Getting published just got a whole lot easier

January 19, 2012  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

Apple has released quite a few products in the past couple of years. I am loving Final Cut Pro X. And some of the iPhone upgrades have been tremendous. But I don’t think I have been quite as excited about a new product since the iPad was first announced.

Today’s announcement of iBooks Author could be that big for lawyers. Historically, getting published has been a big deal. It’s typically a lot of work (and often luck) to make it happen. But the ability to reach more people with your message and raise your credibility has been worth it.

With the rise of e-publishing, the barrier to entry for publishing has never been lower. And iBooks Author may have just smashed that barrier down entirely. Creating a professional-looking iBook publication appears now to be as simple as making a Keynote presentation or Pages document.

If you’re a little technologically savvy and have the patience to sit and write, adding “author” after “J.D” to your C.V. just got a whole lot easier.

Steve’s Legacy Redux

October 9, 2011  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

I have learned a few things in the days since Steve Jobs passed.  First, I really wish I could write like John Gruber, Walter Isaccson, and others.

Second, I have learned just how many people had strong feelings for Steve’s contribution to society, myself and my wife included.  There was just something wholly magical and grand about Steve, but deeply human and flawed at the same time.

Third, I have come to realize just how generous Steve Jobs was of himself.  Some have tried to paint Steve as uncharitable.  His decision to end Apple’s charitable giving when he returned as CEO and failure to sign the Bill Gates Giving Pledge are often cited.

But consider this.  Steve Jobs had surgery to remove his pancreatic cancer in 2004.  He had to know then that the odds were stacked against him.  Only 4% of pancreatic cancer patients live even 5 years.  And half of pancreatic cancer patients don’t even live 5 months.

No one would have blamed Steve Jobs if he had just walked away after his diagnosis.  He was already fabulously wealthy.  Fortunate ranked him as the 74th richest American in 2004 with a net worth of $2.6 billion.  Far behind Bill Gates at $48 billion.  But more than enough for Steve to spend his remaining days in quiet solitude with his family.

Instead, Steve Jobs gave us seven more years of his brilliance and drive.  He set out to change the world:  iTunes, iPhone, iPad, Mac as a real option, and who knows what else in the pipeline.  We’ll probably never know how much Steve gave personally to charity.  And frankly, I don’t care.  Steve gave of himself, at a time when he truly didn’t need to and when many others would have stepped down.

Steve, your charity won’t be forgotten.  How can it?  You changed the world.

Steve’s Legacy

October 5, 2011  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

We finally received the news we were dreading.  Steve Jobs passed away today.

There are lots of ways to remember Steve.  Some will remember his as a visionary.  Others as a terrible person (yes, such comments are already appearing on message boards).

I admire Steve for all that he was.  For all the glory Steve gets as the “creator” of the iPhone and other neat gadgets, we shouldn’t forget that his first truly great achievement was Pixar.  Indeed, Steve’s most enduring legacy will probably be that he created the right environment for others to be visionary.

And sometimes being a visionary means cutting out that which holds you back.  When he announced his retirement, we heard the feel good stories such as the one about the color gradient in the Google logo.  But there are other stories too, some that you wouldn’t exactly call “feel good”.

And based on those stories, you might say that Steve was kind of a jerk at times.  But these stories were, in the end, about making products better.

I’ve learned a lot from watching Steve, Apple, and Pixar over the years.  And I will continue to learn from Steve long after he’s gone.

I just wish it hadn’t been so soon.

Thanks Steve, for everything.

Our Experience with Lion So Far

September 6, 2011  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

I always debate whether to share the big Apple announcements on Apple Briefs.  I usually come down on the side of not doing so, under the theory that anyone who reads this has already read the big Apple news on three or four other sites already.

And so, on the day Lion was released, I simply installed it and began using it.  I had been using the developer preview for a while on our server.  But I hadn’t used it day-to-day.

So far I would describe the experience as:  cautious optimism.

Lion certainly does some big things.  All new apps for the core tools (Mail, Address Book, iCal, Preview).  Versions, with corresponding updates to iWork.  Remembering open windows.  Redesigned Dashboard.  All new Launchpad and Mission Control.

Here’s what I like the best:

  • The new Mail is pretty nice.  Not all the existing plugins work, though.  So the experience has been mixed.  Still, it’s a definite upgrade.  I like the new threaded message view (where you can see the entire thread in one shot).  And the overall interface is just much more pleasing and friendly.
  • iCal is a little less fugly.
  • Preview is a major improvement.  It no longer feels like a blast from the past (everything else seemed moving to the future but Preview in Snow Leopard felt like a Panther app for some reason).  Lion’s Preview is a lot more slick.
  • Lion Server feels more friendly for casual use (but see below).

Here’s what isn’t working:

  • It’s definitely slower.  I noticed that within about 10 minutes of installing Lion.
  • It’s also buggier.  I get a lockup about every 5-7 days.  That never happened with Snow Leopard.  And there are plenty of smaller things (trouble unlocking screen, missing icons when saving some files, etc).
  • I initially hated the new way Lion handles duplicate files when copying (“Keep Both” is a problem when dragging multiple files).  But they’ve mostly fixed that with the 10.7.1 update.
  • Launchpad is next to useless.  I have seven pages of apps displayed and I can’t understand how I am supposed to make it better than the Finder for getting to an app.
  • The Finder’s prettier.  But I still end up waiting for it while an external hard drive spins up.  Why do all of the Finder windows block when one window needs a hard drive to spin up?  It makes no sense.
  • Lion Server is a little stripped down.  It’s possible to restore some functionality by manually installing additional tools.  But it’s frustrating to have things removed.

Our verdict, as you can see, is essentially a hung jury (with a major lean toward “guilty”).  At this time, I don’t see any compelling reason for a business to upgrade to Lion (especially if everything you have is working just fine).  We’re leaving the rest of our machines on Snow Leopard until things stabilize and more apps are fully Lion compatible.

Down the road, I do expect that to change.  And using a laptop certainly brings additional benefits (the new apps, full screen, etc.).  But for our office use, we’re staying with Snow Leopard on the desktop for now.

Finding the right online accounting service

May 19, 2011  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

We have been ready to take the next step in our accounting practices for a while now.  I basically used the opportunity to teach myself Numbers.  But Numbers is stretched to the limit and I need more.

Of course, my mind went immediately to QuickBooks.  I signed up for the free trial of QuickBooks Online because it seemed like it had the right set of features and I could access it from anywhere with ease (office, home office).

I was less than impressed with QuickBooks Online, to put it mildly.  It tries to be like a desktop application, but just fails.  It is not very intuitive, and even something like viewing your checking register takes more steps than it should.

So I took another look at the Mac accounting options.  The two primary challengers seem to be QuickBooks Mac and AccountEdge.

QuickBooks of course has the reputation as the Gold Standard.  But a trip to Amazon eliminated any idea that I might buy QuickBooks for Mac.  There is currently one less 1-star review (38) than the combined total of 3,4, and 5-star reviews (39).  So much for QuickBooks.

Unfortunately, AccountEdge 2009 doesn’t fare much better in the Amazon reviews.  There is a newer version of AccountEdge available, but I have struggled to find any helpful reviews or impressions of it online.

And so it was back to the drawing board.

Having recently decided to use an online CRM application for our law practice, I decided to take a look at other online accounting services.  I couldn’t have expected what I discovered.  It was like walking into a tropical rainforest, with every size, shape, and color of critter imaginable.

I have identified the following suspects so far:

And then there are the tools that work together with the accounting services, like Freshbooks and Harvest.  We currently use Billings for invoicing, but I am open to alternatives (particularly if it’s integrated with the accounting service).

Some of the services are clearly targeted toward the UK (or Commonwealth countries) or Europe.  But it’s tough to rule any of them out at this point.

I welcome your opinions to help narrow down the field.  Have any of you used one of the online accounting services I mentioned (or one I didn’t mention)?