Why I did not buy an iPad mini or Syncing “Complex” Data with Plain Text

I need to track my mileage daily. In the past I have written my odometer readings into a new note on my second generation ipod touch. Then at some distant point in the future the notes would be synced to Apple Mail and I would laboriously plug the numbers into a spreadsheet. I dreaded this task because it was time consuming and sometimes I would have data gaps. Sure I used some Keyboard Maestro magic to make the calculations easier, but it was still a chore filled with much gnashing of teeth.

I wanted a system where I could do things relatively simply:

  1. One input – not multiple inputs of the same data points
  2. Have the data synced, so I would not have to download anything or have the potential of losing data on the ipod with only a local copy. (This has happened when my son has “played” with the ipod)

I looked at some of the spreadsheet solutions on the Mac app store. Some were excluded because my hardware was not current. Others were excluded because the program would keep a copy of the data and would only “sync” when the data was exported via email or local web server. As for database solutions, I use Handbase – it is a great app but it has no useful export functions and the creators of Hanbrake have some exciting plans for Handbase Desktop for the Mac – back in 2010.

What did I really need ?

  1. I did not need a spreadsheet interface. Just a date, starting odometer reading, and finishing odometer reading.
  2. I wanted the data to be synced, so I could have a backup and access on my mac without having to download the data.

The glue for the whole procedure was Dropbox, since I did not have iCloud syncing ability with my older model ipod touch. I already use nvALT on my Mac, Notational Velocity on my iBook and Notesy on the ipod touch to keep plain text notes in sync via Dropbox. A change in a Notesy note in Dropbox will sync on nvALT and Notational Velocity because they all access the same note.

All I needed was a format to keep my spreadsheet data in plain text. I used CSV (comma separated values). I exported my current milage data as a csv file, examined the structure and recreated the structure for future entries in a notesy text file. Now all I will need to do is append my etries to the original CSV file and reimport to the spreadsheet. The beauty of plain text is its siplicity and its power is its plasticity.

Of  course the neater solution would have been to buy an iPad mini and run Numbers iOS and Mac versions, syncing them through iCloud. But, the cost of entry for the system is a bit prohibitive.

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