Mark Bult Design: San Francisco, CA, Established 1988

Web design and development for small and large business, e-commerce, b2b, b2c, SAAS, and community websites. User experience design and usability testing.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


This is never a sound you want to hear in the street out front of your home at night.

We live right at a slight bend in the road where people who are driving waaay too fast (and are probably impaired) tend to not realize the bend's there, and side-swipe a car or two on the other side of the street. It's happened at least once while we've lived here, and according to our neighbors it happens a lot.

Last night they didn't side-swipe any cars on the other side of the street. They smashed right into the back end of the one parked right in front of our place. Unfortunately, it was Velma's car.

I heard it because I was up late working, and I went right out to see if everyone was alright. It sounded like a helluva smash so I knew someone's car was gonna be fucked.

I didn't know Velma had parked on the street that day.

I was right pissed when I walked down to the smashed car to see that it was hers. I almost couldn't believe our luck.

The driver and her boyfriend were not agreeable at first when I went up to them demanding to know who the driver was (they'd already stepped out of their Chevy Tahoe by the time I got outside). I wanted their license right then and there, in case they tried to drive off. The driver — the woman — was shook up. The guy was lighting a cigarette and refusing to answer me. I went back inside to call the cops.

Velma was asleep and hadn't even heard the impact. I didn't want to wake her up but I knew I was going to have to, since I didn't know whether our insurance company had any recommended towing company. And the Honda was certainly going to have to be towed.

The SUV (loathe loathe loathe) had been going very fast. On a 25 MPH residential street. *Grrr* I heard the skid and the impact, plus the damn thing had launched our Honda a full two and-a-half car-lengths away from where it had been parked, shoving it into another car, and shoving that one under the back end of a truck. Two witnesses who had been walking down the street came and told me the SUV had torn away at high speed from the corner.

The cops came and took all the info. As usual, they were varying degrees of helpful and unhelpful, depending on which officer you dealt with. The neighbors came out and gave their condolences, and I eventually went in to wake Velma with the terrific news that her car was totaled.

The entire back end had been munched in, so we presume it's a lost cause (pictures on Velma's blog). Did I mention that the SUV had barely any damage by comparison? Loathe. Loathe. Loathe.

The tow trucks finally came and took the SUV away, then our poor Honda. Even with a totally tweaked rear wheel, the damn car was able to limp backwards off the curb and into the road. I couldn't believe the two truck guy was even gonna try, but it miraculously moved under its own power! Albeit very slowly, and with a lot of noise. *Groan*

Our tow truck guy was way nicer and better than the other person's. They loaded up and sped off, while our guy took the time to sweep up broken glass and pieces of plastic that had been splashed in a 20-foot radius.

Poor little Hondog. We emptied it out as best we could, and waved goodbye. Hours after this nightmare had begun, the little green car disappeared into the dark.

Now begins the wonderful part of dealing with insurance companies and the like. *Groan*


The environmental impact of the wine industry

Updated January 2009: Added link Jean-Charles Boisset’s talk at Compostmodern 08, and link to journal entry on recycling Tetra Paks.

A few weekends back I attended a conference called Compostmodern, which consisted mostly of panels and presentations about sustainability as it applies to the graphic design industry. A couple of the presentations diverged slightly from the main focus, but they were interesting nevertheless.

One such was given by Jean-Charles Boisset, president of De Loach Vineyards and Boisset Family Estates, which make a wide variety of wine and spirits under various labels, in California and France. The charismatic Boisset’s presentation was interesting on many fronts, but I was struck by some of the things I learned about the wine industry as a whole, and about his companies’ efforts in particular.

Update: Listen to Boisset’s entire talk: Download the MP3.


The global wine industry has a tremendous impact on the environment, from production and manufacturing through transportation and marketing, and ultimately with the consumer who must deal with the resulting packaging materials. Plenty of people don’t bother to recycle (or can’t) their wine bottles, and how many of us actually know what to do with corks, other than throw them in the trash?

Wine production itself accounts for a large amount of synthetic fungicides, herbicides, and fertilizers that end up in our earth and water. Not to mention the massive amounts of water used in grape production. “Likewise, untreated waste water from winery use — hosing down barrels, tanks and buildings — can harm the ecosystems in and around rivers, lakes and ponds.” [source]

A 2006 study showed that a pound of waste is created for every bottle of wine made, including the release of 16g of sulphur dioxide into the air. According to Boisset, packaging alone accounts for a whopping 49% of the cost of every bottle of wine manufactured (including design and production of said packaging, presumably).


A growing number of wineries are embracing sustainable techniques, and some — like De Loach — are making use of “biodynamics.” I had heard the term before but I didn’t really know much about it until Boisset’s presentation about how his family vineyards in France are managed. Later I browsed the De Loach website and was enthralled by the unusually detailed description of what the vineyard is doing over several years to convert the estate entirely to biodynamic production.

From the De Loach website: “Converting 22 acres of vineyards to biodynamic farming methods requires time and patience. Before planting the new vineyard at DeLoach, we are enriching the soil by letting the land lay fallow through two cover crop successions and applying specific biodynamic compost and preparations.”

“We will apply horn manure and barrel compost in the fall in order to introduce more beneficial microorganisms into the soil. Horn manure is the most widely-recognized symbol of biodynamics; [Rudolph] Steiner named it prep 500 in his original lecture. To make it, we bury a cow horn filled with cow manure into the vineyards and let it remain over winter. The horn provides nutrients to microorganisms in the soil that turn the manure into compost. The finished compost is essentially a ‘bug in a jug’, or soil inoculum, that contains microorganisms naturally adapted to the farm’s soil since that is where the compost is made. The barrel compost we will use was started in March 2005, and is a mixture of organic barley straw and clean cow manure, containing no hormones or other chemicals....”

Alternative wine packaging

I’ve long been aware of several companies’ efforts to green the wine-making process, ever since 1996 or so when I learned of Fetzer Vineyards’ use of recycled glass in their bottles and other sustainability efforts. I visited Fetzer on a trip north one year with my friend Laura Stec, a chef and environmental educator.

Another vineyard I’ve been impressed by is Bonny Doon, located in our very own Santa Cruz Mountains. They’ve pushed the industry to adopt the decidedly unsexy screw cap as a superior alternative to corks, for both environmental and freshness reasons.

Boisset, for its part, is packaging some of its wines in the even less sexy Tetra Pak, an aseptic package that you might be more familiar with from soy milk cartons. Boisset’s French Rabbit label is sold in this alternative packaging.

As others have noted, the Tetra Pak is problematic. While it is theoretically recyclable, in the U.S. there are practically no communities that accept aseptic packaging among their recyclables (update: How to recycle practically anything). According to Boisset this packaging is more recyclable in Europe, but the fact remains that the U.S. recycling economy isn’t up to speed on this packaging yet, and it may be another decade before we see its wide-spread recyclability (let’s not forget that much of the middle of the U.S. still has no municipal recycling at all).

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thursday Top 5

Time-lapse video: Making a digital portrait of Thom Yorke

How to make bread
lol! I like this comment: "Add baking to the list of typical hobbies for gay, white, disco ninjas."

Declaration of Romantic Intent
When you truly (euphemism for attraction) someone, nothing says it like a form letter.

My pal Aaron Newton launched his new site a little over a week ago, and it's garnering some good reviews. It's a social-web aggregator allowing you to keep track of you and your friends' activity on a bunch of services like Yelp, Digg, Twitter, and YouTube, but do it all in one place. I helped Aaron a bit with some graphic advice early on.

Clark and Michael
I don't know how to describe these webisodes. They're just funny. You might recognize Michael Cera from Juno or "Arrested Development." You gotta start at Episode 1 though.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Head over heels

Velma and I headed for the snow last weekend for the first time this season, and I was looking forward to snowboarding on Saturday and then probably relaxing in the cabin for the rest of the holiday, with plenty of reading by the fire and maybe some sledding or snow-shoeing. We went up with a few coworkers of Velma's, two of whom have a small house in Markleeville.

On Saturday, the others were going to cross-country ski and so I was the only one who headed for the lifts. I went to Kirkwood and got my rental and headed out on the slopes. It was a pretty awesome day, sunny and beautiful, but the snow wasn't too hard yet. I'd been to Kirkwood once or twice before, but not for a few years. Some of the names of the runs were familiar, but some weren't. But I was looking forward to some more challenging double black diamond runs because I'd become a little bored last year with the ones I'd done in north Lake Tahoe. So I headed up Wagon Wheel — one of the long lifts — toward the top of the mountain.

I headed up and shooshed down those slopes a few times, having fun and getting my legs back after a year's hiatus. The previous couple years I'd made the mistake of assuming I should play it safe on the season's first few runs and just stick to the greens and blues while I remembered what to do. But they invariably were way too easy and I'd be off for the blacks straight away, feeling like all I did was waste a bunch of snow time on bunny slopes. After my second year I didn't really need much of a refresher each subsequent year. I just needed to get back on fun runs and it all came back to me.

Which it did this year too. I was having fun, and it had all come back to me quickly on the first one. And Wagon Trail and The Wall are great, long runs. Not to steep and not too wide, but big and really long, and plenty of fun.

Well, to cut a long story short, I caught an edge and high-sided (translation: I went head over heels), and landed straight on my shoulder. I heard it make a simple three-pop "Craccck" as I hit and instantly knew I'd either dislocated it or broken it. A second later I'd come to a halt and realized I'd also had the wind knocked out of me pretty good.

After a moment or two I'd gotten my breath back but I could tell I'd knocked my shoulder good. I was feeling around myself to make sure everything was working and in its proper place, and to see if anything hurt too much to be moving it. When I reached my left hand up to check the right shoulder I could tell I had a problem. "That big bump isn't usually there," I thought. Well, it hadn't broken the skin, so I was not going to panic. And I wasn't hurting that bad at all. I could move the arm a fair bit, so I assumed it was probably just dislocated.

After about five or ten minutes of people shooshing by, a few stopped close enough that I could holler over to one guy, asking him to send up the Ski Patrol. I'd be foolish at that point to try to get down under my own power, unless I was going to walk. No sooner had the guy headed off, than Heather of the Ski Patrol showed up (she'd spotted me a few minutes before) and asked me if I needed assistance, to which I heartily agreed. As she unpacked some materials to make a sling, she asked, "Have you ever done this before?"

"What?" I returned. "Asked for Ski Patrol's assistance, or dislocated a shoulder? Neither, actually."

She made me a quick sling and her counterpart showed up and I slid onto the toboggan so he could take me down. I had crashed at a spot nearly all the way down Buckboard (dammit, it isn't even a hard run, it's a blue!), so it only took a couple minutes to get to the clinic.

The medicos took over. Kirkwood has a small clinic equipped with an X-ray setup so they can fix up most anything that typically comes off the slopes. In a couple hours they'd patched me up with an arm-brace to immobilize my right arm, a few X-rays to take to my doctor back in the Bay Area, and some Vicodin. The doctor was surprised at how much mobility I had considering it was actually a broken clavicle after all; he had also thought it was merely a dislocation, until the X-rays were done. So I didn't bother with any pain medication other than the two Tylenol they gave me while I was there. But I figured it'd be another story in a few hours and I'd better head back and get ready for a night of pain.

I was surprised that the actual shoulder did not hurt more, but during the examination the doctor was pretty sure I'd probably separated some ribs from their cartilage. I was definitely sore around the ribs once I started rubbing my chest and back and neck to see where it hurt most. In fact, the ribs have definitely been the most painful part of this journey for the past few days.

I left the clinic, turned in my rental stuff, gathered my stuff from the lockers, and headed back to the car. I was going to have to drive myself about a half-hour back to Markleeville with one hand. Using a manual transmission car. I wasn't too worried about that, as I've shifted with my left hand before just to see if it could be done. But I definitely had to take it slowly. For one thing, it was just too difficult to reach 5th gear with my left hand, so I didn't bother. And turning my head and neck to check both ways before making a turn was problematic at best. Luckily, there were few other cars on the route back. I even stopped to pump gas in Markleeville (and thanked bog that I didn't literally have to pumpit), and then at the general store for some Tylenol and a couple packs of frozen corn to ice my shoulder with.

I made it back to the house just as the others were driving away, going out for an hour or two of snow-shoeing and exercising the dogs, Poor Velma was so appalled and worried at my news that I had to insist that they all leave on their short trek, and that I'd be fine for a couple of hours. I was going to drink some wine and see if I could ice my shoulder and read a book at the same time.

The rest of the weekend was a lot of fun actually, despite being incredibly sore a lot of the time and at least uncomfortable all the time. On Sunday the five of us tackled a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle depicting a painting of a fresh water marsh from the Audubon collection, one so detailed that we thought we might not finish until 2 am. It helped me get my mind off the discomfort even though I was hobbling around the table hunched over like a cripple and forced to use only one hand. And we finished before 11 pm.

Sleeping the first night was incredibly uncomfortable, made easier only because I decided it was time to give in and take the Vicodin, and made worse by the fact that I had to sleep the whole time on my left side, parts of which kept going numb. At one point my entire left leg became so cramped that all the other pains caused by the actual injury paled by comparison and I had to get up and walk it off, or hobble it off as the case may be. I must've pinched a nerve or something, because it's two days later and that leg is still pretty sore.

One of the things I'm most bummed about is that I broke my streak. I'd gone my entire life without breaking any bones. All those mountain biking days and not a single major incident. But this spill in the snow took me out.

It's going to be interesting to see how much I can work at my computer. My right side is pretty out of commission, what with an arm strapped to my chest and my ribs so tight and achy that my torso's shaped sort of like a squiggle. Right now as I type this, I've got my tablet on my lap because it's really not possible to reach my mouse. Typing is not too difficult but I have to prop a pillow behind me and I have pretty limited movement. Plus I have a heating pad balanced on my shoulder and I have to put my feet up so I can reach the keys. Let me just say I'm fixing a lot more typos than usual.

Tomorrow I see a local doctor, but the doc on the mountain indicated that while this was a nicely broken shoulder, this sort of break should mend without loss of movement or permanent damage. I'm going to be pretty useless for a few weeks, especially until the rib pain sorts itself out, but otherwise I should be fine long-term.

So, no more 'boarding this year, but next year I'm gonna have to make up for lost time.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Thursday Top 5

Mural Mosaic
Interesting large murals made by putting together squares painted by numerous artists.

Fake Ben Folds
The piano man teams up with Improv Everywhere to pull some fast ones on his fans.

20 Things You Didn’t Know About Science Fiction
Proving how geeky the truly geeky can be.

Philip K. Dick wrote a young adult novel?

iPhone's magic apps

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What I've been doing

Despite what you might think, it's not all fun and games now that I don't have a full-time gig anymore.

If you know me well, you know I've always been obsessively busy with dozens of little projects (and some not-so-little ones). On top of that, having a full-time job for the past several years has often left me so tired by the end of each day that lots of little things had piled up that I wanted to do, but didn't generally have the energy or time to accomplish after a full day's work.

So now I get to do those things. And there are a lot of them. I haven't even finished listing them all. But here's some of the ones I've already been doing in my first three weeks as a free man.
  • Making lists.
  • Blogging more.
  • Calling the car insurance people.
  • Looking up sections of the California vehicle code online (to no avail).
  • Resigning myself to the fact that I have to go to the DMV.
  • Going to Berkeley to buy a used laptop for Velma's dad.
  • Picking up a specific kind of powdered milk at an obscure Indian grocery.
  • Sleeping as late as I like.
  • Listening to NPR.
  • Planning all sorts of things and putting them on my calendar (I have more stuff on my calendar now than I did the last three months of my job!).
  • Posting photos to the photoblog.
  • Developing specs for the Western Front News project.
  • Designing an entirely new blog template.
  • Trying to figure out some weird WordPress behaviors.
  • Having coffee with Holly to hear about her latest projects.
  • Going through enormous mounds of little pieces of paper that have all manor of things written on them that I meant to do when I had time; and doing them, little by little.
  • Writing a how-to.
  • Moving tens of thousands of MP3s onto a new drive so I can consolidate multiple iTunes libraries.
  • Reading some of the magazines that have been piling up for 9 months.
  • Updating my address book.
  • Working on my portfolio.
  • Fighting a losing battle with the spammers.
  • Drawing.
  • Researching all kinds of things online.
  • Writing reviews.
  • Organizing my LP records.
  • Going through my Ozzy collection.
  • Making a photobook.
  • Watching DVDs.
  • Designing an ad or two.
  • Organizing my fonts.
  • Updating the Mac Mini to Leopard.
  • Organizing all my Ozark Handspun files.
  • Posting BAA photos to Flickr.
  • Reading the gas meter.
  • Paying bills.
  • Consolidating accounts and passwords.
  • Taking more photos.
  • Petting the cat. A lot.
  • Downloading.
  • Uploading.
  • Reviewing scans.
  • Organizing my photos (digital and otherwise).
  • Checking out new software.
  • Consolidating all my notes from three computers on one.
  • Figuring out a backup strategy.
  • Sneezing (damn allergies).
  • Eating bagels.
  • Doing laundry (okay, only once so far).
  • Reading books.
  • Letting the cat in and out several times a day.
  • Reorganizing my bookshelves a bit.
  • Fitting all my stuff from the CNET office in the home office.
  • Stirring the sourdough starter.
  • Taking the car down to Los Gatos for storage again.
  • Doing taxes.
  • Updating my knowledge about the state of green design (and attending a conference about it).
  • Organizing my drawers.
  • Trimming trees.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Trek Soho S

This is the one of the bikes I like. And I gotta say, Trek has a really good website.

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Thursday Top 5

Vinyl Sleeve Heads
Art made from album art.

Harmonica + Beatbox: Final Cut
I think I posted a video of this guy, Yuri Lane, a couple years ago. Amazing skillz.

Bog we are so dumb. D-U-M dumb.

20/20: "Stupid in America"
Oh man, it gets worse. The whole Miss Teen South Carolina thing led me to this "20/20" episode. It takes about ten minutes before you see some hope: Some of the alternative schools, where teaching actually happens (shocking!). Oh bog, this makes me want to vote Libertarian again.

Voice of Bart Simpson gives $10 million to Scientology
I don't know what's more appalling, that she gave that much dough to the lunatic cult, or that she earns $250,000 for every episode of "The Simpsons."

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Jasper Morello and the Lost Airship

Jasper Morello and the Lost Airship is the first of four shorts in an Australian animated series titled The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello. The animation style is at once creepy and deeply beautiful. I'd really like to buy the DVD of the whole series, because they're so wonderful looking (for a teaser of better-quality video than YouTube offers, watch the trailer on the official website), but for some reason the DVD is not sold in the USA or Europe.

Here's the first short, in three parts.
Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Is Apple improving its environmental record, or is it just spin?

Did anyone else notice that Steve Jobs actually made it a point, albeit briefly, to talk about Apple's environmental goals at his MacWorld keynote last month?

When I was checking out the specs for the new MacBook Air on the Apple website I was astonished to see on the Tech Specs page, a big, bold box labeled Environmental Status Report.

A short while later I went looking for Apple's page on their environmental standards, which I had seen last year but wasn't sure where to find it since they've redesigned their site in the meantime. I went to the home page of and figured I'd have to click on "Site Map" and then look for the link there, but I was surprised to see an "Environment" link at the bottom of the home page, right next to "Job Opportunities."

It all made me wonder whether Apple is beginning to do a better job with their product designs, or whether it's just their marketing department that's doing a better job with spin.

As I mentioned here a couple years ago, Greenpeace has been critical of Apple, citing the company as the 4th worst tech firm in 2006 and launching the Green My Apple campaign in 2007.

Likewise, in 2005 the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) launched it's Bad Apple campaign to criticize, among other things, the non-ubgradeability of the iPod and Apple's reluctance to institute a take-back solution for electronics recycling. (SVTC's campaign was itself criticized in a 2006 article on Roughly Drafted.)

I've been wondering if these two watchdog groups had been following Apple's progress and what their take was. Alas, the SVTC's website search sucks and Google doesn't seem to have even spidered their content (!), so I didn't find much there, although it seems that SVTC is still pushing Apple for shareholder resolutions that would improve its computer take-back efforts.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace seems to have discontinued its Green My Apple campaign after Steve Jobs issued a very public pronouncement last spring on a page titled "A Greener Apple," wherein he described the company's plans to, among other things, phase out some of the worst chemicals found in CRT monitors. I thought this was a little bit disingenuous on Apple's part, however, since it had been clear for a while that Apple was phasing out CRTs for business and product design reasons, not environmental ones. Jobs' letter also signaled improvements in e-waste reduction via upgrades to its electronics take-back program.

In a statement about Jobs' letter, Greenpeace said, "It's not everything we asked for. Apple has declared a phase-out of the worst chemicals in its product range, Brominated Fire Retardants (BFRs) and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) by 2008. That beats Dell and other computer manufactures' pledge to phase them out by 2009... But while customers in the US will be able to return their Apple products for recycling knowing that their gear won't end up in the e-waste mountains of Asia and India, Apple isn't making that promise to anyone but customers in the USA. Elsewhere in the world, an Apple product today can still be tomorrow's e-waste. Other manufacturers offer worldwide takeback and recycling. Apple should too!" [Full article]

Greenpeace also issued a detailed analysis of Jobs' pronouncement last May. Almost a year later, though, they don't seem to have put out a follow-up yet. I hope they will.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Presidential bumper stickers

Well, it's almost over. A year from now George W. Bush will not be the USA's president anymore (for the record, he was never my president). Before it's a moot point, I wanted to post some of my favorite political stickers from the past four years:

Someone else for President
Is it 2008 yet?
Pretend it's all okay

And one of my faves was the Bush/Voldemort campaign sticker, which Velma and I first saw in St. Louis before the Idiotic Electorate re-elected the Idiot in Chief.

There's a big collection of really good anti-Bush bumper stickers for sale here.

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Syncing your home and office Macs

I was leaving my job and had accumulated three-plus years of contacts, website bookmarks, emails, etc., that I wanted to keep and transfer to my home computer, but I didn't necessarily want to use the same apps at home that my company used. For example, Mac users in my office used Microsoft's Entourage (the Mac equivalent of Outlook) for address book, shared calendering, and email.

Despite two or three super-annoying bugs that Microsoft never fixed in the three-plus years I used it, I actually liked Entourage more than any Microsoft software I've used since the old System 9 days when the Mac version of Internet Explorer was the only really decent browser on the market for a few years (obviously this was before Safari, Netscape had been swallowed whole by AOL and was beginning to suck pretty bad, and Firefox hadn't even been invented).

But why would I splurge for Microsoft's Entourage at home when my Mac comes with three great free apps (Address Book, iCal, and Mail) that do fundamentally the same things Entourage does, and all work together too?

So I needed to figure out a way to sync data from the work computer with the home computer, while also switching from some apps to different ones. There were a lot of tips on the web about how to switch from Entourage to Address Book or how to go from Outlook to Entourage, but these tips all required that you were either doing this on one computer, or had the two computers in the same room.

I needed solutions that would work between work and home. It took me a few days of researching and experimenting, but I came up with some solutions that worked well.

Read on for solutions to these problems:
Problem #1: Can I export my Entourage contacts and email?
Problem #2: How do I get my IM contacts to my home computer?
Problem #3: How do I sync that newly exported data from work to home?
Problem #4: How can I take my web browser's bookmarks home?
Problem #5: I don't want to lose all my web site passwords saved in my browser!
Problem #6: How do I open Word documents at home?
Problem #7: Can I consolidate my home and work iTunes libraries?

Problem #1: Can I export my Entourage contacts and email?

Entourage to Address Book
This was easier than I expected. Entourage on OS X lets you export your contacts as vCards, which is a cross-platform text format (.vcf) that is recognized by almost any contact app (like Apple's Address Book). It's simple: In the Finder, make a new folder called vCards. In Entourage, select all your contacts, and just drag them all to the folder (it may take a couple minutes if you have a lot of contacts). Then, in Address Book, simply select File > Import > vCards... from the menu (see picture below), and navigate in the dialog box to the vCards folder you dumped your Entourage contacts into.

After that, I could sync my Address Book with .Mac to get them to the home computer. But more about that in a moment.

Entourage to Mail
This bit was unexpectedly simple too. Similar to the previous scenario, if you just drag an Entourage email folder or your entire in-box from the program to the Finder, all the data gets exported and packaged into the popular .mbox format. It even includes attachments, much to my surprise.

After that, all you have to do is transfer all those .mbox files to your home computer, and if you're going to use Apple's own Mail app at home like me, you simply open Mail and select File > Import Mailboxes... from the menu (see picture below).

Next you'll see a dialog box named Import (see picture below), in which you'll want to select Other from the list and hit Continue. Then you just use the ensuing dialog box to navigate to the .mbox files on your hard drive and then Mail will churn through them all (it may take a while if you have a lot of email) and put them in a new folder titled "Import."

Problem #2: How do I get my IM contacts to my home computer?

I use the excellent, multi-service, open source Adium X at both work and home, but Adium stores some of its contact data locally. So if you've added a nickname to a contact to remember that, for example, pirate2am is Hilary, then you only have that notation on the one computer, and the next time pirate2am IMs you while you're on the other computer, you may not remember who that is (don't you hate having to ask somebody "Who are you?" on IM?).

So my solution concentrated on finding a way to export my contact list from Adium at work and then syncing it with my contact list at home. There's no built-in function for this, and sadly there's not even an export function in Adium (although the latter is on their development roadmap), so I couldn't just export a tab-delimited or CSV file to take home and import.

At the same time, I also had duplicate contacts in Adium and Address Book, but in the IM client you normally have little more than their username, their IM service (AIM, Yahoo!, MSN, etc.), and maybe an avatar. In Address Book, you obviously have a lot more fields. But if you're like me, for some people's entries you don't have their IM, you always just have that in your IM client, so why bother? And perhaps you want to capture their avatar from the IM client and copy it into Address Book's nifty picture field.

Doing a Google search brought me (eventually) to Adium Book, a little OS X AppleScript app made by a Brazilian programmer named Aurelio.

This little app worked great, looking at Adium X and Address Book at the same time, comparing records, and giving me a simple interface for resolving conflicts (see picture below) like duplicate names and/or differing data for the same name. It even let me copy avatars back and forth, and if I had two different ones for a single person, it let me choose which one to use, or to keep a different one in each app.

Now that I had all my IM contacts copied from Adium X to Address Book, I still needed to get them home. So it was time to sync using .Mac.

Problem #3: How do I sync that newly exported data from work to home?

I'd been avoiding getting a .Mac account for years, since I couldn't justify paying $99 a year for things that I can already do on my own website (e.g. web pages, blogging, webmail, etc.), or through other services that have more robust features (e.g. photo sharing, bookmark syncing, etc.).

But because I've avoided .Mac, I've never been able to take advantage of the easy-to-use sync features that are built into all Macs. Because I had a deadline by which I needed to have my work data backed up and transfered to my home Mac, I thought it was time to give .Mac a whirl. Plus I could take advantage of the 60-day free trial and accomplish everything I wanted to do, and then if I still didn't think .Mac was worth it, I could drop it before having to pay for a full year.

There are actually two or three features of .Mac that I really like, and that are difficult to reproduce using other services (and certainly not in the easy and built-in way that .Mac works). Those features are: 1) Sync, 2) iDisk, and 3) Back to My Mac. That last one is only available to Leopard users, so until I upgrade I can't use it. But in the meantime, the first two make .Mac worth a try, and I must admit that Sync works so effortlessly that I'd almost be willing to pay for .Mac just because of that.

With .Mac you can sync your Safari bookmarks, Address Book contacts, email, calendars, keychains, and more (Leopard adds Dashboard widgets too). I wish it also worked with Firefox bookmarks, but I have other methods for that, described later.

Once I signed up for the .Mac trial period, I could suddenly sync my Address Book at work (which remember now contains all my contacts from Entourage and all my IM contacts), to .Mac's servers, and then go home and sync .Mac with my local machine(s). Suddenly I have exact copies of all my contacts at home as well as at work, plus I've got them on the web with .Mac, so I can access them from almost anywhere.

Problem #4: How can I take my web browser's bookmarks home?

.Mac also syncs your Safari bookmarks, but I primarily use Firefox, so .Mac wasn't going to cut it in this regard. Luckily, it's extremely simple to export/back up your Firefox bookmarks. Just select Bookmarks > Organize Bookmarks... from the menu (see picture below).

Firefox will bring up the Bookmarks Manager, in which you simply seelct File > Export... (see picture below), and you save the file as something like "Bookmarks_Firefox_January2008.html" on your hard drive. Then you move the file to your home computer, open the Bookmarks Manager in Firefox again, and select File > Import... from the menu.

There are some apps out there to help you resolve any duplicates, but that's a long, involved, and therefore separate tutorial, so I'm going to save that for another time. At least you now haven't lost all your bookmarks you collected on your computer at work.

Oh, and while I'm thinking of it, it's a pretty good idea to regularly export those bookmarks on your computer anyway, as a backup. I keep several years' worth of them in my Documents folder, all dated and organized by browser. I lost several years worth of bookmarks once in a hard browser crash, and I'm not going to risk that ever again.

Problem #5: I don't want to lose all my web site passwords saved in my browser!

If you're a Firefox user like me, you probably like Firefox's useful ability to store usernames and passwords at the many sites you have to log into every day, week, or month. If you're not using it, you can turn it on from the Firefox > Preferences... menu, then click on the Security icon/tab in the prefs dialog box that comes up (see picture below).

Obviously this functionality is only viable if you're not on a shared computer, and if you are using Apple's Keychain to securely store your master password. Otherwise, other people will see your username/password combination when they go to log in to Yahoo! or places like that.

I was switching from the work computer to full-time on the home computer, and I dreaded having to remember — and re-type! — all those passwords that I regularly used on the work computer. I searched in vain for an app that would export these from Firefox (which does not support this function itself, although it should) so I finally had to bite the bullet and type them all into a text file (you can't even drag and drop them out of FF's list!) which I then transferred to home and will have to re-enter.

Update: I don't know how I overlooked the Firefox extension Password Exporter when I was first looking for a solution. I've installed it now, but haven't tried it out yet. The documentation leads me to believe it can import as well, which would by useful.

Problem #6: How do I open Word documents at home?

This wasn't actually a problem for me, since I've avoided Word for years, and there are already plenty of alternatives to Word on the Mac, and even several web apps you can use instead. But for sake of completeness and because I predict there will be people who find this article who do use Word a lot, I'll mention some solutions.

This app is free and comes installed on every Mac with OS X, but most people don't realize it opens Word's .doc format. I use TextEdit for almost every simple text document I need to write that will eventually get printed or made into a PDF. You can drag-and-drop or cut-and-paste images into it with ease, and I think you can even drag-and-drop tabular data from other apps into it (I never need this, however, so I'm not positive). It lacks many of the vast "features" that make Word the worst of the bloatware in my book, but I never have any need for those features, and if I need to do complex layouts, why in hell would I use a text editor anyway? That's what layout programs like InDesign or Illustrator are for.

Oh, and a word to the wise about Word's .doc files: On a Mac (and on PCs too, for that matter), there's never any reason to save anything as a .doc file, which is proprietary to Microsoft and just means that anyone you send the document to is almost always going to need Word to open it. The simple alternative, which supports 99% of the functionality anyone will ever need in a .doc file, is the .rtf format. Just save everything as .rtf and the whole world will love you.

I've been using this little notepad app for years and I can't live without it. xPad does everything TextEdit above does, but it also auto-saves and adds an extremely handy tray to the side of your document window and keeps all your docs listed there, making organizing your frequently-accessed text documents incredibly easier. I keep to-do lists in there, five or ten half-written blog entries at any given time (I wrote this tutorial in it, screengrabs and all!), drafts of emails, link lists, and much more (see picture below).

Problem #7: Can I consolidate my home and work iTunes libraries?

Now this was a big one. I worked in a place where lots of music was available ( has over 100,000 free MP3s, for example), and I occasionally happened upon treasure troves on the net that I was all too happy to queue up for download on the fast connection at work.

Eventually I had amassed quite a collection of songs that I didn't have at home, and when it came time to leave my job I certainly didn't want to lose those. It would be simple enough to copy them all to a hard drive, bring them home, and then drag them into iTunes to import. But I'd spent a lot of time building playlists to listen to at work, not to mention rating most of those songs. I wanted to retain that metadata!

I saw two vendors at MacWorld Expo who offered a potential solution, and I picked SuperSync because it seemed to offer a lot more robust features, even if the interface on the other one was a little cleaner and easier to understand. Plus I met the actual developer there at the booth, hawking SuperSync, so I was able to spend 10 or 15 minutes asking him "Will it do..." and "What if..." until I was satisfied that it'd probably work great for me.

That said, I purchased SuperSync but I haven't actually had time to try it yet, so I'll have to update this post after I've given it a whirl. ; )

I hope some of these tips come in helpful to you. I'd like to hear from you if they do. Or, if you have any additions, corrections, or alternative methods you'd like to share, please post them in a comment below, or write them up for your own site and post a link here.

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