Archive for the ‘Notes’ Category

What those weather icons mean

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Seems like more and more lately I’ve been seeing symbols in the iPhone’s weather app that I can’t immediately interpret. Here’s a handy chart to help with that. (Click to enlarge!)
iOS Weather Icons

Power User Tools & Tips

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On Saturday I gave a talk at the Main Line Mac Users Group (MLMUG) meeting in Paoli, PA. The title was “Power User Tools and Tips” and I talked about some of my favorite apps which I suspect aren’t widely known. I also talked about some features of OS X that I find are overlooked or underused by my clients. I use all these things every day. I rely on them to make my computing more efficient or just more enjoyable. I found most of this stuff by relentlessly applying two guiding principles: “there must be a quicker way” and “computers are supposed to be good at stuff like this”. Basically, I figured this stuff out by being lazy and impatient.

Here’s a summary of what I talked about, with handy links to more info and downloads. After the summary, I also answer a few questions that I got on Saturday.

Knock

Knock is a pair of apps that let you unlock your Mac simply by tapping on your phone. It’s quite like magic. I love showing it to people because they can’t contain their surprise.
10.8+, $3.99, knocktounlock.com,  

Spirited Away

Spirited Away hides all the windows of apps that are sitting idle in the background. I don’t always set up my environment in a way that encourages focus, and this helps me do that automatically.
10.6+, free, download

Cinch

Cinch is a simple and fantastically useful window management tool that lets you instantly put two windows side by side. I do this dozens of times a day.
10.6+, $7,  

Hazel

Hazel automatically organizes your files. Create rules using dozens of built-in conditions and actions. I use it to label my downloads by age, to organize my photos into YYYY/YYYY-MM folders, and to file some monthly paperwork.
10.6+, $28, Noodlesoft

DiskInventory X

DiskInventory X lets you visualize what’s taking up space on your hard drive. There are lots of apps which do this, but DiskInventory X is free.
10.6+, free, DiskInventory X

Jumpcut

Jumpcut gives your clipboard a memory. You can copy multiple things and then paste multiple things. Use a menu or a key combination to choose. This one is dear to me because a friend wrote it, and I’m mentioned in the credits.
10.6+, free, Jumpcut

FormatMatch

A companion to Jumpcut, FormatMatch strips the formatting (font size, color, style) from whatever you copy so that when you paste it it’s just text and it looks normal in the context you’re pasting to.
10.6+, free,  

f.lux

Flux reduces the blue light coming from your screen starting at sunset, and into the night, to cue your brain that the day is ending. This is thought to protect against issues with circadian rhythms and sleep.  I’m persuaded that this is an evolutionarily appropriate technology, and I expect it will be built in to future operating systems. Until then, I run f.lux.
10.6+, free, justgetflux.com

Caffeine

If the sleeping problem belongs to your computer, Caffeine puts a cute coffee cup in your menu bar. Click it to fill the cup with coffee and prevent your computer from starting a screensaver, dimming the screen, or going to sleep.
10.6+, free, Lighthead,  

 

That’s it for the apps. Here are the built-in features of OS X that I use to help me maintain focus and flow.

Quick Look – Take a look at the contents of a file by hitting space bar — no need to wait for an application to launch.

Spotlight menu – Find files, but also do calculations, preview file contents, preview web pages, and look up words in the dictionary.

Keyboard shortcuts

  • Command-Tab to switch between running applications
  • Command-~ to switch between windows in an app
  • Control-Tab to cycle through tabs in Safari
  • Command-1 through Command-9 to go to the first 9 bookmarks in Safari’s bookmarks bar
  • and MANY MORE

Text Expansion: – Set up abbreviations & expansions to quickly type common words, phrases, even paragraphs. How to set up in 10.6, How to set up in 10.7+

Emoji panel – Quick access to special characters and even Emoji in OS X.

Questions

Q: Can you recommend a good app to find (and delete) duplicate files?

A: I’ve tried out a handful of apps for this, and found one that worked so well that I stopped looking. It’s made by Rocky Sand Studio and called “The Duplicate Finder”.  As I was looking up the details, I noticed it’s on sale on the Mac App Store, so if you think you might use this, it’s a good time to buy.
10.7+, $2.99, Rocky Sand Studio,  

Q: Can I use the Spotlight menu and just search for files? I don’t always want all the other kinds of results (contacts, applications, web pages, etc.)

A: Yes! Learn a bit of special syntax and you can use the system-wide Spotlight menu to search just by filename, limit the search to just images, etc. You can also use words like AND and NOT to refine the results. Here is some documentation to get you started:

Q: How large is the Spotlight index? Do I need to worry about how much space it takes up?

A: Great question! I don’t have a lot of info about how big a “normal” index should be. I checked my computers and external drives and found that on my boot drives, the size of the index is right around 1% of the total size of the data on the drive. On my non-boot drives, it’s much smaller, and I don’t have a good guess why that is. My biggest index is 4.5 gigabytes.

I hope you find this helpful! If you have any questions, please leave a comment below, or email me, adam@adamrice.org.

Colophon

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Look, I updated my site! I had a few goals:

  • I wanted to flex my front-end web skills and get a feel for current practices.
  • I wanted a responsive design that would look good on iPhones, iPads, and Macs.
  • I wanted to move to a CMS, so I could make tweaks and edits from anywhere.
  • I wanted a place of my own to write & share links to things relevant to my work.

Not quite mobile-first — mobiltaneous?

The first version of adamrice.org was a single page with just enough info to justify using my adamrice.org email address. I built it using 960gs, an early grid layout framework.

For this update, I tried a few WordPress gasp themes and then a couple “reset” style frameworks, and then resolved to really dig into Bootstrap. I was hoping to understand what it offers in terms of layout and styles for forms, navigation, and so on, and especially in terms of responsive design.

My old design didn’t do anything smart on iPads and iPhones. It was usable, only because Safari on iOS is awesome. It didn’t reflect my background & continued interest in building websites, or my concern for great user experiences. So I settled on porting my design to Bootstrap, hoping to pretty easily win a fully responsive site.

WordPress

I was a blogger before we had words like ‘blogger’, and I grew to love Six Apart’s Movable Type software so much that I eventually worked for the company. In all things I’m loyal to a fault, and I’ve had to drag myself kicking and screaming to WordPress.

But nothing lasts and a lot of great sites are built with WordPress and running a site by hand was getting a little ridiculous and it couldn’t hurt to have some marketable knowledge of the world’s most popular CMS.

So I overlook that WordPress is basically pigs-wearing-lipstick all the way down, and hope that I’ll someday learn to forgive Matt’s appalling early indiscretions.

Highlights

  • I had fun putting together the map on the rates page. I used Mapbox to generate the map and outline the area I can reach in 30 minutes of driving. I also customized the map with a tile set I really like called ‘Toner’ by Stamen.
  • I wrote a custom WordPress shortcode to put a link to my iMessage address that uses the appropriate protocol for iPhones or Macs based on the browser’s user agent.
  • I pulled over all my posts from my Apple-focused Tumblr to seed the blog here. I’ll continue posting occasional links and news items, with the intention of avoiding the news-cycle noise and content farming that even the best Mac publications have succumbed to — no blurry pics of leaked case prototypes here, I promise! I’ll also do some writing about interesting problems I’ve solved for clients and share my favorite tools and tips.

I’ll probably be tinkering for the next few weeks. If you see anything odd or have any feedback, please share!