Welcome to the lab.

Marked 2.4.11: party like it’s $9.99!

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Marked 2.4.11 is out in the updater for direct customers (MAS update coming, hopefully soon). It’s a leap forward in speed when analyzing text on large documents, fixes multiple bugs, and hopefully represents a significant improvement in stability for all customers.

There are a couple of new features, mostly invisible and related to normalizing results between the MultiMarkdown and Discount processors. I’m currently working on adding an improved feedback system that will allow me to spend less time asking users how their preferences are set up and more time helping to solve issues.

To celebrate what I think is a very solid update, you can purchase Marked 2 for $9.99 (normally $13.99) this month (March 2015). The discount is across the board, no coupon necessary. The price will be reflected on the Mac App Store when the new version finally gets approved.

Yes, it’s weird to have a celebratory sale for an incremental release, but I’m a weird developer.

Web Excursions for March 04, 2015

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Get your Party started with Festify (Beta)
In-beta (and I’ve had some setup issues) app to let your party attendees vote on which Spotify tracks to play.
metaflop : modulator
An online font editor that happens to serve as a great visual tool for learning the ins and outs of typography.
No, OS X is NOT the ‘most vulnerable OS’ despite shoddy reporting
I’m clearly no security expert, but these points raised by Rene Ritchie are pretty obvious flaws GFI “report.”
Fillerama: A Filler Text Generator
HTML-formatted Lipsum generator with sources including Arrested Development, Doctor Who, Dexter, Futurama, Monty Python, and more. It also has an API. Expect the TextExpander lipsum tools in the TE-tools project to be updated soon.
Sublime Theme - Lyte
The only thing I don’t like about this Sublime Text 3 theme is the group headers in the sidebar, and even they’re not bad. The rest is great, and the included theme files are perfect for my tastes.

David Sparks’ “Workflow Video Field Guide”

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Have you seen Workflow for iOS, but had reservations about digging into it? True to form, David Sparks has published a Workflow Video Field Guide packed with videos to not only help you get started, but turn you into Workflow master.

In MacSparky style, the videos are easy to follow, bookmarked for quick reference, and you can get through the course in an hour. You can check out a free sample on Vimeo.

Pick up a copy for $9.99 directly from Mr. Sparks, and see the MacSparky website for more details and a chapter listing. Don’t miss the rest of the Field Guides, either.

BitTorrent Sync 2.0 is official

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As you probably know, I’m a fan of BitTorrent Sync. When it comes to fast file sharing, there are a few really good options (that almost all trump Dropbox for me), and Sync is one of the best. I’ve been beta testing version 2.0 and am excited to announce that it’s stable and available today!

The core features of Sync are available for free. There’s a new “Pro” tier, which is enabled for free for the first 30 days, which enables some cool extra features.

Sync 2.0 does everything that the last version (1.4) did, but with a better interface, an enhanced security model, and a cool “selective sync” (a “Pro” feature) that allows you to connect to a shared folder without downloading its contents. Instead, you get placeholders, and double-clicking a file (or tapping on iOS) will download just that file and keep it in sync.

If you own a NAS, Sync 2.0 also has an expanded list of devices (Seagate, Western Digital, NETGEAR, Synology, Drobo, Asustor, QNAP, Overland) that it can integrate with.

Sync 2.0 works with Mac, Windows, Linux, and FreeBSD. The mobile updates for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Amazon Kindle will also be released today. There’s a fun intro video to check out, an announcement blog post, and you can check out Sync 2.0 itself at GetSync.com.

Your teenage rock band

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You’re a high schooler. You love music. You want to play music. Not marching band music, and orchestra isn’t cutting it for you. You want your own band.

You’d find 2/3 or 3/4 of a core band among your close friends. Then you launch the search for the final piece, and maybe some extra pieces. It’s going to be a rock band, but you have a friend who’s a really, really good fiddler. You can make that work. It seemed like a lead singer and a drummer were going to be the hardest to find. Most kids who were into starting a band had taken guitar lessons, and some had chosen bass. Those two were easy to nail down. Teen self-esteem made lead singers tougher to find, and good drummers were in such high demand that finding an available one was a challenge. A singer doesn’t need much experience, and a guitar player can usually pick up bass reasonably well, but you don’t just pick up drums. But you found them all, eventually.

Then you had to find a rehearsal space. You couldn’t afford to rent a space, so you find garages and basements at whoever’s house has a parent or parents that worked late (or happen to be wonderfully permissive). Your equipment sucks enough to begin with, but the acoustics in a garage made life hell. The louder you played, the worse it sounded. The acoustics in a basement were different, but not much better. You can hear your bandmates now, though.

You rehearse and rehearse. After some covers, you start writing original songs. Your style starts to form. Someone in the band eventually hears something worth keeping. They convince you to play live.

Then you talk some friends into letting you play their party. It doesn’t go well. Maybe it went badly enough that someone in the band gives up and you start the search again. Maybe, though, you’d found a group of kids who were willing to soldier on.

You keep at it. You bond through the humiliation of gigs that probably weren’t as bad as you thought. Soon you get more cohesive. You get better.

Then it’s time to scrap together a demo tape. Someone has a small 4-track cassette recorder, or the local pawn shop has one you can pick up on a McDonald’s wage. You can’t afford good mics, though, so even if the noise bed on that 4-track weren’t insane, the combination of your basement-cum-studio and lack of anything but that blues mic your singer is in love with makes for an almost-indistinguishable, muddy mess. But you can make it out. You can live with it.

You make the rounds to the local all-ages venues and drop off the demo with the booking agents. You only had 10 copies you made on your stereo, all worse than the original thanks to sound degradation on magnetic tape copies, but one of those 10 calls you back. You got a gig playing something more than a basement when your friends’ parents were out of town.

You show up. They have house amps and a soundboard for you. They have monitors. You hear yourself pretty close to the way everyone else does for the first time. It’s exhilarating. You play. People dance. People you’ve never met talk to you after the show. You feel like keeping this going.

That good show gets you other gigs. Playing clubs makes you feel like you’ve made it. Seeing the same faces start showing up regularly boosts your ego. You have fans. It’s time for a record.

Between the three or four of you, you can come up with about $600. That’s enough for an hour at that studio at that one club. You can play you’re entire catalog of ten original songs in an hour, you’re sure of it.

But your drummer keeps demanding retakes, and your singer keeps telling the guitarist that he or she is off tempo. Your guitarist keeps telling your singer that he or she obviously can’t hear themselves in the cans. Egos clash. Tempers flare. You finish three songs before the hour is up, and the ride home is awkward and silent.

Then you get the mixdown. It’s the best you’ve ever heard yourselves sound. Everyone is critical of their own performance, of course, but there are no showstoppers. You decide to sell it as an EP. Maybe CD burners became a thing later in high school. An affordable thing. You make pristine copies and put them on the merch table. You make enough money on sales over the next few months to cover the original recording costs.

Between the door and the merch, you’re making enough to pay for gas to get to other towns. You can’t tour, because at least half of you are still in school, but you can play Friday nights as an opener at the club in the bigger town an hour away. It’s a cold drive because your Plymouth Rampage has a weak heater, and at least one band member has to ride in the back with the drum kit and amps. Fortunately, every band always has one good sport.

You start dreaming about rock stardom. Making it big. This is going to be a career. Then things plateau. You’re one of a dozen bands in the area in the same situation. Maybe you make it to headlining the shows. Maybe you don’t. It doesn’t matter because none of you are getting record contracts. You just can’t get the kind of exposure you’d need for that.

Then graduation comes. The diaspora. It’s “adios, I hope you find a new band in college town.” Sure, one or two of your crew probably aren’t headed to college, but at least one of them—probably the one with the 4-track and the mics—is. If the band goes on, it won’t be the same band.

Soon after, the Digital Audio Workstation becomes something the average high schoolers can get their hands on. You imagine what it would have been like to have your own studio back then. A little carpet on the walls in the basement, a couple of decent mics… and to have all the time in the world to make a perfect recording. A digital recording. And what if, you wonder, there were some technology that let you get that recording into not just the hands of a label, but to the whole world? What if you could do it for free? What if there were something that could level the playing field a bit, letting the listeners decide who got heard instead of the labels? It would be a different world.

Hey, look at that, it’s a different world.

Titler 1.1.0

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I’ve been tweaking the Titler Service I published last week a bit over the last few days. It’s now an official “project” with its own page. I wanted to push this version out before I lose any more time to it, but if you run into any problems, be sure to drop me a line.

Titler no longer has any dependencies. I replaced nokogiri with a simple regex. The original goal for this little tool had need of more complex parsing, but pulling a title tag out just doesn’t. I also replaced the standard network methods with system curl calls, which means no more hassle dealing with SSL (https) urls.

The new features include:

  • Option to remove SEO tags (site title, site tagline etc.) from titles
    • To use this, add clean_seo_titles: true to your ~/.titler config file
  • If a title is truncated, you can optionally include the original (full) title in a title attribute.
    • add full_title_as_title: true to ~/.titler
  • When truncating titles, Titler will now ensure that any open punctuation pairs are closed at the end
  • HTML entity cleanup
  • UTF-8 support
  • Improved error handling
  • A bunch of more trivial improvements

You can download directly below, and see the Titler project page for more info.

Titler Service v1.1.0

An OS X System Service to add titles and affiliate tokens to urls (Markdown format) in selected text

Updated Wed Feb 25 2015.

More info…

Sketch cheatsheet for Cheaters

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If you use Cheaters, you may also be the type of person who uses Sketch. If so, you’ll appreciate the addition of a cheatsheet for Sketch Shortcuts, based on the tables provided at Sketch Shortcuts.

To add it, just put the sketch.md file into your cheatsheets directory (or just git pull the latest update if you installed via Git), and add it to your index.html:

<ul id="nav">
	[...]
	<li><a href="cheatsheets/sketch.md">Sketch</a></li>
</ul>

If you’re new to Cheaters, check out the documentation and download it from the project page. I should also note that there’s a new Xcode cheatsheet which was submitted by Thomas Bennett. If you create any custom sheets for common apps, be sure to let me know!

For web nerds: fixed-position element scrolling in WebKit

Since you use Sketch and Cheaters, and you made it this far in the post, you probably work with CSS, too. If that’s not the case, I can only imagine what possessed you to read this far. Either way…

I also fixed a CSS issue in the Cheaters window. This should actually be a separate post for the sake of search engines because it’s a fix I think will be handy to others, but I wouldn’t want any extra traffic…

In the latest versions of WebKit, position: fixed elements occasionally wiggle all over the page during scrolling. I ran into this with Marked, on a couple of web pages, and just noticed it in Cheaters as well. Fortunately, I had figured out the issue a while ago.

As far as I can tell, it happens when a CSS rule triggers the WebKit animation engine (even for 2d transforms). If it doesn’t break anything else on your page, you can fix it with:

body {
  -webkit-transform-origin-y: 0;
  -webkit-perspective: 1000;
}

You should still be able to apply custom transform-origin and perspective properties to more specific elements within the DOM, but having the outer element reset takes care of the issue. I hope that’s useful to somebody…

Web Excursions for February 21, 2015

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Do Button, Do Camera, and Do Note
Three iOS/Android apps from IFTTT to give you one-tap access to a variety of actions. The “Do Button” app can connect to any of your IFTTT recipes, and the camera and notes app provide additional features specific to their respective functions. See links here for Android versions.
Beam: Smart projector that fits into any light socket
See the Kickstarter page for details. While the 100 Lumens on the 854x480 projector aren’t going to make a home theater for you, the automation capabilities and potential uses make it fascinating. To me anyway. Because I’m a dreamer.
Five minutes to Markdown mastery
If you haven’t figured out Markdown yet, here’s a concise 5-minute guide from Remarq to help out. A great resource, thanks to all the Twitter folk who pointed it out! (When you’re ready for a more in-depth look, check out my video tutorial. And Marked, of course.)
Sketch Toolbox - A super simple plugin manager for Sketch
A plugin manager with search and update capabilities for Sketch plugins. I’m actually even happier about this than I was about Alcatraz for Xcode (which is also awesome).
SketchTool
A CLI from the makers of Sketch that enables you include export functions in your build scripts, among other tricks.

Seems like it might be time for a pledge drive…

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I know I’ve been a bit slower on posting the madness from the lab lately. I’ve been working on more and more larger projects that have two results on my blogging: I don’t have as much time to document smaller tricks and tips to an extent where I’m comfortable posting, and I’m not finishing as many shorter-term projects to woo you with. I think the end results of the things I’m working on will be of interest to many of you, but they’re taking some time1.

It’s been a while since I mentioned ways you can support the blog and the effort that I put into the many projects that I give away for free, mostly because I feel guilty asking for such support when I’m offering less content in the short term. However, a recent surgery and some hefty auto repair bills2 have strained my wallet, and combined with the fact that the projects I’m working on won’t pay off until they’re finished, I think it’s worth a shot.

I’m not appealing to your sympathy, though. I’d prefer to be supported out of appreciation for what I share, not any kind of guilt. If you do appreciate the tools and tips I share here, there are a few things you can do to help.

  1. You can pledge a small monthly donation through Memberful (or PayPal if you prefer)
  2. You can make a one-time donation of any amount you choose
  3. If you’re a Markdown user, purchasing a copy of Marked 2 would certainly be mutually beneficial

My current “indie” life is split between commercial projects and continuing to build tools and workflows to share publicly. Your support makes the latter possible (and your love of Markdown makes the former feasible). Thanks to everyone who’s currently subscribed or who have donated, you have no idea how much I appreciate it.

  1. I used to complain if I had to work more than 8 or 9 hours in a day at corporate jobs, or was ever asked to work a weekend. My current boss (this prick) has me working up to 18 hours a day and somehow I’m putting up with it.

  2. I like Nissans, but that Murano is slowly killing us. No, not slowly. Quickly. My Audi repair costs pale in comparison.