Welcome to the lab.

Web Excursions for April 08, 2020: Quarantine Issue #1

Brett holding map

Web excursions brought to you in partnership with MindMeister, the best collaborative mind mapping software out there.

Stuff to read and things to do while you shelter in place.

The Creativity of ADHD
ADHD folks might have the creative edge on their peers. Via Frank Petrie.

Remove vocals, drums, bass and synth with state of the art AI. Built for DJing, music production and karaoke alike.

I tested this on some punk rock tracks and it did an amazingly good job of splitting vocals out from accompaniment.
I Miss the Office
I don’t miss the office myself, but this is a clever, web-based background noise generator for those who need the drone of offfice sounds to feel like they’re working. I find it humorous and well-implemented, but you might actually find it useful.
Jitsi Meet - Instant Free Videoconferencing
A secure, open-source alternative to Zoom. Because there are so many things wrong with Zoom. We tested this with an interstate family call and it was smooth sailing for everyone. I believe it’s a solid option.
PlayingCards.io Virtual Tabletop
Play tabletop games online with friends, including a Cards Against Humanity clone called Remote Insensitivity. Game night doesn’t have to die with social distancing.

Check out MindMeister and start brainstorming, collaborating, and boosting productivity.

Your April nvUltra update

I had been doing a decent job of posting progress updates for nvUltra, but fell out of the habit for a bit there. So here’s the latest news.

The beta continues as we solve a few final bugs. Some of them are “mysterious,” as in we’re unable to replicate what some testers are experiencing, so those might take a little longer to sort out and make the official rollout as smooth as possible. Our biggest concern is data loss, which is not a problem, but we still want to avoid as many issues as possible.

We hit a feature-complete point in the development for 1.0. Then we added one new feature, saved searches, which I’m really happy about. The implementation uses the dropdown from the magnifying glass in the search/create field, and you can save searches directly from there and edit/rename them in Preferences. They get assigned automatic shortcut keys, and you can sort the order of searches to change the order of keyboard assignments. It’s working quite well.

The beta is absolutely full at this point, but we’re not far from release. Please continue to be patient, I promise it’s coming!

Addendum: For those who don’t know, Fletcher is a doctor working at a hospital, so a lot of our schedule is subject to the current pandemic and the strain on health care professionals’ workloads. Best of health to everyone!

Six New Marked 2 Custom Styles

Since posting about the new Marked Custom Style Gallery, I’ve added six new preview styles for Marked 2 that I consider worth a mention: Emma, Mouse, Hardstock, Monophile, Symphonic, and FadingFast. Click any of those links to preview the styles live in your browser.

These are developed with thoughtful font pairings and careful typographic rhythms1. They all include regular and inverted (high contrast) variations.

Visit the Style Gallery and use the “Add to Marked” button to instantly try them out in Marked 2.

  1. Generated using the cool typography.js.

Working from home can be magical

We here at BrettTerpstra.com take COVID-19 very seriously. We’ve all transitioned to working from home and maintaining social distance, and to providing you with all of our reading materials online for your protection. So, business as usual.

Seriously, though, how are you holding up? This Coronavirus thing is a big change, huh? Not so much for me, but I feel for all of the people who are newly working from home. It can be quite a transition.

There have been endless articles on how to work from home. And so many of them are wrong in one way or another, yet each proclaims itself to be true for you and your productivity. The fact is that working from home means a lot of different things, and every individual has to find their own rhythm. And for some of us, it’s downright magical compared to working in an office.

Web Excursions for March 24, 2020

Brett holding map

Some things to play with when you’re not working (from home).

Web excursions brought to you in partnership with CleanMyMac X, all the tools to speed up your Mac, in one app.

Slideas Markdown Presentation Editor for Mac
Some serious competition for Deckset here. A Markdown-based slide deck generator and presenter with support for a wide array of layouts, media types, and even full chart/mind map syntax. The built-in editor offers syntax highlighting and autocompletion. I wish some of the styles had better spacing, but you can also customize your own themes with CSS, which I might take a crack at.
DOTKey on the App Store

DOTKey is an exciting new way to type. Unlike traditional keyboards with their “one size fits… nobody” approach, DOTKey offers a user-friendly experience that adjusts to your hand instead of forcing you to adjust to it. With DOTKey you can type quickly and accurately–even with one hand–without needing to look at the keyboard as you type.

Mailbrew - Beautiful Automated Newsletters
A handy service to create automated newsletters with content from your favorite sites, including YouTube, Reddit, Twitter, Google News, and more.
Irradiated Software makes a bunch of great tools, including Cinch, Tuck, and SizeUp for macOS window sizing and control, but I’m linking this page specifically for the free tool “ShortcutDetective,” which listens for globally-assigned shortcuts and tells you what app is intercepting it. Good for debugging those shortcut assignments.
The ADHD Essentials Podcast with Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., M.S.
If you’re on the lookout for ADHD resources, the ADHD Essentials podcast is definitely worth a listen.

CleanMyMac X

Judging the value of automation

Rube Goldberg machine
Image credit rubegoldberg.com

I automate everything I can. I enjoy the process of building automations in myriad contexts, using myriad tools. And I frequently have to assess whether I’ve spent more time automating something than I’m actually going to save using the automation.

I often think about the benefits of automation in the context of time savings. It makes things more efficient, removes drudgery. But I’ve realized over time that the real benefit of automation is avoiding mistakes.

When I automate something (anything), I’m defining the steps that need to be included to complete the task. I’m no longer relying on my memory to ensure that every step is complete or the specific ways in which a step should be completed. This is especially useful if it’s something I don’t do very often, which means that my normal calculation for “was it worth automating” is actually moot: if it helps me do the exact same thing one time a year later, that’s often worth as much as any amount of total time saved in my life.

My automation tools run the gamut, from snippets in TextExpander that make sure I’ve conveyed all of the right information to an email recipient, to build scripts I developed for a coding project, to bedtime home automation sequences I built using Homekit. All of these prevent missed steps and undesired results.

So from now on, instead of saying “this automation saves me one minute every time I do this four-minute task,” I’m going to try to additionally look at it from the perspective of how much pain it saved me had the task been done incorrectly, and how much time I would have had to spend re-learning a process after it wasn’t fresh in memory anymore. Those aspects add value to any automation and shouldn’t be discounted.

And it will help me sleep better at night, knowing I don’t waste as much time as I think I do.