Using DevonThink as Your Intranet Wiki

00 people workingHaving a knowledge base is important for any operation. You will need to have a repository where people in your organization can easily lookup information such as operating documents, external contacts, or even (maybe) shared passwords to various systems.  In large corporations, you’ll often see this knowledge base in the company’s intranet – either a wiki or even SharePoint. Nevertheless small operations also need a repository to share information.

Some people recommend Google Docs for the information repository of a small company. But personally I found Google Docs rather slow – just like any other web-based application.  Not to mention that it’s only usable online and also subject to getting killed off like the way they’re killing Reader. Sure if you need it’s full capabilities like commenting, versioning, and access controls, you’ll probably just have to tolerate using a web application. But we don’t need such capabilities yet and we put a lot of value on speed & ease of use.

So we found that using DevonThink fits our use cases quite well. It’s a searchable repository of documents that can be synchronized across computers easily over the Internet – across countries over 1000km away (Aireen is currently living in Jakarta due to her pregnancy while I’m staying back in Singapore). Most importantly we can still use the knowledge base even when there is no Internet connection – useful when we’re not at home or for those quick work during commutes. DevonThink’s recent sync capability is really the “killer feature” that made this happen. We use DropBox to handle the actual data transfers between our two computers – but I suppose you can achieve similar results using other cloud sync services.

The Setup

Without further ado, here’s how you can use DevonThink as your small company’s knowledge base.

What you’ll need:

  1. DevonThink – preferrably the Pro version.
  2. DropBox accounts. You’ll need one account for each person involved.

How to set it up:

  1. Create your knowledge base as a DevonThink database.
  2. Zip-up the knowledge base database and copy them to each computer that will use it.
  3. Create a shared folder in DropBox and share that folder with each other DropBox accounts that will sync the database.
  4. For each computer set-up DevonThink local sync store and use the DropBox‘s shared folder as the local sync store to sync those databases.
Why a local sync store and not have DevonThink directly connect to DropBox? One reason: speed. It feels much faster to have DevonThink sync to a local DropBox folder then let the DropBox app transport it to the cloud. You see, when DevonThink syncs a database, you couldn’t use it until sync is completed. If syncing is done directly to DropBox’s servers, you’ll need to wait a few minutes or so to be able to start using the app. Add this time to the amount of time the database gets synced during the day and it adds up quite a bit. But if DevonThink syncs to a local storage, you can use it immediately and just let DropBox do its thing in the background.
How to setup DevonThink syncing via DropBox local storage.
  1. Open the DevonThink database to sync.
  2. Open DevonThink’s preferences and go to the Sync tab
  3. In the rightmost column, click on the arrow just below “+” and select “Add New Local Sync Store”.
  4. Save the sync store to a DropBox sub-folder that you’ve already shared with the other DropBox user that you’re going to sync with.
  5. Click on Sync Now and wait until both DevonThink have done it’s sync and DropBox have uploaded the sync store completely.
  6. Go to the second computer and wait until DropBox have completely downloaded your new sync store.
  7. Open a copy of the same database you have set up sync earlier and repeat from Step 2.
While setting up the second computer, you should see DevonThink saying “The remote database seems to be a copy of the local database…” message. This is normal and that’s what you want to do. Just click OK to sync these databases.
 Devon Think Sync Duplicate Database
When you’re done you should see something like this in DevonThink’s sync preferences in both computers.
 DevonThink sync preferences
After you’ve set this up, you may want to make sure that the sync store is up-to-date before you can start using it on a daily basis:
  1. On the other computer click on Sync Now.
  2. Wait until DevonThink have done its thing and DropBox have copied all files into its servers.
  3. On the other computer also wait for DropBox to download everything.
  4. Then also click Sync Now on the other computer to bring the first database up-to-date.

The sync process will took a while for this initial stage. But when this is done and both copies of the database are already in sync with each others, any additional sync should be quite fast since only the changes are transferred through the network.

Furthermore you’ll probably just want to sync whenever the database is opened or closed and not hourly schedule. I’ve tried using the “sync hourly” option but then DevonThink bounces its icon whenever it completes syncing. It also opens a “sync in progress” window which can cause the desktop to switch between spaces when this window is shown. As both of these are distracting, I recommend against hourly syncing.

Summary

Plus points for using DevonThink as a knowledge base store:

  • It feels fast! Thanks to background DropBox-based syncing.
  • Integrates easily with other applications that you already use (e.g. you can drop an Excel file into DevonThink and it’ll gladly take it).
  • Faster than Google Docs or any other web app.
  • A lot cheaper than Evernote (you’ll definitely need the premium version to share notes or work offline).
Some drawbacks to this setup:
So that’s all for now. Happy syncing!

Synchronizing MacBook Air with Samsung Galaxy S3

Apparently there are people who are still not aware that Samsung Galaxy 3 can be synchronised with MacBook Air. One of them is my brother, although he has been using Samsung for more than a year. That’s why I am writing this article. Yes, I recently bought a Samsung Galaxy 3 phone after deciding I need a real device to test my application development. So synchronisation is a must :).

Here are the steps you will need to do to synchronise both of them:

1. Make sure you have a fully updated Mac OS system.

2. After you buy your Samsung phone, make sure to follow the basic setups written in the user manual.

3. Download the latest version of Samsung Kies from www.samsung.com/kies

4. Click the button ‘Download for Mac OS’.

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5. Wait for the download to finish, then click the .dmg file from your Downloads folder.

6. The below screen will pop up.

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7. Do not drag the pkg icon to the uninstall icon.

8. Double click the pkg icon.

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9. If your Mac is displaying the warning message above, just click OK. This happens because of the new gate keeper feature from Mac, recently added, starting from Lion. It is meant to safe keep users from unintentionally installing apps which are actually viruses.

10. Click the ‘Control’ button and do a single click at your track pad. The following pop up will be displayed. Click ‘Open’.

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11. The short cut will enable a one time installation, circumventing the gate keeper.

12. Then click ‘Open’ again when the following screen is displayed.

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13. Click ‘Continue’ on the following screen, then click ‘Continue’ again.

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14. Click ‘Agree’ on the user agreement page.

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15. Click ‘Install’ on the following page.

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16. Enter your Mac password and click ‘Install Software’

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17. Click ‘Continue Installation’ on the following screen.

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18. Wait for the installation to finish, then restart your Mac. Remember to close other applications first or save your work.

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19. Kies is now on your Applications folder. You can explore its functionality from Samsung’s website :). Have fun.

Never use iTunes Wi-Fi sync again

Wi-Fi sync is great – you don’t need to plug in your iPad or iPhone to sync with your computer. This is wonderful when you subscribe to podcasts using iTunes and need to freshen up your iOS devices every day with new podcasts. That is if it always works reliably.

However in my experience of Wi-Fi syncing, quite often it wipes out my iPad’s music and video libraries, leaving me with no media at all on the iPad. Sometimes it happens at the worst possible time when I’m traveling or in a real hurry.

I’ve reported this to Apple via rdar://10524642 and a another (similar) issue via rdar://11644031. The later bug report was sent in for iOS 5.0 and it looks like Apple haven’t done anything about the core problem since the original submission.

If this happens to you and your iOS’s media libraries got nullified after a Wi-Fi sync, there is an easy fix for it. Simply re-sync your media in iTunes.

  1. Connect your iOS device to your computer via USB.
  2. Open iTunes and untick (uncheck) both the Sync Music and Sync Video checkboxes.
     iTunes Sync Music Checkbox
  3. Sync your device.
  4. Open iTunes and then re-select the Sync Music and Sync Video checkboxes – or restore it to whatever selection that was there previously.
  5. Sync your device again.

At this point your iDevice should have its media libraries restored. Go ahead and open the Music or Video apps in the device to make sure that all your media are present and playable.

Now as a final step, disable Wi-Fi syncing and keep note to never enable it again.

ITunes do not sync Wi-Fi

For me, I’d rather have the small inconvenience of plugging in my iPad every time I need to sync rather than not having any music or videos when I needed them the most.

Podcasting your RSS feed?

With a world streaming with information, gushing from all over the place, you would ask, who needs another one? But the internet is not created equally in all parts of the world, especially in third world countries.

While I was visiting my family in Indonesia. I realized how awful the internet connection there, except when you are in the hotel or in a private home with cable. You won’t be able to open a webpage without waiting a few minutes. Watching TV does not help much for world travelers, unless you speak bahasa, because the news are mostly in bahasa.

This is where News Anchor for Mac comes in. News Anchor for Mac 2.4.5, is a lightweight RSS application. You will need to buy it from the AppStore for 29.99 $, but I think it is worth the price. RSS is basically the text data given by news sites. So when you download your news, using RSS, you will only get the news, without the frills. You will need to read by yourself to get more details on this baby. But I will spill a few beans here relating to creating a podcast.

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The screen you will get after installing News Anchor for Mac

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When I want to know the latest news, I just need to click the Refresh button, then it will update all its RSS channel. It’s pretty fast.

Frankly when I am in Jakarta, I don’t always open my Mac wherever I go. Like when I’m stuck in traffic, opening your laptop is way to dangerous, unless you want some thugs to smash the window and snatch it away. The good thing is your feed RSS can also be ported into a podcast, so you can hear it in your iPhone, or smartphone, while on the go. Below are some screens on how to configure the podcast.

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Click the ‘i’ icon, and remember to select ‘Generate podcast’, ‘add to iTunes’. It will get automatically synced to iTunes. Afterwards, since I am using a Blackberry, I run my Blackberry device manager, and sync the folder where the podcast is located with my Blackberry. You can see physically where the folder is by clicking the button ‘Show in Finder’. You will be able to find the podcast in the Music folder. Afterwards just listen to the news. Yes the voice is a bit robotic, but I like the synchronization feature between my Mac and my smartphone. Really gets me connected everywhere.

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