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Good-bye, IBM. Seriously.

Here's the crazy thing: The usual explanation for IBM's departure, like earlier industry transitions, is that computers have become commodities from which only the lowest-cost manufacturers can hope to eke out a profit. But for a product to become a commodity, shouldn't its basic workings have been fine-tuned to the point of utter reliability first, such that there is little hope for further refinement?

Hammers, microwave ovens, DVD players -- those are commodities. Personal computers? Anybody who thinks they are commodities too must not spend much time on a help desk, or reading my reader mail. There's an enormous amount of work left to be done here, but IBM evidently won't be doing any of it.

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_____Recent E-letters_____
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So: Good-bye, IBM. Seriously.

Palm OS For Cheaper Smartphones -- Update

Last week saw one other transaction between U.S. and Chinese computer firms, but this one may yield more benefits to consumers. PalmSource, the developer of the Palm OS, announced it would buy China MobileSoft Ltd. PalmSource explained the deal in a letter posted on its Web site.

The key sentence, to me, was one that addressed a concern I raised in this space last week: "First, we plan to make the Palm OS look and feel and the PalmSource PIM applications available for all price classes of mobile phones, from entry level to high end."

Moving an AOL Address Book over to a Mac

In my Help File column yesterday, I outlined a way to move an "AOL for Mac OS X" address book into the Address Book program built into Mac OS X (but I noted that this workaround only copied over e-mail addresses, not any other contact info stored on AOL).

There is, in fact, a way to move over some of that additional data, but it's pretty ugly and I couldn't fit it into the column anyway. But I have more room in this newsletter, so here goes ... all these steps take place after you export the "All Contacts" file out of AOL's Communicator program, but before you open that file in Mozilla Thunderbird.

First, open that file in TextEdit, the little writing program included in Mac OS X. You'll need to do a series of find-and-replace searches to make the street-address and phone-number fields in "All Contacts" readable to Thunderbird. From TextEdit's Edit menu, select Find and make the following replacements:

xmozillahomeaddress --> homePostalAddress
xmozillahomelocality --> mozillaHomeLocalityName
xmozillahomest --> mozillaHomeState
xmozillahomepostalcode --> mozillaHomePostalCode
streetaddress --> postalAddress
locality: --> l:
phone1 --> telephonenumber
phone2 --> mobile
phone3 --> homephone
phone4 --> facsimiletelephonenumber

Save the file as "Exported contacts" and decline TextEdit's invitation to append a ".txt" file-name extension on it. Open it in Thunderbird and repeat the steps outlined in yesterday's Help File. Once you have this data snuggled into the Mac OS X Address Book program, you'll probably need to rearrange the labels applied to each phone number (unless you always list them in work/mobile/home/fax order).

Unfortunately, you'll still lose any secondary mail addresses and notes stored in the AOL address book. But as stubborn as I am, I had to give up on this at some point if I was going to make my deadlines. Know a way to improve this procedure? Please let me know, and I can post a revised version in a future e-letter.

-- Rob Pegoraro (rob@twp.com)

ISO STORIES OF ONLINE BUYER'S REGRET

Have you ever woken up and wondered whatever possessed you to place an online order for that $500 vintage disco outfit? Whatever the product was, whatever the Web site (Amazon, eBay etc.), we would like to hear your story. Send an e-mail to Style writer Don Oldenburg (oldenburgd@washpost.com).


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