Sony PRS-500 Portable Reader System

There have been quite a few ebook readers on the market, but none of them have really taken off. The Sony PRS-500 is the first one I’ve seen that really looks like it has potential.


The biggest difference between this eBook reader and others that have been on the market is the “electronic paper”. Sony has created a device that doesn’t use power to display text on the screen. It only uses power when it changes the text. The screen “remembers” what was written on it. Continue reading Sony PRS-500 Portable Reader System

Using a Blackberry Internationally

I’ve been using my Blackberry in Mexico for a few months now and I’ve learned a few things about getting mobile email outside the United States.  I wanted to write a bit about things I’ve learned in hopes that others will find it useful.

If you are looking at an international email plan, you will probably want to go with a Blackberry instead of some of the other types of smartphones.  Other smartphones will allow you to work internationally, but I haven’t seen a plan that gives you unlimited usage.  Instead they charge you by the KB which works out to about $15 to $20 per MB downloaded.  If you are busy with email, it doesn’t take long to get 20 or even 50 MB of data transfered.  At $20 per MB you’ll pay over $1000 for 50 MB.  That is a pretty steep charge for a month of usage.

Continue reading Using a Blackberry Internationally

Voice over IP in Mexico

I am writing this article from the center of Mexico.  As I write, my wife is talking on the phone with a friend in Nebraska.  This week, I’ve received several calls reminding me to vote and the Kansas State Unemployment office called me to tell me that one of my businesses was overpaying on unemployment tax.

All of this wouldn’t be possible without the internet. Where I’m at in Durango Mexico I was able to get a low speed cable modem connection for about $31USD per month.  The connection is only 512k, but it works great for all of our communication.  We use Vonage for our phone.  They provided us with a small device that plugs into our router and our standard cordless phone plugs into the phone jack on it.  Our number is the same as what we had in the US, so many people who call us don’t even know we are in Mexico.

Continue reading Voice over IP in Mexico

Merge iTunes Libraries

If you use iTunes on multiple computers, you’ve probably run into the problem of having several copies of the same song in different places and no good way to get one consolidated library of all your songs. The method described here doesn’t merge the iTunes xml file, but it will merge all of your song files to make sure you have one copy of each song. Once you have this consolidated directory, you’ll have to re-import all of your music into iTunes.
Continue reading Merge iTunes Libraries

Blackberry 7230 First Impressions

7230Previously I reviews the Blackberry 7100t. While I was generally happy with the device, I found that I was avoiding typing because of the strange keyboard (multiple letters on each key).  I started looking for a better solution and started looking at the Blackberry 8700 series.  While these looked like great phones, they were very expensive–generally about $300 even when signing up for a 2 year plan.After a brief search on ebay I found a 7230 for under $80.  It doesn’t have some of the additional features of the 8700, but I figured it would give me a good chance to try out the keyboard and see how I like the form factor.  If I decide I don’t like it, I’m not out much money and I can always turn around and sell it again on eBay.

Another reason I went with the cheaper phone is because neither the 8700 nor the 7200 phones work with OS X as a modem.  However, the newest Blackberry Pearl 8100 does work with OS X. I don’t want a Pearl because it has a similiar key layout to the 7100t, but I’m hoping that the next phone released with a full keyboard will have the OS X compatibility.

Continue reading Blackberry 7230 First Impressions

Tips for choosing a Large Monitor

MonitorI’ve seen a few articles this week suggesting that a larger monitor may be a better upgrade than a faster computer. I recently bought a 24 inch flat panel monitor from Dell to use with my G4 Powerbook and I’ve been impressed with how much easier it makes things.

You don’t really realize how many windows you have open at a time until you have the extra space to display them. I’m finding that having the large monitor lets me spread things out and it is much easier to jump back and forth between a web browser and terminal window because I can just change where my eyes are looking instead of selecting a different window.

Continue reading Tips for choosing a Large Monitor

OnyX OSX Utility

OnyX IconMost of the time OS X runs well without much intervention. However there are times when you want to do some cleaning, run automated maintenance at unusual times, or change settings that aren’t readily accessible from the user interface. Since OS X is based on a form of Unix, all of these things can be accomplished at the command line. However for most people, the command line isn’t very friendly. Not only is it hard to find the right command, but it can be very easy to make mistakes. OnyX solves many of these issues by giving you a clean interface to many of OS X’s internals. Continue reading OnyX OSX Utility

Quicken for Mac Hack

In a previous article we looked at a way to hack a QFX file (Quicken’s version of OFX) to trick Qucken for Mac into letting you import at file from a bank that doesn’t pay extra money to Quicken for Mac support. Here we are going to examine a few ways to automate that process.

Since OS X is based on a form of Unix you have access to many of the Unix command line tools. Specifically, OS X supports sed, which is a utility for manipulating text files. The following two sed commands will make the necessary replacements in a QFX file.

Here is a script that will make the changes to any number of files passed in on the command line. (Shown as an image to keep wordpress from mangling the code.)
You can download the script here: sed_script.txt

By using automator, you can make it so you have the ability to option click on a QFX file and tell Automator to make the necessary changes.

Here is an example of that that looks like in the automator application:


Once this is setup correctly, you should be able to option click on your QFX file and see the following menu item to Process QFX:

Automator option click

After seeing my original post, Matthew Ryan sent me the following email:

Mark – I wrote to you a couple weeks ago thanking you for your QFX for Mac article on your web site, and wondering if you had an automated solution. You were kind enough to send me a shell script that handles the task.

I took your script, and wrapped it up as an AppleScript that does the following:

1 – Uses your Unix command to edit the file with the WaMu ID.

2 – Launches Quicken and imports the QFX file.

3 – Automatically deletes the original QFX and converted version after the import.

I am attaching the AppleScript here for your review. If you have any comments or changes, feel free to make them. And if you wish to make this available for download on your site, I give you complete permission to do so with no restrictions.

Mac users have been screwed by Intuit for way too long, so I appreciate you effort in coming up with a solution to the issue. I’ve been using the AppleScript daily for a week now, and it’s really convenient. 🙂

— Matthew Ryan

You can download a zipped copy of his file here: QFX Convert You will probably need to tweak it to make it work on your system. Thanks Matthew!

Between the Automator method and Matthew’s Applescript, you should be able to create a solution that minimizes any extra steps to import QFX files.

A few readers have said they had problems getting this method to work with investment accounts.  It is possible that you’ll need the bank id numbers from a bank with an investment account option to make it work.  If anyone finds numbers that work, please feel free to leave them in the comments.