Agenda Fusion and Today Screen plug-ins

As a GTD (Getting Things Done) and Pocket PC enthusiast, I’m always on the lookout for better ways to keep track of my life between my Pocket PC and Microsoft Outlook. While the Office version of Outlook is plenty powerful and capable, it doesn’t take a Franklin Covey or David Allen disciple very long to realize that Pocket Outlook, the “out of the box” planning and email software that ships pre-installed in the ROM of a Pocket PC is very ineffective for much more than the basics. The time it takes you to decide that you want more is very short.

I began using Ulti-Planner from Birdsoft, and it worked fine for a while. I liked it because it is graphical while Pocket Outlook is not, and it allows for tasks display with calendar items. I like being able to see both what I’m doing each day and what I need to get done on the same screen. However, when I came across GTD, I realized that I needed a more powerful planning suite. Birdsoft had promised an upgrade to Ulti-Planner in April of 05, and so far that upgrade has not been released. They are busy with other projects according to the developer. That left me searching for another solution. I tried a few different freeware programs, but no one program did what I wanted it to do.

One day at PocketPC Thoughts, I saw an advertisement for Pocket Informant at a reduced price. I decided to download the trial. I do not like to download trial versions, not because they aren’t effective, but because I often don’t use the program until the trial is over and also I can’t often get my wife to approve purchases. To be fair, I’d break us if I bought everything I liked. I found Pocket Informant to be what I needed, and I have been using it ever since.

I recently got the urge to try Agenda Fusion. I’d heard a lot of good things about it and that it has a project center, something that Pocket Informant lacks. I downloaded the trial version. I quickly found that my today screen was littered with undated tasks. I searched for a way to change the display, but gave up quickly. I poked around the program and realized that, project center aside, Pocket Informant does what I need so I uninstalled Agenda Fusion. I have no doubts that it is a fine product, and it seems to have run head to head with Pocket Informant for many years.

I figured that while I was being brave with trials, I should test some Today Screen plug-ins. I have been using tAgenda for several years since the days of my iPaq 3765. It’s always been a basic yet faithful plug-in. However, there doesn’t seem to be any development on it. The application is freeware, so I have no complaints there. I decided to try SBSH Pocket Breeze. The screen shots look very nice and I’ve heard a lot of good comments about it from the folks at PocketPC Thoughts. I downloaded the trial and went to try it out. I found it to be just as graphical and comprehensive as I had imagined. As I went to customize it, however, I found that it kept locking up my device. The problem could very well be my Dell Axim x30, which seems more sensitive to locking up than my old iPaq was. Often, all the items on my Today Screen will disappear and I have to reboot to get them back. Sometimes this will happen back to back. I decided that even if the device was causing the problems, a plug in that I couldn’t play with because it locked wasn’t going to be useful. I also felt that it was a little too comprehensive. I uninstalled it and figured that I would go back to using tAgenda.

Later that day, I decided to try one more thing: SPB Diary. This seems to be the Today Screen application that I’ve been waiting for! It’s comprehensive but not too comprehensive, it gives me a quick run down of what I need to do and my device doesn’t lock. Once again, the problem with Pocket Breeze could very well have been my device, but with two small children I really don’t get the time to troubleshoot that I used to. A few notes, however: SPB Diary does not allow you to change your settings from the Today Screen. You have to go into the Device Settings for the Today Screen to change them. That’s not a big deal for me. You can adjust what information you do get. I can’t say that I worry about having access to my notes or contacts on my Today Screen, but the calendar and task integration are great. David Allen says to create tasks with no due date and assign them contexts (ie. categories) in which they are to be done. I do from time to time assign dates to tasks if they fall within a certain time period. I like these to show up with my agenda. I also like to display the non-dated tasks by category or context. SPB Diary allows me to do both. Now I have 14 days to convince my wife that it’s worth $15.

All of these are very fine products and I would recommend any of them to you.

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The Notebook- a definite chick flick

After finally giving up asking my wife if she’d like to join Netflix, she finally decided on her own to do it with her sister. The first movie that she got was The Notebook. As an information technology student at the University of Phoenix who is struggling with problems related to an antiquated notebook computer, every time I hear the name of that movie I think of a laptop. My wife asked if I’d watch it with her, and I agreed. It’s been a very long time since we’ve been able to watch a movie together with two small children.

I will say that the movie was pretty good. As a chick flick, I would rate it much higher than Sleepless in Seattle, which I have no intention of ever watching again. I won’t give away too much, but it is obviously a story apparently written by women for women about a love that starts during a summer and continues over the years even as both characters think that it is over. The story is something that as I said is for women. Maybe some men would like it. When I was younger, I actually did like chick flicks, but come to think of it Robin Hood and Titanic had story elements and action that males can enjoy. In fact, after several scenes in The Notebook supposedly telling the story of new love, I told my wife “OK, I get the point; they’re 17 and in love. This story needs a car chase or a bar fight to break up the monotony.”

I would say that the plot remained consistent and the story was well written and well thought out. The acting was believable for the most part, at least, in a woman’s world. I find it hard to believe, for instance, that a couple argues all the time and yet makes out right away. My wife and I fight all the time, and we’ve never done that. Yet women somehow must find story ideas like that romantic. I thought I had the story figured out early on, but the movie was more than halfway through before it was confirmed that I was right. I thought that the ending was well done.

If my opinion matters for anything, I give it five stars and no, I’m not planning to sit through it ever again.

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