CD and adding it to my music collection. Imagine my happiness, then, to find out that dbPoweramp Converter is doing an open beta for the Mac!

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Saturday Geek: eM Client — an Outlook alternative

For a long time, I have been frustrated with Outlook’s lack of a unified inbox. There are workarounds, including automating a custom search (really, MS? I have to write a macro for this?), but even Outlook 2013 still is missing this basic feature.

Now, however, with all the various online sites I support, having to open each inbox separately (and remember to check them all) had just gotten to be too much. So, I went looking for an alternative.

Most people recommended Thunderbird by Mozilla (the same good people who bring you Firefox), but in the middle of one thread someone touted eM Client. Since I’d never heard of it, I decided to check it out — and I’m glad I did.

eM Client is a Windows-based program that handles mail, calendar, contacts, tasks, and chat. It has many of the common features of Outlook, including categories, tags, rules, signatures, and templates. It handles pretty much any email protocol out there (POP3, IMAP, SMTP). The contact forms hold most of the stuff you would normally want to track, including pictures, details like spouse and birthday, and their web calendar. The task forms support recurrences, assignments, and attachments. And, the calendar module supports multiple calendars (including Google), filtering, categories, meetings with invitations, and Free/Busy if available. In short, this is a full-featured Outlook replacement.

What doesn’t it do? Well, it doesn’t support Exchange except through IMAP, although full Exchange support is supposedly coming in a future release. Also does not support LDAP. And, even though it has rules, they are somewhat limited. (Like, no auto-responder.) And finally, it can’t be customized or extended very much (although they do include skins for it).

And one final note: the free version only does two accounts after the first month. Since I got it for the unified inbox, that doesn’t help much. But, so far I like it so well that I will probably pay the fee.

In short, if you are looking for an Outlook replacement, and you don’t have to have Exchange support (yet), then eM Client might be just the thing for you.

Apple Releases iBrick 3.1

In a move apparently calculated to draw attention from the Palm Pre, Apple recently released an upgrade to their iPhone software that turns the phone into a brick. The upgrade, also released under the alternative name “iPaperweight,” causes the phone to randomly become totally unresponsive and incapable of receiving or making calls without a complete reboot.

Okay, that’s faux-press-release snark — but the reality is anything but. Read on for the story that is anything but “insanely great.”

Many users, anxious to get the long-awaited MMS capability (available on other phones since before Kelly Clarkson won American Idol), eagerly applied the 3.1 update to their iPhones in early September. Since that time, hundreds of iPhone users have reported on the mysterious “coma” syndrome. (Stories here and here and here.) In addition to going into a coma, the phone apparently also runs a fever, since users report the back of the phone being extremely hot. Finally, the battery has a heart attack and loses most or all of its charge in about an hour.

And what of the highly esteemed, always Johnny-on-the-spot Apple customer service and support? Here is the official statement from Apple itself on this wide-spread problem:

::     { crickets }    ::

How wide-spread is the iBrick phenomenon? Take a gander at this screen-shot from Apple’s own support forum:

Yes, you’re reading it right — 134 PAGES of comments, with over 150,000 views. And not one word from Apple. Not an acknowledgement, not a “hey, we’re sorry, we’re working on it,” no announcement of a fix … nothing. Not even the option to downgrade to 3.01 or 3.0 through iTunes.

Which, by the way, is the only sure-fire solution. And it’s a giant pain, and even harder if you have a PC and not a Mac.

This has become a complete PR meltdown for Apple, as people who rely on their phone for their livelihood jump ship to Palm or the new Google phone or to any vendor other than Apple. And most of them intend to tell their friends, their friends’ friends, their family, their family’s friends, and as many random people on the street as they can.

Have I had this problem? Sure have — that’s why I’ve been following the discussion at Apple.com, just to see how long it lasts. I turned off Notifications and stopped the problem for me, but that hasn’t helped others.

It seems obvious to anyone with an ounce of sense that the FIRST step for Apple is to admit the “upgrade” is buggy for some people, say they’re working on it, and offer a “new” upgrade that is really 3.01 renumbered to 3.11 or so.

But in the meantime, you can apply the 3.1 upgrade and experience an inanimate object going into a coma, becoming a brick, and being useful as a paperweight.

This Is Amazing!

My older son Griffin just showed me a video made by a guy who recorded himself playing single notes on the drums, then on the piano, then took the whole thing and edited it in such a way that he plays first a drum solo, then a piano and drum duet. The only thing he did was edit the clips to put them in order to make the music. It is absolutely amazing.

Here’s the link: http://view.break.com/182483

Jump to extended to view the video!


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