Categories
nerd technology writing

Updated WordPress, Updated Theme

Updated to the latest WordPress 5.3 “Kirk” and trying out the default 2020 theme.

With a few tweaks, I think I like it.

2019-11-17 update: I don’t like numbers that descend below the baseline, so I’ve swapped the font from the default to Gentium Book Basic.

Categories
politics technology writing

Exploring

Considering I used to write for a living, it surprises me how difficult it is to find my flow again. Granted, my decade as a newspaper journalist wrapped up more than a decade ago. In those days I would rattle off 400–1,000 words on some assigned topic after traveling, interviewing subjects, photographing subjects, and taking notes.

Lacking an assignment sucks away the drive to write; therefore, I need to take on the role of editor and some assignments for myself. Two things immediately come to mind and just as quickly get pushed out of mind.

  1. Technology – I love it, but the market for that seems saturated and with no audience there is little point to it.
  2. Politics – Sakes alive. There is plenty of cannon fodder strewn about to take this on, but anything I say paints a great big divisive target on my back (and front, sides, just one big target).

That leaves a third option more daunting than the first two. Fiction. I just need to set off down a path, follow it, and see where it leads.

Categories
nerd technology writing

Fast Software, the Best Software — by Craig Mod

Fast Software, the Best Software — by Craig Mod:

Software that’s speedy usually means it’s focused. Like a good tool, it often means that it’s simple, but that’s not necessarily true. Speed in software is probably the most valuable, least valued asset. To me, speedy software is the difference between an application smoothly integrating into your life, and one called upon with great reluctance. Fastness in software is like great margins in a book — makes you smile without necessarily knowing why.

John Gruber posted about this article over at The Daring Fireball and he’s right. It is a delightful read for a nerdier audience and hammers home some excellent points about software.

If you are so inclined, give it a read.

Categories
brain culture nerd technology

Keep Podcasts on RSS

I’m still upset that Google provided Reader, then killed it. Don’t let the same mess happen with podcasts.

Big companies are trying to monetize and monopolize an open standard. Please don’t let this happen. Learn more:

Categories
brain nerd technology

Your terminal is not a terminal

Your terminal is not a terminal: An Introduction to Streams:

Streams are just that: streams. In the same way that a river has a stream of water, programs have streams of data. Moreover, just like you can use steel pipes to carry water from one place to another, you can use UNIX pipes to carry data from one program to another. This was the very analogy that inspired the design of streams:

We should have some ways of connecting programs like a garden hose — screw in another segment when it becomes necessary to massage data in another way. This is the way of I/O also. — Douglas McIlroy
Streams can be used to pass data into programs and to get data out of them.

The running water water analogy is a great way to explain many complicated topics and Lucas Costa uses it to great effect. You even uses |pipes| to flow input from one command to the next.

Go read his post if, like me, you find yourself scratching your head trying to understand how to work efficiently on the command line.

Categories
apple art technology

iPhone Camera Tips

I have two iPhone photography tips for you. They aren’t technical and will improve your photos.

  1. Stop holding your phone like a phone to take pictures. Turn it 90 degrees clockwise and hold it like a camera.
  2. Hold it firmly with both hands and use the “volume up” button as your shutter.

Wasn’t that easy? Now go take beautiful pictures!

Categories
nerd technology

Migrating from Fever to Inoreader

After reading Wired’s article It’s Time For an RSS Revival I’ve been reconsidering my RSS setup.
Shaun Inman’s Fever has served my RSS needs since June 2012. Shaun marked Fever’s end of life in December 2016. I’ve been holding onto it ever since and will continue to keep it running on my host provider, but it’s time to consider other options.
Alongside that aging installation, I’ve dropped my favorite feeds into Inoreader. I think I heard about it from John Gruber on The Talk Show. Inoreader’s free tier so far seems to be working great for my meager RSS needs. It has it’s own Inoreader app and syncs up with my preferred iOS RSS client Fiery Feeds.

Categories
apple nerd productivity technology

Omni Roadmap 2018 – The Omni Group

Omni Roadmap 2018 – The Omni Group:

Welcome! Each January, we like to pause and reflect on the past year’s accomplishments and to share a roadmap of our plans for the coming year. There’s a lot to share this year—particularly about our plans for OmniFocus in 2018—so let’s dive right in!

It’s been an exciting 25 years for Omni! I’m a huge fan of their software, particularly OmniFocus for Mac and OmniFocus for iOS, and look forward to updates coming this year.

Categories
life technology

AI Eating Up Lawyers’ Jobs, Sends Wave Of Worry Among Suitors


AI Eating Up Lawyers’ Jobs, Sends Wave Of Worry Among Suitors:

Deep research, extensive study of the case, and complex arguments have been at the center stage of livelihood of lawyers from ages. But advancements in technology would bring disruption in their work methods. Law school graduates would undergo different way of training to become legendary lawyers as they need to learn to implement technology efficiently to win or settle cases.

Blue collar workers aren’t the only ones who need to consider the impact of AI automation. We’re creeping ever closer to

Categories
nerd technology

Third-Party Apps Confused by Gatekeeper Path Randomization

Have you noticed that some of your third-party applications—the ones that aren’t installed using the App Store—aren’t updating automatically? If you try to force a check for updates from the Application menu, you may see an error dialog that includes something like “can’t be updated while it’s running from a read-only volume.”

This isn’t a new problem. The “feature” was enabled for your own good in macOS Sierra last summer. It didn’t grab many headlines and began quietly hindering automatic updates in some apps. For me, that means apps like Panic’s Coda and Dropshare by the Dropshare folks. The devs at Rogue Amoeba (famous for apps including Airfoil, Audio Hijack, Fission, and more) wrote a detailed post about this. Apple has also documented this.
The fix is easy, but not immediately obvious for mid-level nerds like me. To properly install the app, you have to move it from ~/Downloads to /Applications in the Finder. You cannot use a third-party Finder replacement such as Path Finder (like I do). All I had to do was open the Finder and move it out of, then back into, /Applications.
In doing so I found another “feature.” I presume because /Applications is the proper home for, well, applications, Apple wants them to stay there. Drag and drop and you will find an alias. Hold down the Command key before you click and drag it out. After you’ve finished doing the application Hokey Pokey, everything should be back to normal.

Categories
nerd technology

Fix for Old-Timey Apple Keyboards

;tldr If the caps lock on your old keyboard stopped working, try to install and use Karabiner-Elements. It fixed the problem for me.
The caps lock on my beloved Apple Keyboard Extended II I use at work stopped working recently. I tend not to type in ALL CAPS often, but sometimes I have to type ridiculous acronyms and caps lock is the key I need. Later I noticed it wasn’t working on the one I use at home.
There are several breakpoints, so I first chalked it up to hardware failure. These things are more than 26 years old after all.1 They also require a Griffin iMate adaptor to convert their ADB connections to USB. After I saw the problem on both keyboards, I knew something was up.
One of the updates to macOS Sierra 10.12.x broke it. This was a problem, but it was a software issue and software can be fixed. I found Karabiner-Elements fixed my problem. It enables user to remap their keyboard. You can do lots of cool stuff with this (like creating a super meta hyper key), but my needs are simple for now.
After installing the software, I opened the settings and set caps lock to caps lock. That was all it took to return functionality to my caps lock key. I added it to my Login Items (under Users & Groups in the System Preferences) and I’m ready to ROCK AND ROLL!

  1. That’s crazy to think about. Apple introduced the Extended II on Oct 15, 1990. It was discontinued in March 14, 1994. Source: Wikipedia
Categories
nerd technology

Wrapping Earbud Cords

I’ve been going to the gym (more on that later) and haven’t fallen to the siren song of Bluetooth earbuds. I’m still stuck with the cords on my trusty Apple EarPods. I got tired of the tangles and remembered this video published by The Verge.

I hope it helps my fellow slow adopters.

Categories
nerd productivity technology

macOS ⌘⇥ App Switcher on wrong display

Sometimes when I press ⌘⇥, the switcher pops up on the wrong display. This seems random, but I learned it isn’t.
The switcher display shows up on the last display where the Dock was active. That’s all there is to it!
The solution wasn’t hard to find, but the answer I read was on StackExchange.

Categories
nerd productivity technology

No Smile Here as TextExpander Subscribes to New Business Plan

Years ago I got hooked on automation for fun and productivity, and expanding snippets of text on my Mac made me feel like a wizard.
In those early years, I waffled between Typinator and TypeIt4Me before the introduction of the iPhone. I moved to TextExpander sometime around 2010 when it began syncing with my then-new iPhone. I used it exclusively until Tuesday, April 5, when Smile Software announced the transition to a subscription plan.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. —Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV)

The idea of a subscription model doesn’t bother me. The software is awesome and remains the only snippet expander that is widely supported by iOS app developers. Why write off more than five years of building habits and muscle memory?
The exorbitant cost.

Expanding Costs

I think I got into the game with my first purchase of Textpander 3 circa 2010 for $19.95 (after taking advantage of a $15 discount). Continuing to invest in the system, I later upgraded to version 4 for $19.95 followed by an upgrade to the last version for another $20. These purchases for my Mac were coupled with versions 3 and 4 on iOS for $4.99 each.
If you’re keeping up, that’s a total investment just a hair short of $70 to license the software for roughly five years, or about $14 a year.
Under the new subscription model, the cost is easy to project for the next five years. The charge over five years for new users paying monthly will be $297. “Loyal” users get a break for 12 months. Here is a full breakdown of subscription costs over a five-year period.

New Annual New Monthly Upgrade Annual Upgrade Monthly
$237.60 $297 $213.84 $267.36

Doesn’t Compare

Smile Software isn’t breaking any new ground with its move to a subscription model. Adobe and Microsoft also made the move, but the return on investment simply doesn’t compare.
If my memory hasn’t faded too much, major version releases of Adobe’s Master Collection arrived about every three years with an upgrade cost of $1,800. The company now charges $50/month to access the entire stable of pro editing software with regular updates, or $1,800 every three years.
Microsoft’s Office Suite used to be in the neighborhood of $400 with deep discounts for students to $150. Now, those apps are available to regular users of Office 365 for $6.99/month, or $419.40 every five years. This includes services such as free tech support, 1 TB of OneDrive cloud storage, and web versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook in addition to the full desktop apps.
The cost to subscribe software from Adobe and Microsoft is comparable to the prior cost to buy boxed versions off the shelf. Based on my personal experience, the cost to subscribe to TextExpander will increase from an average of $14/year to $42.77/year, a 205.5 percent annual increase.

Technical Difficulties

There are other concerns beyond price.
Smile seems proud to drop sync services with Dropbox and iCloud to host its new Meteor app on the Galaxy cloud service. No more free to cheap, widely available, mature services available. Just the new textexpander.com. They seem to be taking Steve Jobs 2007 “very sweet solution” for developers to heart.

This was a case where history proves that Jobs wasn’t always right. Smile’s mandatory replacement locks users into a service that is arguably less secure. After fallout from the company’s initial announcement and press release, Smile Software issued a clarification the next day explaining upgrade options and the company’s intention “to support it on El Capitan and the next major upgrade of OS X.”

Alternatives

What now?
After turning off snippet expansion in TextExpander, I am adding snippets to Keyboard Maestro as needed. Keyboard Maestro is life-changing software I already owned that easily handles snippet expansion and so much more.

What Else Can Keyboard Maestro Do? Pretty much anything you can imagine including launch applications, click the mouse, palettes, execute scripts, insert text, manipulate windows, record macros, built in flow control, use text tokens, menus and buttons, open, file actions, clipboard history, control itunesnotifications, notifications, and perform image actions.

I lose syncing with iOS this way, but will just enter my oft-used snippets into the the Text Replacement features built into iOS. You can find these options on your iPhone under Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement. Snippets entered here will sync with your other Apple devices, but lack form entry and support for multiple lines or paragraphs of text.
A few other options include Typinator (by ergonis) and TypeIt4Me (by Ettore Software, App Store affilitiate link) along with aText (by Tran Ky Nam Software), the cheapest alternative for a sawbuck. Ettore also offers TypeIt4Me Touch (App Store affiliate link) that syncs with iOS using iCloud.

Long Story Short…

It’s too late to keep this long story short. If you scrolled to the end, here’s the nut of it. TextExpander has priced itself out of my business and I’m using Keyboard Maestro instead.

Categories
culture music technology

(Which) Music to My Ears

Spoiler: Apple Music wins
Rdio was my jam for a couple of years. A couple of months ago, Spotify offered a cheap deal and I gave it a shot. Now, Apple Music has bebopped into the mix. All three have deep catalogs to fuel a music marathon running in any direction.
Rdio is my favorite of the three, but probably won’t win back the top spot on my devices. The music service does social better than its competition. The app itself wins for its ability to control other versions of the app. By that I mean if a song is playing on my Mac, users can pause or change tracks from their iPhone and iPad or switch to play the track on their mobile device. Discovery is also pretty great. Search for your favorite artists and play a channel of that artist and others like them.
Spotify is more popular than Rdio, at least it seems to have more users. Maybe it’s because I cut my teeth on Rdio, but Spotify’s interface seems confusing to me. The playlists matched to activity is kind of neat, but it isn’t the first one to offer that feature. Songsta has done that for a while, and a new player in the field prominently shares the same sorts of playlists.
Apple Music also offers activity playlists and boasts human curation. It’s also the only service with anything like the DJ-curated Beats 1 Radio.[footnote]Don’t slip up and just call it Beats One. I hope the “online electronic and dance music radio station based in Calgary, Alberta” is taking advantage of any confusion.[/footnote] “Worldwide. Always on.” Curation by real people rather than algorithms is intriguing and helpful. Apple Connect is a huge improvement over the fruit company’s social flop by serving a different purpose than Ping—connecting artists to fans, not fans to fans. I’m still not sure how that will shake out, but so far so good in my opinion. I’ve found some good stuff in Apple Connect. The “For You” tab in Apple Music is another pro. Some of the playlists here have been perfect for me. Again, these are said to be arranged by real human beings who put thought into these lists like the cassette mixtapes of lore.
The problem with Apple Music, at least on the desktop, is that it is still a part of the monstrous digital hub that is iTunes, Apple’s answer to syncing, streaming, and managing apps, devices, podcasts, videos, movies, voice notes, TV shows, iTunes U, and more. There is a lot to deal with, both on OS X and iOS, so it’s confusing at first. I’m willing to learn.
Even with its warts and pain of the birthing process, the curation and deep roots in my digital ecosystem mean Apple Music is going to be my new jam.

Categories
nerd technology

Without a hiccup

Astounding anecdote via TiDbits, and definitely out of my budget.

I visited an Apple Store in San Francisco, and made pals with one of the sales guys. He gave me a demo of the Mac Pro. He opened the Applications folder and had me hold my hand over the vent. He then hit Command-A to select everything, then Command-O to open every app, including the pre-installed Adobe Creative Suite. Within 15 seconds, everything was open, without a hiccup, and all I felt was a waft of warm air. Pretty incredible.

Categories
technology

Troubleshooting Apple Networks

My home network has been plagued with incredibly frustrating problems with dropped connections and other weirdness that are hard to diagnose. I still haven’t solved it, but found two articles in Apple’s Knowledge Base that are finally pointing me in a better direction.

There is a lot of information there that isn’t obvious at at a glance, so be sure to expand all of the disclosure triangles.

Categories
technology writing

Sorting Out How I Work With Plain Text

My cup runneth over with superb apps for writing, manipulating, and writing text on any Apple device; so much so that it’s hard to pick the one I want to work in right now. A nice problem to have, but still a problem. A post by @macdrifter published on New Year’s Day, Quick Notes with Sublime Text, prodded me think about this.
As a nerd plunked firmly in the “fiddly” class, at least I know one thing. After years of agonizing over which font I want to use and how big the margins should be, I committed a long time ago to working in plain text using Fletcher Penney’s MultiMarkdown (based on John Gruber’s Markdown). All of my files are synced using iCloud or Dropbox for ubiquitous access from my Mac, iPhone, and iPad mini.
On my Mac, most ideas start in Sublime Text 3. It is always open and one of the best text editors on the market (along with BBEdit, of course).1 A bonus to both text editors is the hot exit; all open files are saved and reopened the next time you launch the app. This alleviates my File Naming Anxiety Disorder (FNAD), an affliction that submitted for inclusion in DSM-6.
So from my Mac I may start quickly in Sublime Text, but at some point I freeze and wonder, “Is this really where I want to be working on this?” These are my top three options, all of which recognize variants of Markdown while curating their own unique strengths:

  • MultiMarkdown Composer — This application for writing in MultiMarkdown is designed by Fletcher Penney, the man who designed the markup language. What could be better?
  • Ulysses III — In my memory, Ulysses kicked off the plain text editing revolution on the Mac. The developers completely overhauled the design and it is beautiful (and dovetails perfectly into their iOS app Daedalus Touch).
  • Byword — Another popular app with many writers on the web, Byword’s designers built in capabilities to publish directly to WordPress and Tumblr.

All three are terrific. Though it’s a Mac application, Ulysses III works the most like an iOS app; open a new file, start typing, and it’s just saved somewhere in the app without irritating my FNAD. Byword and MultiMarkdown Composer (MMC) work with standard files that are saved in iCloud or Dropbox, respectively. MMC handles MultiMarkdown metadata better than the other two (as it should coming from the man who wrote the spec).

Another Can of Worms

This has so far focused on the Mac while ignoring two other platforms, the iPhone and iPad. I’m getting bored with this topic for now, so I’m just going to rip out a few points here.

  • Byword is available on all three platforms
  • Ulysses III, coupled with Daedulus Touch, is sort of available on the Mac, iPhone, and iPad.
  • MultiMarkdown Composer is Mac-only, but being plain text is available for easy editing on any device when synced with Dropbox.

Findings?

The whole purpose for writing this article is to sort through my options and determine a system that works best for me. I don’t think I am quite there yet. If you’re still reading and curious, I chose to write this article in MultiMarkdown Composer. When I nail down something that works for me, I’ll let you know.


  1. BBEdit is still my go to app for cleaning up and reformatting documents using Text Factories. My most common use case is copying the text of meeting agendas sent to me in MS Word, pasting into BBEdit, running a Text Factory that strips weird spaces and characters, converts to Markdown, which is exported into HTML to publish online. 
Categories
nerd technology

In .tex we trust

I haven’t published anything in a while and after working in .tex files all day yesterday (for fun!), I want to remember this comic from xkcd.

Categories
design nerd technology

Maximize UI for Rdio & Simplify

When I’m in my Fortress of Solitude working on my Mac, it’s a safe bet Rdio (I’m ELBeavers in Rdioland) is feeding my brain a steady stream of rhythms and beats. Brett Terpstra made Sidecar13, a skin for a third-party Rdio controller called Simplify.
Sidecar13desktop
Sidecar13 provides a nice visual interface, but I can’t stand to have anything floating above all windows so I can’t see it in the background.
Then I thought about my shortcut to maximize windows, Keyboard Maestro macro that’s always a quick keystroke away.
First I considered created a Macro Group, but as far as I can tell that only makes actions available based on a selected apps availability. Knowing there had to be a way, I looked at the Maximize Window script again and added an if then else statement.
If Rdio is running, the Maximize… script zooms the front window to 1,116 × 786 (on my MacBook Air) ((This macro’s utility is limited to my screen’s dimensions, but with a little more work someone could tweak the macro to see what size screen it’s dealing with and act accordingly.)) and scoots the window 250 pixels from the left edge of the screen. This fills the space to the right while Brett’s beautiful Sidecar13 languishes gorgeous on the left.
Maximize window macro
Another couple of macros watch Rdio’s status. If it’s active, then Simplify is launched (if it wasn’t already). When Rdio quits, Simplify quits too. When those apps aren’t running, the Maximize Windows macro zooms to fill the entire screen.
2013 10 20 simplify
Check out the macros on Github or just go ahead and download them to use with Keyboard Maestro. Let me know if they’re as helpful for you as they are to me.