no more Backpack

I’ve been using 37signals’ Backpack product for several years now, since February 2007. It turns out that 37signals retired the product back in June 2012, and is no longer accepting new customers for it. It still works fine for me, and they haven’t said anything about shutting it down entirely. I don’t recall ever seeing a notice on my Backpack page letting me know that they were retiring the product, but maybe I missed it. And, when I go to my account maintenance page now, there’s no indication there either; it still shows the same plan upgrade options that it always has. I’m still on the $7/month plan, and happy with that. If they’re not actually going to shut down the service for existing users, I might as well stick with it for the time being.

I use Satchel on my iPhone and iPad to access by Backpack account. It also still works, but hasn’t been updated since 2010, and likely won’t be updated again. In fact, I don’t see the full version as available in the App Store anymore, so I guess I need to be careful not to lose the copy in my iTunes library.

Since 37signals is still charging for Backpack, and since it (likely) runs on the same platform as their other services, I imagine they’ll keep it running for the foreseeable future. There’s no reason for them to shut down a service that’s generating revenue, and probably not costing them much money to keep running.

Still, it seems prudent to look into alternatives. 37signals would probably like people to move from Backpack to Basecamp, but that wouldn’t make much sense for me. Basecamp starts at $30/month, and isn’t really meant to be used as a single-person personal organizer.

Likewise, Papyrs would probably like to grab up some of Backpack’s customer base. They actually have a blog post about Backpack’s retirement on their site that’s interesting and well-written. Papyrus isn’t a good fit for me either though. It starts at $49/month and is really meant to be used for small company intranets.

There’s a good list of Backpack alternatives at The first item on their list is Evernote, which I do use. But I’m not sure I’d like it as a replacement for Backpack. Second on their list is OneNote, which I also use, but also isn’t quite what I would want as a Backpack replacement.

From a GTD usage standpoint, I’ve tried Nozbe, and I’m curious about Asana. Maybe a combination of Evernote and Nozbe would work out for me?

I may write up some more notes on this subject, as it’s the kind of thing I enjoy messing around with and writing about, but for now, I’ve got other stuff to do today…

My new job, Dynamics AX, and X++

I started a new job (at SHI) back in January. I’ve been wanting to post something about it for awhile now, but I’ve been pretty busy. Also, I kind of wanted to keep quiet about it for a bit, just in case it didn’t work out. Well, I’ve been there for about two months now, and it seems to be going well.

Right now, I’m doing development for our Dynamics AX system, using AX’s proprietary programming language, X++. It’s a reasonably decent and relatively modern language, very similar to C# and/or Java. I do miss the more chaotic environment I’d previously been working in, where I was using a mix of ASP.NET / C#, JavaScript, and PHP / Drupal, depending on the project. SHI does have a fairly mixed environment, but there are enough programmers working here that they’re not likely to need me on anything other than X++ any time soon, so I guess I’ll have to get used to a bit less variety than I’ve had in the past.

The development environment built into AX is called MorphX. (This is also the name of a mediocre XBox 360 game, which kind of skews Google results for MorphX, but that’s OK.) Microsoft has obviously made some effort to add some nice features to MorphX since they acquired AX, but it’s not quite up to the standard set by Visual Studio. They’ve also tried to standardize some of the keyboard shortcuts between VS and MorphX, but there are still a few annoying inconsistencies there.

I recently found a project on CodePlex called Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 X++ Editor Extensions, which adds a few missing features to the X++ code editor. I tend to worry about add-ins like this slowing things down or introducing instability, but these three extensions all seem to work well. (It’s funny how you don’t really think of, for instance, brace matching as being a big deal, until you don’t have it…)

I haven’t really blogged much about programming recently, so I’d really like to get back into the habit. I have a few possible topics in mind for AX-related posts, so hopefully I can find the time to write those up soon.