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Author Topic: General brainstorming for Note-taking software  (Read 400677 times)
superboyac
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« Reply #100 on: March 15, 2006, 12:57:27 PM »

Another interesting software I got from the eccorefugee link above, it's called InfoHandler:
http://www.mdesoft.com/eng.htm

I don't necessarily agree with his (eccorefugee) reviews, but I think he may be approaching this topic from different perspective.  I think he's focusing more on an Ecco-like solution, where a lot of different functions are covered.  I'm more interested in notetaking and just plain information collection and organization.
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nevf
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« Reply #101 on: March 15, 2006, 03:55:27 PM »

By the way, can someone please explain what the big deal about Ecco Pro is?  I understand that it was an awesome program back in the day, but is it still all that awesome even with our modern expectations?

I've tried it many times, and I'm always left wondering what's so great about it.  Yeah, it's outlining is nice, but the whole thing is so old fashioned, I can't get over it.

I'd like to ask the exact same question, but replace Ecco Pro with Zoot or Keynote first. I was really surprised at mouser's comment on Zoot!

And why aren't I getting e-mail notifications about these posts? Sad
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mouser
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« Reply #102 on: March 15, 2006, 04:30:54 PM »

Quote
I was really surprised at mouser's comment on Zoot!
you mean when i said it looked nice?
i didn't mean literally that it's appearance was nice, but that the feature set on the page seemed nice. smiley

Quote
And why aren't I getting e-mail notifications about these posts?
maybe when we upgraded the forum the notifications got reset?
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superboyac
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« Reply #103 on: March 15, 2006, 06:46:01 PM »

Quote
I'd like to ask the exact same question, but replace Ecco Pro with Zoot or Keynote first. I was really surprised at mouser's comment on Zoot!

Well, yes, the interface is totally old-fahsioned, but the functionality is still there.  I'd be interested in your analysis of Zoot, nevf.  I think it will help everyone here understand it from your point of you, that is, the point of view of a programmer who also develops similar software.

I can't think of an alternative to Zoot as far as notetaking, if you limit yourself to simple text, which in my case, is not a big deal, because I barely do any web capturing or anything besides text.  Zoot is excellent because of it's sophistication in organizing text, with the automatic assigning and everything.  I mean, really, what's the alternative for something like that?  I can only think of Evernote, and while it is more polished and has better options for outlining amd web capture, it's organization doesn't have the sophistication of Zoot...I mean, nowhere near it.  But, unfortunately, Zoot is totally old-fashioned, and that's a huge minus against it right now, but I think I'm willing to ignore that because of its underlying funcionality.  Like I said, what's my alternative?

So again, we're left with a handful of software that have some overlapping features, and some unique features in each one.  Zoot is great, if only it was 32-bit and was more modern.  Surfulater is great, but not quite ready for notetaking, nor does it have the organizational power of Zoot or something similar.  Evernote is great, but is limited in it's organizational power, although it is closer to Zoot than Surfulater right now.

As of now, I'm leaning towards Zoot, because I'm primarily text-based, and I can deal with it's shortcomings.  But I really, really wish it had some of the features Surfulater and Evernote has.
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« Reply #104 on: March 16, 2006, 04:09:29 AM »

I really feel we gotta get out of the whole tree-heirarchy thing. 

Don't forget that originally, Mouser wanted this thread to concentrate specifically on tree-hierarchy programs...
http://www.donationcoder....ic=2362.msg16164#msg16164

Subtle distinction between Zoot for text and AskSam for documents.  I usually deal with short pieces of text, just a few paragraphs.

Seems to me that ECCO doesn't have a lot of spiritual descendants, in that there aren't very many single-pane outliners around.  Nearly everyone seems to have gone for the two- or occasionally three-pane look, which is a pity.  It would be nice to have a little more choice.


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kfitting
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« Reply #105 on: March 16, 2006, 08:48:02 AM »

Adding to rjbull's previous comment... one of the reasons note taking software programs started using a tree-hierarchy is because it is convienient and is a good way of displaying data.  There will always be a need for rigid tree structures.  It's just that they should be supplemented with filters etc.  I think a filterable tree structure would be a great complement.

Ways of finding data:
- You know what you want and where to find it
- You know what you want but not where to find it (search)
- You dont know what you want and you dont know where to find it (browse, bookstores are great for this!)
- You dont konw what you want but you know where you want to look.

Trees are good for the first way.  Filterable trees would work for most of the other ways.  Combine the two and you have a very powerful program.  The idea is not to give up on structure, but to allow multiple ways in the SAME program.

Kevin
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rjbull
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« Reply #106 on: March 16, 2006, 10:50:52 AM »

- You know what you want but not where to find it (search)

That's where I usually am.  Much of the text is short items, a few paragraphs.  It can be anonymous, or have up to several authors and corporate affiliations, and one or several journal references (e.g. when the same news item is printed in several magazines).  So I need a database, but one that's much more freeform than usual.

I rarely need structure  Cool

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kfitting
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« Reply #107 on: March 16, 2006, 10:57:53 AM »

Right, but dont forget outlines!  I did my college papers in Keynote... I dont want things floating off somewhere.  I want them where I put them.  The idea is to have both styles in the same app.  I understand and heartily advocate the database concept (see previous posts here, some in the CHS forum, and the Tranglos forums), But I dont want to lose structure in the process. 

What we need in this type of program is everything and the kitchen sink... and to be able to please everyone... and to be able to know what you meant rather than what you actually typed... and...  Wink

Kevin

PS - theoretically you could achieve the rigidity superfluous to the user.  All you have to do is make the user think that he has the ability to have ultimate control over the tree.  In the background, maybe it's just a filter that only accepts those certain nodes... it doesn't matter as long as the user can be blissfully unaware!
« Last Edit: March 16, 2006, 10:59:38 AM by kfitting » Logged
superboyac
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« Reply #108 on: March 16, 2006, 01:03:55 PM »

I don't know, after 3 pages of this discussion, I've become convinced that the typical tree-heirarchy system is definitely NOT the way to go.  That's not to say that there isn't something that looks like a tree anywhere in the program, but the underlying foundation of the program needs to be freed from that restriction.  Look at the programs I've mentioned recently:  Surfulater, Zoot, and EverNote.  All three of these have done away with the traditional tree-heirarchy system.  However, in all three, there still is a tree in its organization somewhere (whether they're called labels or categories or whatever).  The main point is that even though it LOOKS like a tree, doesn't mean it's restricted to that format.  The tree is restrictive because one note can only go in one location.  In all three of those programs, a note can located in several places, depending on how it is categorized.

So, when I say let's forget about the trees, it could still be done in a way that is transparent to the end user, if they still want to use the traditional format.  Those 3 programs prove that this is already being done.  We are trying to add funcionality without taking any away.  Like kfitting said in his PS, it's fine as long as the user is "blissfully unaware"!  I like that!
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« Reply #109 on: March 16, 2006, 04:04:57 PM »

I'm coming in a bit late to this conversation, but I was surprised to see that with all the discussion of tools old and new there hasn't been more mention of InfoSelect. http://www.miclog.com. From what I recall this was the product that spawned the whole outliner/notes application genre. (Or at least the grandson of the product. Tornado Notes for DOS was arguably the first outliner/indexed organizer, and InfoSelect is the suped-up Windows version.)

I've toyed with the idea of getting InfoSelect over the years, but I can never quite get past how breathtakingly expensive it is. However, it has a lot of features that I think are pretty useful and unique. Many of these are PIM features like ticklers and reminders, and so are probably not germaine to this discussion.

But it also has a couple of things that really set it apart, AFAIK. One is the ability to create grid-style notes and form-style notes. A lot of times I need to store tabular data, and busting rows & columns down to plain text qucikly becomes a headache if you've got to do any editing or maintenance of the info. And the ability to create notes that are like mini database forms is also great. Outliners work well with unstrucutured data, but there's no reason they shouldn't handle structured data as well.

Their implementation of "hot spots" is also interesting. These are essentially mini-tabs for selected category sub-items that appear at the same level as the parent item in the category. So you can move items to frequently used sub-folders withouth having to expand the folder that contains them.

It's a shame this app is still stuck at the high end of the price range. On the one hand, it does so many things I can see why they charge so much for it. But on the other hand, when a product like Surfulater can be had for less than $50, it makes you wonder whether it's worth it.
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« Reply #110 on: March 16, 2006, 04:23:19 PM »

superboyac:

Yes, the underlying structure should be something more database-like... so long as the user can make trees that look exactly like he's used to!  Stressing "can" here.  I would love to be able to make flow charts, block diagrams, and trees all about the same data and all cross-referenced.  This takes more than a tree.  But, at the end of the day, I have to be able to make a tree for most of my data.  I would love to be able to make a node and give it filter characteristics so that it "auto populates."  I would love to make a node and have it filter but also remember nodes I drag and drop onto it.  I also would love to have nodes only contain what I say they can contain. 

Have you seen Opera's M2 email client?  I understand people either like it or hate it, but to see what I mean about filters it really is worth a try.  It's got it's problems so I don't suggest you take the attitude that it will replace whatever you're currently using, but download it and see what the filter/folder is all about.  Then imagine a world with a mass of data structured any way you like....... ahhhhhhh...

Kevin

Kevin
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kfitting
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« Reply #111 on: March 16, 2006, 04:35:52 PM »

Looks like MyInfo is getting closer to this idea too... http://www.milenix.com/myinfo-screenshots.php

I admit the price is a tad steep (still within the realm of affordability, however), but it's got some interesting features I'll have to try out.  I bought it a while ago so it's free for me.  Just another candidate! (Based around trees! with tags though)

Kevin
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superboyac
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« Reply #112 on: March 16, 2006, 05:00:16 PM »

Nice find, kfitting!  I'm going to take a look at that.  Where do these programs show up from, out of nowhere?!  I'm interested in it's tree structure, which -seems- to be a bit more than the tradional tree-heirarchy.  You mentioned tags, and the website mentions "cloning" notes, so I'm hoping it is possible for a single note to appear in various places, as in Surfulater, Evernote, and Zoot.  More on this later!
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kfitting
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« Reply #113 on: March 16, 2006, 05:42:27 PM »

Where do they come from?  I don't know.  Truth be known, this was the first note-taking program I ever found.  Keynote was next.  This latest version finally appears to come close to beating Keynote.  I'll have to test it though. 

Kevin
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superboyac
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« Reply #114 on: March 16, 2006, 05:53:24 PM »

Kevin, I just tried out MyInfo, and I have to say, I'm somewhat dissappointed.  It's pretty nice and polished and has a lot of the basic features, but it is still just a plain tree heirarchy.  Actually, it reminds me a lot of Mybase, and for that reason, I would just use Mybase instead, because I feel it's a little more powerful.  The tags are nice, but they're not tags in the sophisticated sense we have been talking about here, as in Evernote.

And to answer Jimdoria, I kind of ruled InfoSelect out of this discussion because it does much more than just collect information.  Infoselect falls more into the category of UltraRecall, Ecco, and other do-everything-and-the-kitchen-sink programs.  And with the enormous price tag, I think it just doesn't fit practically into what we're talking about here.
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thomthowolf
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« Reply #115 on: March 16, 2006, 09:13:22 PM »

Okay, so what are we looking for in a note taking app?  I was an early beta tester for evernote, and I love its ability to collect information.  I bought Surfulator because it shows promise in letting me cross connect data and mine for connections in the stuff I have collected. I also have been a long time user of Treepad, first the freeware and then the business version.  I used it faithfully until I discovered the power of tagging as opposed to the rigidity of an outliner.
 I do a fair bit of technical writing, and I think the program I am looking for should extend the power of my mind and memory. (wow, does that sound pompous or what? ohmy).  I think that a note taking app should:

-be easy to get information into[evernote]
-be easy to locate information in and get information out of [evernote]
-allow me to manipulate, cross reference and reorganize the pieces I collect [surfulator, and, to some extent, Treepad]
-and make it easy for me to create at least the first draft of a document, all within the same application.

In other words, it should serve as long term and short term memory, and also as notecards and an outliner.  It should handle text, images and web pages with equal facility, and should be intuitive to use.
Is that so much to ask? tellme
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« Reply #116 on: March 17, 2006, 03:59:11 AM »

Right, but dont forget outlines!  I did my college papers in Keynote...

kfitting,

The truth is, I discovered outliners too late to have an impact on the way I work, and I think I've come to view notekeeping as a separate activity from the "creative" writing  (making use of said notes?) aspect I associate with outliners.  Also I like WordStar-style editors for bashing out text, and am just too unwilling to change.  Just my mental blocks, I suppose.  They say middle age is when your broad mind and narrow waist change places...

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« Reply #117 on: March 17, 2006, 04:14:20 AM »

I've toyed with the idea of getting InfoSelect over the years, but I can never quite get past how breathtakingly expensive it is. However, it has a lot of features that I think are pretty useful and unique. Many of these are PIM features like ticklers and reminders, and so are probably not germaine to this discussion.

jimdoria,

I had (still have) both Memory Mate for DOS and Info Select for DOS.  I came to prefer the more basic-seeming Memory Mate for its clean simple interface, even though Info Select even then had more features.  Windows IS has vastly more features than I understand, let alone want, and I'd be perfectly happy to leave reminders and such to separate free or cheap applications.  But I'd certainly be interested to see a cut-down notekeeping-only version of Info Select at a much lower price.



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« Reply #118 on: March 17, 2006, 05:20:53 AM »

I'm coming in a bit late to this conversation, but I was surprised to see that with all the discussion of tools old and new there hasn't been more mention of InfoSelect. http://www.miclog.com. From what I recall this was the product that spawned the whole outliner/notes application genre. (Or at least the grandson of the product. Tornado Notes for DOS was arguably the first outliner/indexed organizer, and InfoSelect is the suped-up Windows version.)

FWIW my take on InfoSelect is that it is a dead duck. You can't even download a version to try, which is unheard of these days. It was without doubt a very interesting and unique piece of software in its day, but I don't think it has kept up with the times. I'm sure plenty of folks are still using it though, just like Zoot et.all.
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« Reply #119 on: March 17, 2006, 07:22:19 AM »

@superboyac:  I agree with you to a certain extent, though I havent tried the latest version yet.  I dont use it for similar reasons.  But it's another entry in the list of note-taking software.  I personally found the ability to add columns in the tree-pane interesting.  But, I dont think that's enough to make it a must-have.  However, I think it's interesting to see what each piece of software has that the others dont. 

@rjbull:  Keynote revolutionized the way I work and organize things.  I totally understand that note-taking is slightly different from the writing end of things... but I dont think the two are mutally exclusive!  They may be mutually exclusive in the current round of apps, but they dont need to be.  I'm not saying that note-software should have header/footer support, page numbering, etc... that's for office apps.  But, for the type of writing I do, Keynote 1.6.5 is fine.  For notetaking, Keynote was fine, until I saw Opera's email approach.  That ruined me! 

I have to agree with thomthowolf.  Note-taking apps need to be easy to get information into, easy to relate and re-relate information, and easy to assign rigid structure IF needed.  To polish things off, import/export is critical too.  (And those are two poorly worded sentences!)   I stand by my assertion that WHATEVER the backend is that holds the information, the user frontend should allow what is currently in place PLUS a whole lot more!  You should see all the people on the Keynote forums that complained about the "complexity" being added to Keynote 2. You also should see the people over in the Novo forums complaining about going away from the rigid tab structure... many people are content with the rigid structure, let them have it... and, at the same time, let them discover the benefits of filters etc at their own pace.  It OUGHT to be possible!!

Kevin
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Rover
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« Reply #120 on: March 17, 2006, 12:07:05 PM »

This (very long) thread has taken on a couple of distinct themes that work well together.
1) What I want to do with note-taking software
2) How do I want to interface with my note-taking software

Back in the old days, there were very few rules governing key combinations.  F1 was generally reserved for Help and Esc was generally used to back up or exit.  Everything else was up for grabs and every application used a different scheme.  I well remember the days of WordPerfect keyboard overlays, that would have to be switched out for 1-2-3 overlays when you changed applications. 

The interesting part is that you really only used the overlays for a day or two.  By then you had learned 90% of what you wanted to do and you found the menu display key to help you find the other 10%.  And it was fast.
The brain process worked something like this:
0) What do I need to do now?
1) Print
1.5) unconscious brain process: set context = Word Perfect
2) Print = Shift F7, P

Now the mouse oriented process goes something like this:
0) What do I need to do now?
1) Print
1.5)Brain process: Print is always the same on the file menu
2) Grab mouse
3) Navigate to file
3.5)Brain process: should I use file|Print or the Printer Icon?
4) Click File
5) navigate down
6) click Print
6.5) No I don't need to change any options
7) click OK

I only mention this to say I think part of the frustration we all feel with our software comes from the mouse-centric interface.  We Look for things on the menu instead of knowing what we want and allowing learned associations to take over.

THAT is the power of something like InfoSelect.  I never used the program myself, but I watched a guy who was in love with it show off a bit.  He talked about finding a topic quickly pressed a couple of search keys and started typing his word. (He knew where the cursor would be and that he could type right away; he didn't even look at the screen.  He was a keyboard watching typist.)  Yes the interface is old and ugly, and may not have the features we all want/need, but the concept is great.  I used to know Word Perfect this well. 

I'm all for having some standard shortcuts across the OS.  Alt-F4, Ctrl-C, etc. are great examples.  I do think the common look and feel has gone too far.  Your brain reacts visually and functionally to different applications.  Let it use that context the map tasks to keystrokes. 

Maybe we should start a UI thread? smiley
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« Last Edit: March 17, 2006, 12:09:01 PM by Rover » Logged

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« Reply #121 on: March 17, 2006, 01:27:38 PM »

Hi All,

There is one program which I have noticed has not been mentioned yet and that is Compendium. This was produced by the Open University here in the UK and it is very unusual but very good. I would highly recommend it. You can grab a copy here: http://www.compendiuminstitute.org/ and view their excellent video tutorials here: http://www.compendiuminst...training/videos/index.htm There are also version for Windows, Mac and Linux. The best thing is it is completely FREE!

Regards

Othalian
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superboyac
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« Reply #122 on: March 18, 2006, 02:26:03 AM »

Hi All,

There is one program which I have noticed has not been mentioned yet and that is Compendium. This was produced by the Open University here in the UK and it is very unusual but very good. I would highly recommend it. You can grab a copy here: http://www.compendiuminstitute.org/ and view their excellent video tutorials here: http://www.compendiuminst...training/videos/index.htm There are also version for Windows, Mac and Linux. The best thing is it is completely FREE!

Regards

Othalian

Hi Othalian!  Welcome to DC.
Compendium seems interesting, however, it doesn't fit into this topic.  Compendium is more of a program like the popular Mind Manager.  We're trying to limit this discussion to simple notetaking software.  Or else, this thread can quickly go off-topic, due to the various related information management softwares available.
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« Reply #123 on: March 18, 2006, 03:07:49 AM »

kfitting, I strongly agree that when a program (like Keynote) goes to the next version, that it should never really reduce the number of features.  Always add more, but never reduce.  Because, like you said, people get familiar with the way a program works (for whatever reason) and taking that away can be extremely frustrating.  If new features conflict with older features, the best thing to do is make it an option for the user.

nevf, yeah, it looks like InfoSelect is dead (for many reasons).  Zoot also "seems" to be dead, but there is still talk about it moving to the 32-bit version sometime soon.  I still strongly believe that once Zoot can use the typical rtf stuff (outlines, bullets, changing fonts, font sizes, colored text, etc) it will immediately become a strong competitor in the notetaking market.  I'm desperately trying to make it work now, but I'm having such a hard time moving all of my notes (which have a lot of rtf stuff in it) into Zoot.  I don't understand why it takes so many years to convert a program into 32-bit, but I'm not a programmer.

Rover, you bring up some good points about UI.  I'll bet we can start another long thread on just that topic!  Go for it.


We've been discussing these notetaking software for a while now, and this thread has become quite lengthy.  If I may do so, I'd like to point out the 3 softwares that I feel have the most promise for the future.  I know I've repeated this many times already but here they are:
--Surfulater
--EverNote
--Zoot


Fortunately, the developers of Surfulater and EverNote have actively participated in this discussion (which I thank them for), and we know that these are young programs that are still being actively developed and promise to add a lot of new, desired features.  Zoot has been around longer, but unfortunately, has also stagnated recently with users wanting many more modern features.  But I add it to the list because its raw power is unparalleled so far.

Also, there are tons of other note-taking softwares out there that, while they are good, I have decided to not include them in the top tier because they only offer the traditional tree-heirarchy system.  I think that it's very important that we break out of that, as the three softwares above are doing.  Also, that makes this analysis much easier because there are tons of programs out there that do offer this tree-heirarchy like Keynote, Mybase (which, if you read the beginning of this thread, I was very big on), MyInfo, NeoMem, and just about every other PIM available.  The tree-heirarchy just won't cut it once you amass a large number of notes.

I really have nothing more to say about this topic.  I will keep discussing it if I think of something or responding to other people's thoughts, but I'm pretty sure I've said what I wanted to say.  In the meantime, I will eagerly watch and analyze the development of the above 3 programs, and hopefully I will one day be comfortable enough to be ready to transfer all of my notes to and be committed to it.
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« Reply #124 on: March 18, 2006, 03:37:50 AM »

i wonder if with all this discussion around this thread, we might see if any of these companies might be willing to offer a nice generous discount to our members in april or may?
(and if anyone wants to do some little mini reviews..)
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