Monthly Archives: February 2007

EasyEnvelopes Does It

I found myself many times wanting to print an envelope, but do not want to spend the effort to do so. Who would want to fire up an application, fill out the return and mailing addresses, position them so they appear just right, then change the page layout, then print. Enters a free utility that handles this task in an easy and efficient way: EasyEnvelopes Ambrosia Software.

EasyEnvelopes (EE) is a Mac OS X widget. Installing it is as easy as double-clicking on the widget. After installation, I launched the widget for the first time and to my pleasant surprise, EE has filled out my return address using my home address. The magic lies in the integration with Address Book application.

The first thing I did was to configure the widget by clicking on the “i” at the bottom right corner of the envelope. From the configuration screen, I can change the envelope size, font size, USPS bar code, the return address and its placement (in front or in the back). Once configured, the fun began. The widget allow searching for entries in the Address Book, or I can enter a new address in. After that, clicking on the stamp to print. It could not be simpler.

Since the Address Book application also allow envelopes printing, why do I need this widget? First, EE allows printing an address that is not in the address book (think rebate address). In addition, EE gives more control over the the return address: home, custom, an image, or none. Finally, EE can optionally print the US Postal Service’s bar code, which should help speeding up mail sorting and increase accuracy.

In conclusion, EasyEnvelopes is one fine widget that performs only one task very well: printing envelopes. In addition to features, performance, and ease of use, EasyEnvelopes offers an unbeatable price: free. This tool will stay in my arsenal for a long time.

Verilux HappyLite Mini Ultra

I have been eyeing this lamp for quite sometime because I am in need of a desk lamp with natural light along with its therapeutic promise. Finally, after reading a review from the Gadgeteer site, I purchased one.

When I first use the lamp, the light seems too bright and shines to my eyes instead of illuminating the desk. However, that’s what the lamp was designed for: shining the light into the user’s eyes for therapeutic effect. The power switch has three settings: off, low, and high. I normally set it on low, but during the day, I set it on high to compete with the ambient light. Why do I have to turn on a lamp in daylight, one might ask. If you live in Seattle during the winter, you know that the sky is mostly gray and dark. In order to operate the switch I have to use both hands: one to hold on to the lamp and the other to slide the switch. Otherwise, sliding the hard switch with one hand will only slide the whole lamp around the desk. After a few days of use, I started to get a hang of turning on and off the lamp with one hand, but it is still a difficult task nonetheless.

After a week of using this lamp, I have to admit that it does not make a good desk lamp–and rightly so because Verilux did not design this as a desk lamp, but a therapy lamp. As a desk lamp, the HappyLite Mini Ultra shines directly onto my eyes, as the result, I can hardly see anything else on my desk. My idea of a desk lamp is something that would illuminate the desk, not my eyes.

So, if it is not a good desk lamp, does it make a great therapy lamp? To answer that question, one must have a metric to measure happy mood. That means I cannot objectively say that the lamp works. However, it does brighten up my office and in turn reduces my eye fatigue. I find that by putting the lamp just slightly behind me, it makes an excellent reading light. For this reason, I am considering buying a floor model for my night reading.

In conclusion, it was me that chose the wrong kind of lamp: I looked for a desk lamp and purchased a therapy lamp instead. Nonetheless, the lamp does help me with my reading and brighten up my den, especially at night.

Personal Backup X4’s Synchronization Features Disappointed

I have wrote about this software in my previous post and did not like the experience. Now, as I drill deeper into one specific area: file and folder synchronization; I was disappointed one more time. The synchronization process lacks intelligence and does not automatically synchronize files based on the time stamp.

Background:

I have a USB key, which I partitioned into two separate drives: USB1 and USB2. I would like to synchronize the contents of these two drives with my two local folders Local1 and Local2, respectively.

The Process:

Since Personal Backup X4 (PBX4) can handle folder synchronization, I fired up the software and created a script with the following parameters:

  • Source: Local1
  • Destination: USB1
  • Automatically execute when the USB key is inserted
  • Quit PBX4 upon finish

Before I can trust this script with my real data, I carried out the following test. I loaded USB1 and Local1 with some text files as follow:

Local1: file1, file2, file3, file4
USB1: file1, file2, file3, file5

Bold filenames signify newer file based on the time stamp. After the synchronization, I expect both locations to carry the newer files, plus any newly created ones (file4 and file5). Therefore, I expect the following outcome:

Local1: file1, file2, file3, file4, file5
USB1: file1, file2, file3, file4, file5

However, after running the script, my outcome is:

Local1: file1, file2, file3, file4, file5
USB1: file1, file2, file3, file4, fle5

That means PBX4 did not synchronize changed files. How useful! Still, I did not give up and modified the script to synchronize manually with user intervention this time. Once started, PBX4 displayed each changed files and asked me which version to keep. All seems fine, except for the fact that PBX4 only displays the files’ dates, but not times. That means if the two files have identical dates, but different times, the user cannot tell which one to keep. In addition, manually selecting which files to keep can be tedious and error-prone if the user have more than a handful of files to compare. Do you want to sit down and do that for hundreds, if not thousands of files?

If you are looking for a utility to synchronize your files, look elsewhere. I am still searching for a good one myself. If you have any suggestion, please post your comment here. Thank you.