The Efficient Mac User

iCal Alternatives, Synching Palm to Mac, Cross-Platform Project Management, and Securing Windows

- 2006.06.01 - Tip Jar

The first set of emails was received in response to Unleashing the Power of iCal and Managing Tasks with iCal's To-Do Feature.

Try PHP iCalendar

John S. writes:

I read your article about iCal on Low End Mac. One other option for publishing is PHP iCalendar.

To be honest, it's a little bit of work to get a WebDAV server going and enable PHP in Apache, but for me it's well worth the wait. For one thing you can easily password protect your calendars but also - and here is what I really like - you can control what calendars are returned to you based on your username when you log into the WebDAV server.

For example, I'm set up so that I can send my office calendar from my secretary's computer, my home calendar from my home computer, my wife's calendar from her laptop, my niece's calendar from her computer, and my nephew's calendar from my nephew's Windows machine, all to my WebDAV server.

I really don't want everyone seeing my office calendar, and they don't. Only one username returns that calendar. Each family has a username, and it returns their family's calendar, but a master username returns every family calendar so we can see what all our family is doing at once. Moreover, they all provide their family's username to extended family, and PHP iCalendar returns only their family calendar. It's really slick.

Good thoughts, John. There are some very good options out there for more advanced users, and you've identified one of the most thorough I've seen. Thanks.

What About Google Calendar?

Aaron writes:

Google just rolled out their calendar application to the public (yes, it's in beta now), and it looks quite usable.

You can import and export calendars from and to other calendar apps such as Yahoo calendar or Outlook, using vCal/iCal, XML, or CSV files.

Since I'm primarily a Safari guy, I don't find Google Calendars as convenient. And, while the application does look intriguing, I don't really get the point.

I have a .mac account, so I don't have trouble syncing calendars between my iBook and Marcie's mini. I guess if you don't have .mac, then there is some merit for it.

Maybe I'll turn this back to the readers: Why would a Mac user want or need Google Calendars?

I Need a Separate iCal To-Do Editor

David N. writes:

Great articles on Low End Mac about project management. Good stuff.

I have a challenge for you. I am looking for an editor I can use to create To-Dos. The editor should be able to read tasks from iCal and put them back into iCal, i.e. changes made in the editor are reflected in iCal. Know any editors like that?

David, To-Do X, which I mentioned in my article, almost gets you there, but it doesn't quite meet all of your requirements. I think that what you're looking for is the Kinkless GTD system, which I also mentioned (see "Working the Big Picture").

Kinkless GTD uses OmniOutliner Pro, but it's worth the purchase. I promise.

Synching a Palm with OS X

Mike C. writes:

Any tips for Palm PDA users? I've been using Entourage with my Palm Z22 (my first PDA) for 3 months now and am beginning to grow tired with about it. Palm Desktop has great integration with Palm OS, but the address book is not integrated with Mac OS X Address Book or the Microsoft Office Address Book. Entourage does a much better work with the calendars than Palm Desktop or iCal. I would like to know of a solution for integrating my Palm with Mac OS X.

Unfortunately, you're not the only one with frustrations about iCal and Palm devices - especially the "low-end" Zire line. There is some very good help at the Apple discussion forum for tech support, and you may find some solutions there.

I've been a Palm user off and on for years, including a few years with a Visor (the Palm's first cousin). My latest Palm is a Zire Z21, the generation before yours, Mike. I've had trouble with it as well.

I'm planning to do an article over the summer on troubleshooting the Zires (and other Palms) on the Mac. I guess the best advice I can give you for now is "stay tuned"!

The following emails were received in response to Working the Big Picture: Project Management on the Mac and Project Management when Working with Others.

Cross-Platform Project Management

Scott L. writes:

When you're working with others, are they mainly OS X users or a mix of other systems?

Very curious, since you reference a number of Web-based services in your piece about collaboration.

Good observation, Scott. I do use a lot of Web-based services for collaboration, and that is probably because my collaborations have largely been cross-platform. That may change somewhat, since we're changing the office at the school where I work over to Macs. But I suspect there will always be some measure of multi-platform work to be done, and it strikes me as a good idea to use the most flexible systems available.

What About Projectwizards Merlin?

Bjorn S. writes:

Read your column with some expectation, but was disappointed, because the usual suspect like Projectwizards Merlin were not on the agenda.

Sorry to disappoint. As I mentioned in my column, I'm hoping to do a piece on Merlin and other similar programs in the future. This article was aimed at those whose project management needs are less frequent or substantial.

The last two emails were received in response to 5 Things You Need to Know before Running Windows X.

Say No to Norton Antivirus

Jeremy K. writes:

Just read the article. Good stuff, very thorough. It should get the job done. I do have a couple of suggestions.

One, please, please, please, please take the Symantec Norton antivirus and spyware reference off. I have yet to see a system which was having problems where uninstalling all Norton stuff didn't fix it completely or make it really better. The other guys at Covenant's ITS agree with this. Basically we view Norton as a virus and malware.

Of course, it's conceivable that the sampling of my experience is skewed in that there could be many computers out there with Norton which run just fine. But that seems a little improbable.

I'm not sure about McAfee, but it seems just as bad. The problem with these programs/suites seems to be the usual problem in the Windows environment - bloatware. This software just is too big and tries to do so much that it ends up hurting you.

So my recommendation is to use the smaller guys such as AVG or Avast. I've had good experience with both - more with AVG, though.

To fit your theory of getting what you pay for, there is a paid version of AVG (I don't know about Avast) which seems to work really well too while keeping a much smaller footprint than Norton.

I really like the Windows Defender. I think it's going to be really good in the long run. Another program I like is Spyware Blaster. This is more like a vaccine, as it inoculates your computer against certain malware threats. Not all, but some. Something else along these lines is IE-Spyad.

Also, the consensus on spyware prevention and removal is to run at least two things. So if someone installs Defender, they should also install AdAware or Spybot. These don't have to be run all the time, just when there's a problem that Defender doesn't block.

As far as the virtual memory goes, if you've got lots of RAM (and we both know that Apple doesn't ship a system that doesn't), you can set the swapfile to be a set size.

Okay, that's it for now. Again good article.

Thanks for the comments, Jeremy. Your counterpoint on Norton and McAfee is duly noted.

Secure Windows: Just Stay Off the Internet

Brian G. writes:

I liked your article "5 Things You Need to Know Before Running Windows XP".

However, there is another option. Stay off the Internet in XP! Unplug the ethernet and use what you need in XP, then return to OS X for web surfing.

I know this won't apply in all situations (Ex: game patches, software updates, etc.), but there is far too much work, money, and risk (in my opinion) involved with using Windows on the Internet.

Everyone will have a different view on this. Hopefully your article will keep someone from using XP without protection and destroying their system and files.

Keep up the good work!

Good idea, Brian - in fact, this is exactly what I plan to do with the dual-boot system I'm setting up at work. I'll probably connect it to the 'Net once a quarter or so to get updates, but that's it. And I love that I can do this virtually with the virtualization software I'll be using.

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