Where I Work

Where I Work

Monday, January 12, 2009

MacWorld Roundup

I’m just back from MacWorld and ready to get back to work. While I was there I had an opportunity to spend the week helping out in the ProjectWizards booth, showing folks some of the new things that Merlin has to offer.

While I spent most of my time in the booth, and didn’t see much of the other exhibitors, there were a few products there, which won awards, that I’ve already been using to help me manage my projects... so I thought I’d focus on them.

The Livescribe Pulse is a pen... oh, no wait... it’s a smart pen that costs almost $200. Which sounds insane, until you use it. Available on the PC for awhile, it only recently became available to Mac users. What makes it worth the price is the fact that when I am in a meeting, then pen records all the audio. At the same time, I capture notes in a special paper notebook. After the meeting, the pen can by synch’d up with a computer so that the notes and the audio are transferred to your computer for later review and storage. I’ve only been using this for a few weeks, but it has already proven its’ worth by allowing me easy access to critical information. I had a team member on a project who claimed he had not known about a particular action item which was assigned to him. I merely pointed the pen at the note I jotted down in the meeting, tapped the pen to it and it played back the audio of him saying “Ok, I’ll take that as an action item.”

I’ve written in here before about my continuing efforts to get better at using some version of GTD to manage all my work. There are a lot of products out there. Some of which are really good, some, not so much. Things, which has been receiving a lot of attention lately went to version 1.0 last week and is now able to sync with the desktop client on the Mac. Between the easy interface, the level of detail it lets you get to and the fact that I can now work off of either my desktop or iphone (or ipod touch), it is definitely my app of choice for managing the onslaught of tasks I am still not quite able to get done each day.

The last thing I want to mention today, is Merlin. I’m a huge Merlin fan and have been for a number of years. If you use a Mac, and do serious project planning, it is the most robust client available. For me, the line in the sand was the ability to separate work and duration. None of the competing products allow that level of planning. For a while now, the desktop has also allowed you to imbed things like register items and documents (project plans, change requests, etc.) right into the plan, making them available right from the client. It also lets you read and write MS Project files. But Merlin is making another huge leap with the ability to share to the web and iPhone (or iPod Touch) that allows a real time update back to the client or server version of the project plan. This means I can serve my project file from the desktop or server and have my Windows and Linux users update their tasks from the browser window and I can see updates the moment they make them. There is no check in process - it feeds directly in over the internet. With the iPhone (or iPod Touch) I can not only look at my Gantt Chart on the device, but I can make the same updates and they push across the internet back into my plan in real time. I can even view the documents I’ve embeded into my project schedule on the iPhone (or iPod Touch) if the file type is one the device can read (like PDF). 

It has been a few years since I’ve looked at trying to get Project Server implemented anywhere, but the last time I checked, the cost to get it set up for testing in an enterprise environment was upwards of $100K (US). With the new Merlin capabilities, I can get all that set up and running, including the cost of a new machine (it will run on anything that has 1 GB of RAM and can run 10.4.9 or higher) for under $2K (US).