Welcome to the lab.

Paragraph unwrap update for Markdown Service Tools

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I’ve updated the “Paragraphs - unwrap” service in the Markdown Service Tools. This Service is designed to take text formatted with line breaks within paragraphs (used for visual formatting and console readability), and combine consecutive lines into flowed text, allowing better formatting when automatic wrapping is enabled in an editor. Flowed text also prevents issues between Markdown processors that vary in dealing with handling of line breaks.

Previously, the unwrap Service required that you selected only blocks of paragraph text, as it would otherwise unwrap everything and break code blocks, lists, and other Markdown syntaxes.

The new version allows you to select the entire document contents and preserves important formatting, unwrapping only paragraphs and items that are easily distinguished as paragraph format.

  • Separates headlines from elements immediately after

    In my opinion this is just good formatting, but also prevents paragraphs from being wrapped into headlines.

  • Preserves indented and fenced code blocks
  • Handles definition lists

    Lines preceded by a colon will be wrapped, but multiple definitions will remain separated.

  • Preserves both indented and fenced (backtick) code blocks


  • Ignores lines within lists.

    Because paragraphs can be nested within lists with various levels of indentation and bordering newlines, determining what should be combined is difficult, so they’re ignored.

  • Preserves reference links and footnotes, but…

    Footnotes with line breaks will have lines after the first break separated into a new paragraph

  • Hard breaks (two spaces) are not respected within paragraphs.

    It’s assumed that if you’re unwrapping, you want to combine all lines regardless of previous formatting.

Download the whole shebang on the project page.

NerdUsefully update: The Shuttle vs. Foster Dogs

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**For immediate release**

NerdUsefully, Winona MN USA: It has come to our attention that our product The Shuttle, despite extended testing prior to release, cannot withstand extended exposure to untrained foster dogs. We are sharing this information as a service to current and potential owners of the device.

Under prolonged exposure to canine jaw pressure, the wooden material that comprises the majority of the handcrafted Apple Remote holder can suffer structural damage. This issue has only been seen in one instance to date, helpfully demonstrated to us by Shuttle user “Brooklyn,” a recent intake to the MN Pit Stop rescue.

The overall integrity of the remote holder remained intact, but the cosmetic condition was compromised. The remote was not harmed in any way, thanks to the protective shell that The Shuttle provides. The user was entirely unscathed, and was able to resume normal activity — sleeping on the couch, sleeping on dog beds, and enthusiastic interactions with other residents — immediately following the incident.

While NerdUsefully does not plan to recall the product, we will be providing “bumpers” to current customers to mitigate any issues. Please note that these will not actually fit on The Shuttle, as they are left over from AntennaGate and designed for the iPhone 4. Also, we will not actually be providing bumpers.

However, we would like to extend an offer to potential customers who foster dogs, and also to those who think that fostering dogs is (or might be) a noble cause and are willing to pretend that they do so in order to get a discount. Use the coupon SUREIFOSTERDOGS at NerdUsefully for a $20 discount, and thank you for your real or pretend service to these animals.

Our special thanks to Brooklyn for bringing this issue to light, and we congratulate her on her valiant recovery from the skin conditions and obesity that she was suffering from when she first entered foster care.

While highly discouraged, The Shuttle has withstood use as a pacifier by young humanoids with excellent results, but — while not included in our field testing thus far — the unit may be susceptible to damage by domesticated birds. We have found that very few substances can withstand onslaught by the tomia of avian mandibular attack without damage, ranging from costmetic to complete molecular destruction. In the interest of avoiding conflict in our work environment, the company takes no official stance on birds as pets.

For more information about NerdUsefully’s flagship product, The Shuttle, please see the release announcement and The Shuttle on Etsy. Please remember to enter the coupon SUREIFOSTERDOGS at checkout. These units withstand day-to-day wear and tear excellently, but be aware that the devices are chewable if enough pressure is applied.

Web Excursions for June 24, 2015

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This week’s web excursions brought to you in partnership with Webdesigner News.

Coverr - Beautiful, free videos for your homepage
A frequently-updated collection of free video backgrounds for web pages, with ready-to-go HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for implementing them.
App Store Optimization: A Hands-On Guide for App Developers
Hongkiat offers an insightful post for developers selling apps on the Mac/iTunes app stores. From optimized titles to initial marketing, there are some suggestions in here that I really need to implement in my own App Store presence.
ZenHub 2.0
If your team is already using GitHub for source control and issue tracking, ZenHub looks like a great way to bring a full Agile project management system into it.
Fax Robot
I send so few faxes these days that it’s frustrating to keep an online fax account. This service for sending one-off faxes at 6 cents per page is going to be handy on those once-a-year occasions that an institution forces me to actually do that kind of thing.
An excellent new analytics platform for websites. Heatmaps, visitor recordings, conversion funnels, form analytics, feedback polls and proactive chat in one platform.
Back-In-Time for Mac 50% off
I can vouch that this tool is an excellent way to scour and manage Time Machine backups on a Mac. 50% off is a steal and there’s a free trial available.

Find more top web and design news at Webdesigner News.

Some MindMeister updates worthy of mention

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As you may know, I’m a huge proponent of mind mapping. The topic has been a major focus on several episodes of Systematic (and will be again in an upcoming episode with Eddie Smith).

My favorite native app for this task is iThoughts (Mac and iOS) with MindNode (Mac and iOS) running a close second. As I frequently mention, though, I love the web app MindMeister (also available for iOS) for collaboration and sharing embeddable maps.

I’m writing this post to mention some excellent improvements that MindMeister just released.

The biggest improvements to my own workflow are the copy & paste features. Using standard shortcuts (⌘C, ⌘V), the web app now behaves much more like my favorite desktop apps.

You can now paste images from the clipboard with a simple ⌘V into the web app and have them instantly become nodes (with an option to make them attachments).

Pasting links will intelligently determine whether it’s a regular link (inserted as a hyperlinked node), an image link (inserted as an image node), or a video (YouTube, Vimeo, and DailyMotion videos are attached).

Pasting text will automatically create a new node, and text with line breaks offers the option to create multiple nodes by splitting the pasted text.

You can also copy topics and groups of nodes between maps in different windows and browsers, which is handy for multitasking and for transitioning and combining ideas.

There is also Disqus integration for public maps, and a contextual menu that you can reach by right/control clicking and empty space in the canvas. The menu allows you to quickly change the theme of the map, as well as inserting floating (detached) topics anywhere you like.

These are excellent improvements and I’m happy to see that MindMeister is still receiving so much love, even as development effort continues to make their new product, MeisterTask, a great project management tool. You can sign up for MindMeister for free and see if it’s as great a tool for you and your collaborators as it has been for me.

Marked 2 cheat sheet for Dash and Cheaters

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Marked 2 has over 70 shortcuts for everything from exporting PDFs to navigating the preview. Not knowing them doesn’t affect you, but knowing them can be very handy. I put together some cheat sheets to help with that.

I built the first one for Cheaters, my own project for collecting cheat sheets. You can find a preview of it on the Cheaters Demo page.

You can also grab one for Dash below. If you run Cheaters in the recommended Fluid instance, you’ll have quick search, but if you’re already running Dash, this version is an excellent way to find a shortcut quickly.

The Preview Navigation features in Marked are my favorite set of shortcuts, all single-key actions for moving, bookmarking, searching, auto-scrolling, and more. If you’ve never explored them, check out the cheat sheet and see what you’re missing. For those, you can also type “?” while in a Marked 2 preview window and see all available shortcuts right in the window. Did you know you can type “f” and then any part of a headline title (fuzzy matched) to quickly jump to that section of a document?

Check out Marked 2 (currently only $9.99), and grab either Cheaters or the Dash docset to push it to the next level.

Marked 2 Docset for Dash v1.0

A cheat sheet docset for Dash.app

Updated Tue Jun 23 2015.

More info…

On the XARA Mac and iOS exploits

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I’m not a security expert. This post is an opinion interlaced with the things I’ve learned from sources I have faith in. Feel free to clarify or correct me in the comments.

When I saw the news of the XARA1 exploits in an article on The Register, my heart sank. I’ve spent years using security as a point of argument in platform debates. I don’t want to be proven wrong.

The report describes multiple weaknesses in both OS X and iOS centering around the systems that Apple has implemented to allow communication between apps. This is bad news to me, personally, because what’s discouraged me most in recent OS X developments is the clamping down of these systems and the frustration it causes for anyone who wants to work (and automate) outside of the iCloud space.

Most of the vulnerabilities reported are related to “legacy” systems that Apple built on top of the OpenBSD framework, such as the Keychain, url handlers, inter-app communication systems. These are all things that make OS X great to use, so we’re walking the line between security and convenience again. Most of what I do every day relies on these technologies.

It’s stated that Apple had 6 months to — at the very least — prepare a statement. Historically it’s rare that they do anything other than quietly release a patch, but this issue comes down to core technologies that especially affect the third-party developers that make the Apple ecosystem what it is.

In retrospect, the announcements at WWDC already indicated that Apple was taking security measures against the url vulnerabilities, requiring that each app preemptively declare what handlers it can call. That’s a big handicap for the current implementation of apps like Workflow, Drafts, and LaunchCenter Pro, who allow user-defined url schemes to call other apps. This change in the upcoming version seems like an indication that action was being taken. I’m just surprised that there were no publicly visible proactive measures taken against the panic that this report is generating.

The fact that part of the research on the exploits was to successfully publish a malware app to the App Store is frustrating. As a Mac developer, I know that getting through the rigorous review process is sometimes an even bigger hurdle than actually writing an app. I’d like to think that this stringent and detail-focused process at least ends up providing security and quality.

The “malware” that passed through the review wasn’t detectable by static analyzers, and the trojan didn’t do anything a “normal” app wouldn’t do. It used existing systems, such as url handler registration and bundle id spoofing, in ways that exposed serious weaknesses.

I’m sure there will be increased scrutiny of all App Store apps using these systems for communication and credential storage. I’m hoping that we don’t just see the pod bay doors snap shut, but that we’ll see new, more secure means of handling the flexibility some of us love. OS X is my favorite operating system I’ve ever used. iOS has come a long way and is rapidly continuing toward the combination of power and beauty of the desktop platforms.

As far as what you need to know, and actions you need to take, here are the best resources I’ve seen thus far:

  1. Acronym for unauthorized cross-app resource access

Web Excursions for June 19, 2015

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Streamline 2.0 Icons
I’ve always liked the Streamline icons, and have been using them for web and app designs for a while. The set was just updated, now with 4000 icons, perfect for app and web UI. The packs include files for Sketch and Illustrator (and SVG format) with pixel-perfect designs and adjustable line widths.
Leap Motion plugin for Reveal.js
I’m a huge fan of Reveal.js (and slides.com)1. I’m also always looking for more ways to use my Leap motion controller, so this is awesome. I’m not sure how practical it would be in most presentation environments, but I love the idea.
I found this while looking for a way to automate the creation of OS X Saved Searches, which was an endless headache. I haven’t tested this Ruby gem far enough to be sure it’s a perfect solution, but it’s a great start.
MutationObserver API
I’ve been doing a lot of JavaScript learning lately and was surprised to find a new API I’d overlooked. MutationObserver attaches to DOM elements and watches for changes, saving you from any additional custom events or polling.
You’re probably using the wrong dictionary
This was pointed out to me by bowerbird on Twitter. It’s a persuasive article about why you should change your default OS X Dictionary.
  1. I have spent and inordinate amount of time researching HTML5-based slide deck options, considering I give a presentation maybe once a year.