Tech Updates

1) The cloud-based outliner, Thinklinkr, previously mentioned here and here, is out with a new free version, here. This has some limitations -- for instance, you can use it only while online, though you can export it to an OPML format to use in other programs offline -- but it also has many conveniences and is worth considering.

2) The LiveScribe Pulse pen, previously mentioned here, is running a sale. Details here. Seriously, this is a tool/gadget I wonder how I ever did without.

3) I don't yet have an iPad, but I have two Kindles and now a nook*. About to go on a trip where I'll give them all a hard workout. Report coming.

4) Time and again while in China I touted the VPN service Witopia. Witopia has become very popular, and the Chinese government seems finally to have noticed. The $40** annual-subscription version of the service is reportedly often blocked in China and a few other places; it takes a $60-annual version, which has some extra features, to be sure of doing the job there. Technically, the cheaper version is the older PPTP protocol, and the more expensive has the faster and more adaptable SSL protocol; details here. I've heard from friends in China about some other, less expensive alternatives -- but they've asked me not to list any of the names, so they don't get outed to the authorities too. If you have friends in China, they can give you the leads. (I also have a query out to Witopia officials asking for the background on what happened in China; info when I hear from them. I bought the $60 version when visiting Shanghai earlier this month; it is indeed fast and very flexible, fwiw.)

5) I've endlessly touted SugarSync, which I rely on, and have promised to explain how it can be used with programs that create "bundles" of files, like Scrivener and DevonThink Pro for the Mac and the Mac/Windowns/Linux-platform Personal Brain. There's a way to make them all coexist very happily. Stay tuned.
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* I bought both of our Kindles -- the second was for my wife, who isn't using it at the moment. I got the nook as a gift from someone involved in its production. I say that for disclosure, and also as an occasion for a periodic restatement of my operating rules on tech products. On the infrequent occasions when someone offers me a product or piece of software to try out, I don't refuse to do so on principle. I couldn't afford to buy everything that comes onto the market. But if it is a program or piece of hardware I actually end up using in daily life, then I pay the supplier for it -- as I did with the LiveScribe Pulse pen, after a friend originally gave me one. Even bought a replacement when I lost my original one somewhere on the road...

** To be precise: $39.99 for the now-blocked-in-China version, $59.99 for the more powerful one.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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