Welcome to the lab.

Web Excursions for February 22, 2017

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This week’s web excursions brought to you in partnership with Udemy. Learn Anything.

Reverb for Amazon Alexa
Access Alexa from your Mac (iOS version available as well. I just started playing with this and I’m not even very familiar with Alexa yet and I’m really impressed.
The Petter App - Keep track of your pet’s life.
An iOS app that helps organize info about your pets, including contact info and records for vets, groomers, and pet sitters, plus notes, todo lists, and reminders synced to your calendar. Share the info easily with anyone who needs to know.
Quick Peek
I love this idea (tried to monkeywrench a similar system in Evernote years ago). Order QR-style stickers to put on boxes, photograph the contents of a box, then use the iOS app to associate the inventory in a searchable database.
Songlink - Share music with everyone
Instead of sharing a Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Google Music, or Deezer link, share the song with all the links and let people choose their preferred playback service.
Data Selfie
A Chrome extension that tracks you while you are on Facebook to show you your own data traces and reveal how machine learning algorithms use your data to gain insights about your personality.

Oh, and hey, don’t forget to order one of my latest T-shirts: **BOLD**

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Guest Post: A new approach to threat modeling

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Ben Elijah

I have a guest post from Ben Elijah, author of The Productivity Habits. He writes at Ink and Ben, and you can also find out more about him by listening to Systematic Episode 155, where he was a gracious guest.

Now I’ll turn it over to Ben and let him talk about security of the tools we use every day.

Tinfoil Hats

The Snowden leaks made me question the trustworthiness of the systems and services we all rely on. Oh, of course there is the usual retort of the authoritarian; “if you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to fear”, though I rather think that those who argue this point ought to defecate in the street and tattoo their passwords on their foreheads.

The thing is, my brain sucks. I find it difficult to hold pieces of information in my mind for long periods of time. A long time ago I decided that I wasn’t going to accept these limitations. Methods like Getting Things Done helped enormously, as well as the ideas which found their way into The Productivity Habits. Task lists, note-taking apps, knowledge managers, collaboration services; gimme gimme gimme!

I’ve learned to rely on services and infrastructure which we now know are under pervasive surveillance. Working with information outside my head is as important to the way I live my life as any habit or belief. I’m sure almost all of the services I might use have good intentions, but unless I encrypt my data, properly, before it leaves my computer with a key that only I have, I can safely assume that I’m sharing it with the NSA and GCHQ. I believe that privacy is essential for creativity, and consequently, so are privacy-respecting tools. I cannot use untrustworthy tools to make things. Mass surveillance has motivated me to find alternatives.

Make friends and influence nerds with the Lab’s new tee

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Introducing the latest shirt available from my Teespring shop! It’s bold and beautiful and reasonably priced. And by wearing some humane text syntax on your chest you’ll garner immediate respect from other Markdown fans and find fun opportunities to explain nerdy topics to new people at parties and on dates. Especially on dates.

The shirt is available in 3 colors and in men’s, women’s, and tank top versions. There’s even a little **BOLD** sticker you can add on for your laptop or forehead.

Buying my shirts is a great way to support The Lab, as well as adding to your collection of humorous nerd shirts. The t-shirts from the Rock Paper Wallpaper collection are available, too, and I’m still quite proud of my Black Flag/Sex Pistols/Ramones mashup shirt.

All of the shirts are available in the new and improved “The Lab” shop at Teespring. The campaigns are now automatically renewing, so as the goals are met and shirts are printed, the campaign will continue to be available. Plus, I get a cool address like “teespring.com/stores/lab”. Go check it out and support The Lab (and me by proxy1)!

  1. Or would that be transitive property if the lab == me?

Web Excursions for January 23, 2017

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This week’s web excursions brought to you in partnership with Udemy. Learn Anything.

Markdown To Medium
A quick way to publish a Markdown post to Medium. Includes the ability to detect code blocks and create gists so you can get Medium’s syntax highlighting.
How to customize the small control strip of the macOS touchbar even further
A cool tip for further customizing the Touch Bar on a MacBook Pro by editing PLIST files.
WebSlides: Create Beautiful HTML Presentations
One of these days I’ll get around to sharing my reviews of the plethora of HTML presentation slides (and all of my Markdown->HTML Deck scripts), but for now I’ll just link the latest coolness. Lacks the presenter notes I love so much, but WebSlides is amazingly powerful for as simple as the markup is.
Find a Remote Job
Given the fact that if I ever decide to return to the workforce as part of a company, I’ll absolutely want to work remotely (because who would want to leave MN in the middle of January?), this Product Hunt collection of apps for finding remote jobs is handy to have bookmarked. That was a really long sentence even without the parenthetical. Sorry.
Opera Neon – The future of web browsers?
Opera’s vision for the future of desktop browsers. Split screen mode, quick image capture to a scrapbook with return links, pop-out video player, and a neat take on tab management.
I never love my code enough to memorialize it, but this service will take your code and create a good-looking poster you can hang on your wall. I like the idea, anyway…
MacScripter / GUI scripting information
I know AppleScript is slowly dying, and GUI scripting is, like, the worst part of automation with AS, but this script is a godsend even if you’re using JSX. It takes any running app and creates a hierarchical list of every menu item in it, making it easy to script choosing them.
Speedtest by Ookla for Mac
I’ve always liked Speedtest by Ookla, especially on my iPhone, and having it in my menubar is handy. And it’s free.

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Best of 2016: Mac apps for nerds

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Welcome to part 3 of my “Favorite Apps of 2016” series. This installment focuses on Mac utilities and developer tools. If you’re not a power user or a coder, there will probably be fewer apps of interest to you, but there are quite a few that are great gateways for intermediate users to start making more of their Macs.

Check out the previous lists, too: Mac Productivity and Mac Creativity.


The list of apps I use every day that I think get mentioned enough that I can save some word count on describing them…

The “Obvious” List

The Standouts

CleanMyMac 3
I fell in love with this one in 2016. It covers all the bases that Cocktail did for me, plus disk scanning for large files, extension and launch agent management, and more. Again, not to be confused with MacKeeper.
I love Spotlight. I love HoudahSpot because it makes complex Spotlight queries easy while adding even more power. Recently-added Smart Folder export makes it helpful to me even outside of the app.
As a side note, I built this series using HoudahSpot to find apps opened within a date range and export the list with just the app name and category columns as a CSV file. Then a little manual curation and a ruby script to sort the list into posts by category.
This utility takes a lot of fiddling, but for adding keyboard features and other customizations, it’s pretty amazing. Finally a valid reason in my workflow to learn Lua.
Default Folder X
It’s taken some time for Default Folder X to regain full functionality since El Capitan, but it’s there now and I’m glad to have it back. If Save and Open dialogs make you crazy, this is the solution.
Droplr continues to be my favorite way to quickly share screenshots, animated gif recordings, and Markdown/Code notes. It’s fast and well-integrated, and I love being able to use custom domains (ckyp.us, my Beastie Boys tribute of a domain name), sort my share history, and track analytics.
Smart Sync
Not pretty, but for the price the best folder-syncing solution I’ve found for my needs.
Keyboard Maestro
In 2016 I finally got serious about learning Keyboard Maestro. I always knew it was amazing, thanks to bloggers like Gabe Weatherhead (MacDrifter), Patrick Welker (RocketInk), and Dr. Drang, but now I’m actually starting to use it and realize the full scope of what it can do.
This one is a bit pricy ($20) for my needs, but worth it in the end. Browse folders of files with split previews, metadata inspection, sorting, filtering, and flagging, video playback, and more.
When my other system monitoring solutions fell behind the times or ceased development, I tried out Monity and it’s fit the bill nicely. It’s a Today widget that gives me all the CPU, disk, and network info I need.
Here’s a random and free tool for creating OmniFocus color themes.
A WiFi scanner and analysis app. Great for solving wifi network issues and improving coverage.
My favorite backup app. I use it with SFTP, but also love the integration with Amazon S3 and Glacier. The speed boost this year was significant, too.
LaunchControl has kept up with the OS changes, and is still the most solid and complete tool for managing (and creating) background daemons and agents for macOS. Even if that doesn’t sound interesting to you, trust me, it makes running scheduled and repeating tasks easy. You’ll thank me later.
This disk ejecting app from St. Clair Software is my top choice in its bracket. I can eject all (or specific) external and network drives with a keystroke, and automatically eject them on sleep.

Developer Tools

Need to read and understand symbolicated crash reports easily? This is the tool that helped me make sense of them.
I use iTerm 2, but Hyper (as well as Black Screen) have taken some serious strides in the realm of highly-customizable (via HTML/CSS/JavaScript) terminal apps.
I know, there are a ton of better looking RegEx apps with very cool features. RegExRX keeps drawing me back, though, with great highlighting, error reporting, and the ability to import and export a pattern converted to whatever language/syntax you’re working in. It can even generate code for initializing and executing regex objects in each supported language.
I use Feeder primarily for Sparkle appcasts, but it has excellent features for bloggers and podcasters as well.
Kaleidoscope hasn’t updated since 2014, but it’s still the best diff/merge tool for my needs. A hefty price tag, though ($70), so you might prefer Xcode’s FileMerge and something like Patch Viewer.
Import PDF, SVG, PSD, AI or EPS documents or draw your own with built-in vector tools and output generated code in Swift, Obj-C, Java, C#, JavaScript or SVG, ready to use in your app as fully-scalable, code-driven graphics. It’s awesome, and there’s a Sketch plugin available.
I’m going to offer a strong recommendation of SwitchUp for developers, but with the caveat that it’s long been abandonware. It’s perfect for testing applications with multiple sets of preferences and cache files, though.

Next up will be my favorite iOS apps from the last year!

Web Excursions for January 12, 2017

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This week’s web excursions brought to you in partnership with Udemy. Learn Anything.

Tettra - A wiki for Slack Teams
A simple internal wiki built for Slack teams.
An HTML/JS/CSS terminal app for Mac, Windows, and Linux. Pretty sweet feature set.
A new open source launcher for MacOS that is completely (and obligatorily) hackable. No built in integrations, extensible through a plugin architecture.
PaceCoach - Pace your Music
PaceCoach optimizes your songs to match your running cadence by automatically adjusting the tempo of your music to match your pace. Works with Spotify playlists or local music.
The Type Snob - And how to turn into one
Well-written and fun read from Pablo Stanley, discussing the basics of typography, typeface pairing, and designing for screen. Also see Typography tips for a better user experience from Studio Function.

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