capsule review

The Missing Sync for Sony PSP 1.0.2

The Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) is a versatile system. Unlike its rival, Nintendo DS, the PSP hardware can also act as a music player, Web browser, movie player, digital photo album, and more. Now Mark/Space has made the PSP even better for Mac users by offering a version of its Missing Sync software (   ).

Utilities designed to sync data between the Mac and the PSP are nothing new—they’ve been around almost since the PSP first went on sale in Japan in late 2004. And technically, no software is needed to transfer data between a PSP and your Mac, as long as you have a USB cable and the patience to figure out what goes where. But The Missing Sync excels in ease of use, simplicity of design, and robustness of features.

If you’re familiar with the Palm or PocketPC version of the Missing Sync, the interface looks pretty much the same—it’s a single window that lists the names of plug-ins that provide various capabilities such as backing up game files or transferring and converting video. You can customize the contents of The Missing Sync’s toolbar with your own frequently used features. Double clicking on each of the plug-ins yields specific settings (such as how many backups you want to keep, or which folders you’d like to transfer from your Mac’s Finder to the PSP).

DV friendly

Many PSP users like to watch digital video on their wide screens, and The Missing Sync doesn’t disappoint—it includes a video conversion utility that takes files on your Mac and converts them to a more PSP-friendly size and format (as long they’re not encrypted with copy protection). It works effectively and relatively quickly. For example, a 23-minute-long episode of one of my favorite animated series, originally in MPEG-4 format for watching on my computer, took about 15 minutes or so to convert on my Dual 2.5GHz Power Mac G5.

The Missing Sync also lets you synchronize iPhoto albums and iTunes playlists by double-clicking their respective plug-ins. The software simply reads playlist/library or photo album information and asks you to select what you’d like to sync. It won’t copy encrypted music from iTunes, such as songs you’ve bought through the iTunes Music Store. You’ll discover this if you pore over the helpful sync history log, but I’d prefer a pop-up window to say, “Hey, genius, you’re not allowed to copy that file here.”

Apple integration

Where The Missing Sync simply blows away other Mac PSP sync software is its integration with Apple’s built-in applications like Address Book and iCal. The Missing Sync takes content from those applications and converts them to Web pages, uploads the pages to the PSP’s Memory Stick, and bookmarks their location in the PSP’s built-in Web browser. The result is that you can keep track of your calendar, contacts (including photos), to-do list, and notes on your PSP. Nullriver Software’s PSPWare, for example, only does contact syncing; Information Appliance Associates’ PocketMac for PSP, also does contact syncing, but saves the contact info as graphic images, not as Web pages. And RnSK Softronics’ iPSP doesn’t do contact syncing.

It’s still a one-way system, sort of like using your iPod to sync with your Mac—there’s no way to edit contacts or make new appointments, then sync them back to your computer—but it’s a slick setup. You can even customize the display of that content by selecting different themes (you can view thumbnails of these themes in the Preferences window).

Mark/Space includes a specialized Mac application called Notebook that lets you create notes that can contain text, audio, or graphics. You can keep track of these files by category and view them on the PSP using its Web browser. Very handy, but I’m not sure I need yet another notebook application—there are already many third-party notebook apps on the Mac platform.

Offline Web browsing

If you want to keep a uniform set of Web browser bookmarks, The Missing Sync will support bookmark syncing with Safari. The Missing Sync also includes a feature called WebSnacks, which downloads snippets of Web sites from your Mac and transfers them to the PSP, so you can check news or read your favorite Web comics from your PSP while you’re on the train or the bus, without requiring a live Wi-Fi connection. A Settings window lets you create links you’d like WebSnacks to grab each time it syncs with the PSP—you can identify title, description, URL, depth (how many levels down from that URL you’d like it to grab), whether to include images, whether to include external links, and frequency.

System requirements demand Mac OS X 10.4.6 or later and a PSP with firmware 2.7.1 or higher—that means that some PSP owners who want to play “homebrew” games (made by programmers who aren’t officially licensed to create titles for the PSP) will be out of luck. And it’s a Universal Binary for Intel-based Macs, which means it’s very fast.

Macworld’s buying advice

Mark/Space has hit a home run with The Missing Sync for PSP 1.0.2. It can turn your already versatile PlayStation Portable into a full-blown multimedia center and personal information assistant. There are a few flaws, but they’re more inconveniences than serious problems.

[ Peter Cohen is a senior editor at Macworld.]

Missing Sync encodes and transfers videos from your Mac to your PSP.You can customize the look of contact and calendar information on your PSP using Missing Sync’s Theme For Content preference.You can customize The Missing Sync’s interface and create custom plug-in profiles to help save time when you sync.
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