This blog is highly personal, makes no attempt at being politically correct, will occasionaly offend your sensibility, and certainly does not represent the opinions of the people I work with or for.
Why I do not use Address Book ?
Ever since I acquired my first laptop, I started avoiding some specific situations related to the way my data is stored and managed. In few words I have avoided every single time my data/information would be transformed and locked into a specific format that would not be compatible with all possible Operating Systems I could use.

Being a Mac user let me explain what all this means in my daily use of OSX.

I do not mind iTunes, for instance. iTunes only manages my collection of mp3 files. What I no longer do, though, is buying DRM contaminated data from the iTunes music store. I used to dislike it for the sake of being an anti DRM person, but one day I actually lost some music that iTunes didn't want to re-authorise, and I swore that I would never do the same mistake again. I know that it is now possible to download non DRM music from the music store, but I haven't tried yet (what really pisses me off is the fact that "if" it is possible to do so, then why aren't all music from the music store DRM free by default ?, why must there be some extra effort from the buyer to get them ? anyway that's no the point right now...).

I do not mind iPhoto, yet again it only manages my collection of photos (jpeg files), and if one day I want to stop being a Mac user I can just export all the pictures on a drive and put them on a computer with another operating system.

What I mind is Address Book. Maybe I just didn't figure out how to do it, but as far as I can see there is no way to export an entire Address Book database into a format that I, Pascal, can understand. The last time I tried, I was given a very opaque .abbu file (a package) inside which I found nothing but random opaque files. I find this very very insulting. To an indescribable point.

As a result of the above, I still (after all that time) manage my numerous contacts as flat ASCII files. Yes, ladies and gents, in 2009 (soon 2010) Pascal still uses flat text files to record the phone numbers of his friends. All this sounds very archaic, but at the end of the day it probably takes me less time than you to find, say, the Hong Kong mobile phone of Aubrey. But speed is not always the point.

Few days ago I finished the implementation of a new protocol that I designed to keep certain parts of Lucille's file system synchronised with a service that I run on The entire project is called OpenData and is one of those things that I didn't write about (I blog less and less about my coding projects actually, for some strange reasons), but whose design is very very nice. I basically run a file system interface on the server and taught Lucille how to talk to it through HTTP (there is also an encryption protocol which fires up in some occasions). There are some other functionalities that, for instance would not go thought FTP, and that I had to figure out myself (in fact having designed a virtual file system, some months ago, as part of my Hypercube work, helped a lot). The entire thing is automatically orchestrated with no involvement from my part, etc etc...

I didn't have anything to do to have a mirror of my contact data online (which is one of the reasons I started that entire thing). All this was made possible because my data wasn't locked in a place which wasn't easily accessible. I actually don't mind how the data is stored by the managing application; if Address Book wants to encrypt its database, I would not mind that much if I could (possibly programmatically) export it in a clear format that I can understand, parse, and transform as I want.

So now, this is the moment somebody tells me that all this is possible using the AddressBook API. But even if I wanted to waste my time adding to AddressBook a functionality that should have been there in the first place (it's a basic human right to be able to export any application data into clear familiar formats), this would be missing the point of what I am trying to say.

Another great application I started using but dropped the following day was Evernote (if you don't know what that is, just google it). I was in love with that thing the first few minutes after having seen it. It was fulfilling a need that I had (and probably still have), but the moment I discovered that it wasn't possible to export my data in a clear way, whereby locking myself into this particular application, I knew I would never use it again.

Consequently, I have a surprising amount of personal data sitting in simple text files. I may not have access to some cool features of Address Book (for instance the integration with LaunchBar), but in the end, having to choose between freedom and coolness, I made my choice a long time ago...
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