In the "look on the bright side" spirit, a word about two pieces of software, both previously mentioned but now in new releases, that I appreciate, admire, and rely on all the time.

- SugarSync, by Sharpcast. Several months ago I noted that I found the product's name slightly creepy but was intrigued by its features. I've used it daily since then and have only better and better things to say.

Its purpose is to keep files in sync among a number of computers. It does that in a way so effortless that you stop even thinking about the program's presence. SugarSync easily connects PCs and Macs and, in some circumstances, handheld devices. Meanwhile, it doubles as an online backup for all the files in your computer, which is of course useful if you have a crash but also if you are in one part of the world and realize that file you want is on the computer back at your office or house. It has recently introduced several new features, including one that lets you safely edit files that "live" on your home computer from any internet-connected computer anywhere. Really a smooth product, by whatever name.

- Fusion, by VMware. I have previously praised this software ad nauseam. Its point is to let you run any Windows-based program, driver, system software, you name it, on an Intel-based Macintosh -- and, unlike the Mac's own Boot Camp utility, to do so right alongside native Mac programs, cutting and pasting from one to the other. I've mentioned it before because it has been practically bulletproof. As a side note for later discussion, in general it allows Macs to run Windows programs better and faster than most ordinary PCs, mainly because it supports a "pure" version of Windows rather than one burdened by the horrible, unwanted, pre-installed features known as "craplets" that have made so many PCs so unpleasant to use.*

A new version 2.0 of Fusion has been released, as a free upgrade for users of earlier versions. This new release has eliminated the one problem I'd ever had with Fusion (a screen-corruption issue, discussed here) and has many other enhancements.

The similarity that connects SugarSync and Fusion is that each represents another step toward freeing users from purely practical concerns -- did I remember to copy that file? do I want to work on it with a PC or a Mac? -- so they can concentrate on the actual ideas and work they want to deal with.

One further bit of cheer: If you use either Gmail or Google Chrome and have not committed to muscle-memory the extensive keyboard shortcuts for each of them, you're working harder than you need to. Gmail keyboard tips here; Chrome's, here.
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* If you start with a Mac and buy Fusion, you also need to buy a copy of Windows, ideally XP, which you then install in the Fusion part of the Mac. Since you buy this copy of Windows as a standalone CD/DVD, not as something pre-installed by Dell or HP or whomever, you get it in pure form, not encased in all sorts of other junk that comes on most PCs now.

I'm increasingly convinced by the argument that Windows Vista seems so terrible in part because it mainly comes on newer machines that groan under an intolerable burden of these craplets. I am sorry to say that my once-beloved ThinkPad brand seems, under Lenovo, to be tarnishing itself in this way. Turn back before it's too late, Lenovo! More on this later.

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