Browsed by
Category: Mac

Put your Mac to sleep from afar…

Put your Mac to sleep from afar…

As a trainer and presenter, I often set my Macbook Air up in classrooms and conference venues. When I go to lunch or another break, I often wonder whether I remembered to lock my Macbook Air.

This post today from MacSparky (@MacSparky on App.net and Twitter) provides a wonderful little automation that uses Drafts on iOS, Dropbox and Hazel on the Macbook Air.

So I can now be sitting at lunch, and type a command into Drafts, and as long as my Macbook is online, it will go to sleep a few seconds later.

A great automation tip from MacSparky!

Apps for Fever Update

Apps for Fever Update


Last week I published a post on the State of Play for Fever RSS and Apps, providing an overview of the iOS and OSX apps available to support Shaun Inman’s brilliant, self-hosted, RSS system Fever.

After a long period of little development on the app front, this last week has seen some exciting developments. I hope these new developments are a sign of things to come. I plan to review each of these separately over the next week or so, but thought a quick update would be worthwhile.

Fever Apps for Mac OSX

ReadKit – OSX (US$4.99)


ReadKit is a wonderful tool for Mac OSX, providing support for browser based reading and sharing services like Instapaper, Pocket, Pinboard and more, in a native app. It has already been an important part of my workflow for sometime, and the addition of support Fever in the beta of version 2 is an exciting development.

Whether you’re a Fever user or not, ReadKit should be a part of your reading workflow.

Fever Apps for iOS

Sunstroke – iOS Universal (US$4.99)


Sunstroke has displaced Reeder as my go-to Fever RSS app on iPhone, and since the release of version 1.4 last week, on iPad. Sunstroke has support for a wide range of social sharing and read later services (almost as wide as Reeder), and it has a gorgeous UI and a UX (user experience) that works best with my workflow.

At US$4.99 (A$5.49), Sunstroke is well priced as a universal app [1] and I suggest that this is the one iOS app for Fever, at this time. The developer is extremely responsive on App.net and Twitter.

Ashes – iOS Universal (US$5.99)


The Ashes app has been (re-) released as a universal app for iOS devices at an introductory price of US$5.99 (A$6.49). According to the website, it will increase to US$8.99 from 9 May. Ashes fully supports all native features of Fever, and has an elegant design. It is visually pleasing to use, and seems very stable.

At US$5.99 Ashes is appropriately priced for a niche product that supports both iPhone and iPad, and makes a good choice for someone wanting an all round app for Fever. The developer is actively talking to users on Twitter and App.net.

Reeder – iPhone (US$2.99)


Version 3.1 of Reeder for iPhone was released during the last week. This added support to the iPhone version of the app (which already supports Fever) for Feedbin.

Clearly the developer is focused on iPhone and Feedbin at this time, and so we will have to wait a while longer for iPad and OSX support for Fever. With apps like ReadKit and Sunstroke, this is no longer the problem it was only a week or so back.


  1. In the State of Play article, I mentioned that I thought Sunstroke was overpriced. Compared to Reeder as an iPhone only app, that stood. But for a universal app for iOS, the price is just fine!  ↩

Ulysses III: Slick new text editor from The Soulmen

Ulysses III: Slick new text editor from The Soulmen

Great new text editor from The Soulmen: Ulysses III

As anyone who reads this site regularly knows, I love writing in Markdown. It’s a writing syntax that is best described as a tool that allows me to focus on the writing, not the formatting.

For Markdown, there are a number of text editors and other tools to support. On OSX, I rely on nvALT for capturing ideas on the go, and starting an initial draft of something. I love Byword for the actual writing process, supported by Brett Terpstra’s Marked app to have live previews of the rendered code. I also like the excellent MultiMarkdown Composer, thought I do prefer the simple, clean layout of Byword.

On iOS I use Drafts and Notesy in a similar way to nvALT on OSX, and Byword as my main editor.

A new OSX app in this class called Ulysses III was released this week, and since its on sale and has had good reviews, I decided to grab a copy from the Mac App Store (A$20.99).

Right from the start it’s clear that this is an app built from the ground up for Markdown. Although it is the third generation of a very successful family of Mac based text editors, the developers warn existing users to treat this as a completely new app.

They are quite confident in their product, stating the following in one of the introductory “sheets” loaded into the app:

If you’re new to this, then please enjoy what we believe is the greatest text editor the world has ever seen. A blank slate powered by a toolset of endless possibilities, limited only by your imagination as a writer.

Like Byword (and similar apps such as iA Writer), Ulysses III presents a powerful distraction free writing environment. A blank sheet that is sorted in groups of sheets kept in a library. You can show/hide columns showing the Group or the Library+Group using hotkeys or menu commands.

Writing is straightforward, and the user interface is best characterised as described by MacSparky:

Ulysses III is gorgeous. The way it renders text and iterates on the three pane view is truly remarkable.

Essentially, the app gets out of your way and allows you to focus on the writing.

iCloud support is built in and even somewhat emphasised. I am sure that Dropbox support would be straightforward, but it wasn’t presented to me as an easy option in the setup phase.

Although I’ve long loved the promise of iCloud, it hasn’t really taken hold for me. I tend to agree with David Sparks that iCloud is at its best with plain text type apps, but since I tend to work across several different apps (Byword, Multimarkdown Composer, nvAlt, Notesy, etc), I need Dropbox to allow files to move easily between apps.

Of course, the creators of Ulysses III, the Soulmen, also have an iOS app called Daedelus Touch. This app, for both iPhone/iPod Touch and iPad, integrates with Ulysses III.

This article is the first thing I’ve written in Ulysses III, and the following are my initial impressions:

Pro’s

  • Beautiful, distraction free, writing environment
  • Variety of HUDs to bring up stats, export options, links to favourites, navigation (within the sheet) and even syntax assistance
  • Simple exports (“sixport”) to txt, RTF and PDF formats
  • Ability to copy HTML, Markdown or plain text to the clipboard
  • iCloud integration (with iOS Daedelus Touch app)
  • Quick rendering of Markdown syntax, showing you most of the syntax but de-emphasised
  • Choice of style sheets to work with
  • Dark or light background options
  • The name: Ulysses Paroz was my ancestor who first brought the Paroz family to Australia!

Con’s

  • When adding links, the Markdown way of adding inline or reference links is hidden away. This makes it one step more for me to see my link, and also makes it hard for me to re-use a link
  • When doing lists (like this one), I have to type a new “-” followed by a space for each line[1]
  • No obvious Dropbox support, particularly with Daedelus Touch[2]
  • Not sure how I can get Drafts on iOS to work into the system[3]
  • Expensive

Initial thoughts

I’ll personally keep playing with Ulysses III / Daedelus Touch for some stuff to see how it goes. It grabs me as a great repository and editor, with a lot of great features. It has much promise, and if I didn’t already have Byword, nvALT, Marked and Drafts it might be a great one stop app.

But it won’t be my core app at the moment, because it’s Markdown behaviour (e.g. for links) is a little quirky, and because it would require me to change my workflow.


  1. Hitting Alt+Enter automatically brings up the next bullet point. See comment from Nicholas below  ↩

  2. Dropbox integration for Ulysses III and Daedelus Touch is quite do-able. See detailed explanation in the comment from daedalicious below  ↩

  3. As daedalicious mentioned in the comments, if Dropbox works as described, Drafts support should be straightforward.  ↩

Use Alfred 2 to mimic Drafts cool Append to Dropbox function

Use Alfred 2 to mimic Drafts cool Append to Dropbox function

Greg Pierce from Agile Tortoise (the developer of the fantastic Drafts app for iOS) shows us how to mimic Drafts’ "Append to Dropbox" using Alfred on a Mac.

the example I’m providing here mimics the default “Append to Dropbox” action in Drafts. In it’s current setup, you trigger Alfred with it’s hot key, type “j”, space, then the text you want appended to the file and hit return. The text is then added to the a file at “~/Dropbox/Apps/Drafts/Journal.txt” along with a timestamp

This looks cool and I’ll try it out as soon as I get back to a Mac…

From: Agile Tortoise Blog

Apple’s Two-Step Verification has a good security backup

Apple’s Two-Step Verification has a good security backup

I was quite excited when I awoke this morning to find news that Apple has released 2 Factor authentication for Apple ID. Apple seems to have done a good thing and built this into a “trusted device” upon which you use a feature in the Find My iPhone app, or receive an SMS each time you try to log-in. Sounds like a great approach, and it doesn’t surprise me that Apple chose not to use the Google Authenticator.

Apple 2 Factor

Following the attempted hack on Evernote, I made a determination that online service I use for personal/private/confidential “stuff” should support 2 factor authentication. Heck, if Facebook could do it, what was stopping Evernote and Apple. Very quickly App.net rolled out 2 factor support, and today was Apple’s turn. This was all part of my (perhaps peremptory decision to return to return to Google, something that following this and the GReadier debacle I am quickly reconsidering.

I went to the Apple ID site to set up two-step verification, and immediately was asked to answer security questions. It’s been a while, and for some reason I didn’t record these in 1Password. Having had more than 1 best pal at school, I went for the backup plan, and had a password reset sent out to my alternate email address.

Of course, I setup new security questions, and then went in and changed my alternate email address to one that is not linked or forwarding to any other email address I have. I took the opportunity to really tighten the hatches.

Next I went back to complete the setup of the two-step verification process, and almost immediately received a block telling me to wait three days. They also mass emailed every linked email address I had.

I guess that I had just changed a lot of security settings, and this raised an alarm at Apple that perhaps I might be hacking, and potentially locking someone else out from their account, a la the Mat Honan saga. So I think that Apple has paid a good bit of attention to the process to ensure that unintended consequences are minimised. Three days gives plenty of time for a real owner to get an email and intervene if necessary.

So at this stage I can’t provide a full review, but one thing that I noted from Katie Floyd’s post is that the two-step verification doesn’t (yet) support iCloud services, such as Documents, Calendar, email, etc. I assume (hope) these will come shortly, but will require a lot of apps to be updated. Today’s initial release was a good test for Apple, as the only app that needed to be updated was Find My iPhone.

Don’t forget to check out my list of web services that support 2 factor authentication.

Get PDFpen and PDFpen Pro for Mac for half price – 48 hours only

Get PDFpen and PDFpen Pro for Mac for half price – 48 hours only

One of my must have apps on both iOS and OSX is Smile Software’s PDFpen – an elegant, iCloud supported PDF tool that allows you to truly manage PDFs on both platforms. The app allows you to easily create forms, correct and redact text and even sign PDFs on-the-go.

Smile has announced the release of version 6 of both PDFpen and PDFpen Pro for OSX with a bunch of new and improved features, including the ability to turn PDFs into Word documents and many enhancements to the look and feel of the user interface.

To gain iCloud support, you must purchase PDFpen or PDFpen Pro through the Mac App Store (MAS). With the lack of upgrade pricing in the MAS, Smile has released both versions today at half the normal price. I’d suggest that all Mac users take advantage of this offer, which only lasts for 48 hours.

PDFpen is an incredibly important part of my PDF workflow on both OSX and iOS. Having only played with it for a short time, I can honestly say that version 6 of PDFpen Pro for OSX is a major upgrade that will likely bring new possibilities to my workflow.

Google announces closure of Reader service

Google announces closure of Reader service

In the week that I discussed moving back to Google for some of my usage, including RSS feeds, Google has announced that it is killing Google Reader.

We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.

I like the way Google snuck this announcement in as the fifth bullet point on a post about spring cleaning aimed primarily at developers.

As Brett Terpstra said in a post on App.net:

“Usage of Google Reader has declined” = tons of people using it for sync, but we can’t put ads in that

Google Reader was free to we users, meaning we were the product, not the customer. Brett is spot on – if the majority of users access through apps where Google can’t control advertising, then the service isn’t viable.

It’s one reason why I initially moved to Shaun Inman’s Fever – having a self hosted, paid platform meant that I was the customer, and that the provider would not be in a position to simply shut up shop and go away.

I moved back to Google Reader solely because apps like Reeder and Mr Reader don’t support other RSS reader platforms, like Fever 1. I wanted more than a browser interface, particularly on iPad.

So, we’ve got a bit over 3 months for the developers of Reeder and Mr Reader to support other RSS platforms. I hope that Fever is first among them. I will move back as soon as there is a good iPad app – which I fully expect will happen in that time.

I also wonder whether the App.net social media platform will have a foundation upon which developers can build an alternative RSS service.


  1. I realise that Reeder 3.0 for iPhone does support Fever. I moved back to Google Reader because I need iPad and OSX support for it as well. Browser based access was ok, but not powerful enough for my usage. 

Brooks Duncan reviews doo

Brooks Duncan reviews doo

A week or two back, a new productivity app called doo popped up in the Mac App Store. Tagged as a way of accessing "every document of your life" wherever they are, in seconds, doo is a document organisation system that appeals to me as part of my quest for a paperless lifestyle.

I’ve been using Evernote as my primary document repository, but I have been growing increasingly wary about storing everything online in a third party system that stores documents in a proprietary format. Following the attempted hack on Evernote user data, I’ve made the decision to move any personal or business data that would be sensitive or confidential in nature back to a local database. I would prefer to be able to access key data on-the-go, so have been looking at systems like Yojimbo, DEVONthink and now doo.

I had installed doo last week with the intent of playing around with it a little, but since Sunday I’ve been gradually moving all the sensitiive Evernote data back to it. So far, it looks like a very powerful system that makes going paperless quite straightforward.

Today, Brooks Duncan of DocumentSnap has posted his initial review of the doo Mac OSX app. He gives what I think is the best description yet of doo:

You can think of it as a combination of Evernote and Dropbox, but unlike Evernote you can completely use the software without ever having to touch the web service, and unlike Evernote your documents do not get moved inside the application, and unlike Dropbox there is a nice local application to help you organize and find your documents

Right now doo has an OSX app and a Windows 8 app (interestingly, the Windows 8 version was launched several months ago, well before any other versions). In development are iOS and Android versions, as well as versions for other systems, including "legacy Windows".

doo is free for local storage, and has a range of plans for their optional doo Cloud backup and sync services. There is a 30 day free trial of their 25GB sync plan.

It’s fair to say that doo is in its early stages. Although not a beta release, I think that as the mobile apps come online, and as additional features are added, doo has the potential to become a very powerful organisation system, and could well be my flagship app for my paperless document management system.

Day One for iOS gets a huge update with PDF export and more

Day One for iOS gets a huge update with PDF export and more

Day One appOne of my absolute most used apps is the journalling app Day One, available for iOS and OSX. The iOS version this week received a major update, going to version 1.10, where the ability to export entries (single or a range) to a PDF file was introduced.

This is a terrific enhancement that allows the user to extract key data, perhaps sorted by tag (introduced last year to the iOS version) to a standalone PDF document, or perhaps to a PDF document that might then be stored in a system such as Evernote or DEVONthink.

Other updates include:

  • Custom date range- Tag filtering
  • Send PDF to iBooks, Dropbox and other apps
  • Export will run in background
  • Quick single entry export via Send menu
  • Historical weather increased from 3 days to 30 days
  • New reminder sound
  • Added Sanchez font option
  • Improved header and HTML styling

I love the direct Day One is taking, and look forward to these updates (and previous ones like tagging and geo-location) being introduced to the OSX version, soon (please)!

Evernote’s password hack, and the security of your stuff in the cloud

Evernote’s password hack, and the security of your stuff in the cloud

Like all Evernote users, today I received an email (and blog post) advising that there has been an attempted security attack to their system, and that they have force-changed all user passwords:

Evernote’s Operations & Security team has discovered and blocked suspicious activity on the Evernote network that appears to have been a coordinated attempt to access secure areas of the Evernote Service.

As a precaution to protect your data, we have decided to implement a password reset.

I am a heavy Evernote user, and put a lot of stuff up there – from basic research to business records. I love that I can easily find my key information so easily. They have solid apps for OSX and iOS (although they have been increasinly buggy lately), and a good browser based system to get at my information from anywhere. I love having my stuff in the cloud so I can get at it whereever I am.

For the past couple of weeks I was teaching a PADI Instructor Development Course in Fiji and on several occasions I was able to quickly get to records that I needed but didn’t have with me through my iPad or MacBook Air. Too easy.

Lately I’ve been wondering about the wisdom of having all my eggs in one basket. I trust the Evernote team, and as a Premium User I have a paid account. But my concerns are two-fold:

  1. If Evernote ever goes away (unlikely, but still a risk), what will happen to my data.
  2. Evernote has to be ever-vigilant for hacking attempts, and they have to win 100% – hackers only have to win once in a blue moon.
  3. As Evernote’s servers are not in Australia, my data may be legally accessed by a foreign government without warrant!

So it was good to see the following paragraph:

In our security investigation, we have found no evidence that any of the content you store in Evernote was accessed, changed or lost. We also have no evidence that any payment information for Evernote Premium or Evernote Business customers was accessed.

The next paragraph, while honest and direct, certainly gave me pause to continue to consider the future of my information storage:

The investigation has shown, however, that the individual(s) responsible were able to gain access to Evernote user information, which includes usernames, email addresses associated with Evernote accounts, and encrypted passwords. Even though this information was accessed, the passwords stored by Evernote are protected by one-way encryption. (In technical terms, they are hashed and salted.)

Just yesterday (before the email went out), I downloaded a copy of DEVONthink, an OSX app that does many of the same things – allowing you to store snippets and documents, easily find them, OCR them, etc. Using DropBox you can sync data between multiple Macs, and there is an iOS app. The latter feels a bit clunky, and looks like you need to sync via Wifi. I hope Dropbox sync is coming soon to that, because my iPad is rapidly becoming my main on-the-go device.

There has been a lot of debate about Evernote vs. DEVONthink, and there are very passionate people on both sides, with some very persuasive reasons for their approach. Evernote’s cloud based storage is both it’s greatest feature and it’s biggest drawback, depending on your perspective. I had planned to use DEVONthink side-by-side with Evernote for a couple of weeks to get a feel for which (if either) is the better approach for me. I still will, but I think I’ll move more sensitive info straight away.

Back to the security issues. I have waiting for a while for Evernote to introduce 2-factor authentication. Google has had this for some time, and Dropbox also introduced 2-factor security in 2012, following similar hacking attempts.

Evernote needs to implement 2-factor security as a matter of urgency.

While I am at it, Apple also needs to implement 2-factor security for their iCloud services as a matter of urgency, particularly if they want Documents in the Cloud to be taken seriously.

Going forward, my personal rule is that 2-factor authentication is a threshhold feature for any cloud based service that I use to store any thing I would consider proprietary or sensitive, let along confidential. I recommend you consider the same approach.

Evernote’s team made some additional excellent suggestions for security:

  • Avoid using simple passwords based on dictionary words

  • Never use the same password on multiple sites or services

  • Never click on ‘reset password’ requests in emails – instead go directly to the service

The first 2 should be an absolute given, but it’s clearly not the case. The third one has tricked most people at least once, making the first two even more important.

Most people I know have a password management strategy that consists of three passwords:

  • a simple “throwaway” password they reuse on most websites
  • a more secure one for some selected sites
  • a most secure one for banking, finance, health, etc

In all three cases, most people re-use the same passwords, perhaps with minor variations.

The hackers know this and have setup ways of “sniffing” passwords. One way is to setup a rogue site, and when users try to sign on, they take the username and password and throw that at other sites, knowing that they will often get a hit. Even if they only get 1% success, they have a starting point. Mat Honan of Wired magazine’s own case teaches us that once a hacker gets “in” at a low level, they can use that information to gradually get full access to your life.

So you need to ensure you don’t re-use passwords, and that those passwords must not be simple. When it comes to hacking and security, most hackers are way better at hacking than users are at securing.

This is where my next rule of web security kicks in – I use 1Password to generate a separate password for each and every site I visit. Of course there are a lot of sites I visited before using 1Password, so once those sites are in 1Password, I can from time-to-time go through and manually change those passwords, starting with the passwords that are least secure.

Whilst on 1Password, I’d recommend that if users want cloud access, they store the 1Password file in a Dropbox account, not iCloud, because of the fact that Dropbox has implemented 2-factor security.

I also have a category of sites that require the highest security, so I have those sorted together into a group in the 1Password app, and I change those passwords twice a year when the clocks change with Daylight Savings (an idea I got from MacSparky).

Clearly this issue has made me re-consider aspects of my own approach to information security, and has reinforced others. I recommend that everyone do the same, and take at least the following actions:

  1. Use only reputable services that provide 2-factor authentication for cloud storage of personal, sensitive or confidential data;
  2. Have a personal password management policy that includes never re-using passwords, and never using dictionary passwords. Use of an app like 1Password, LastPass or similar may help.

The “be alert, not alarmed” approach is the right one. We users need to recognise that information security is a moving target, and that balancing convenience, ubiquity and security is a constantly changing challenge. We need to reevaluate our balance regularly!

\

iPads of March 2013

iPads of March 2013

My iPad main screenIn March 2012 I decided to go for a month using my iPad as my primary on-the-go device – a month I called iPads of March. My iMac in my home/office continued to be my “heavy-lifting” device for processing images/videos, building presentations, text formatting for some manuscripts I was working on and for accounting activities for my business. But I used the iPad for pretty much everything else – including researching, writing, email, task management, presentations, etc.

I wanted to test the idea that iPad is approaching the point when it could be a primary on-the-go device for a power-user like me. For content production as well as consumption.

Of course, where iPad leads others follow, so I know that when iPad reaches that point, we consumers will have a range of iOS, Android, Windows and other devices to help us do our work and live our lives.

I chose March last year for a couple of reasons – it was the month that the 3rd generation iPad was to be launched, but it was also a month in which I had no scuba instructor courses scheduled, as these courses are intensive on my workflows and technology (multimedia rich presentations and lots and lots of paperwork).

My findings were interesting. I found that my iPad could easily handle 90% of my on-the-go work that my MacBook Air would normally perform. In fact, there were three main things that were missing that would be a show-stopper for using the iPad as my primary device.

  1. Multimedia presentations using Keynote were (and continue to be) awkward and crappy. Many of my Keynote presentations have embedded media, and getting these into Keynote for iOS is cumbersome and results in significant quality reduction of the videos.
  2. Document scanning to PDF is pretty awful. I don’t mean low volume stuff using the iPad camera, but piles of multipage documents. I need to keep records of lots of paperwork, and to date I have not found a workable solution that approaches my NeatReceipts scanner for scanning out and about. When I am in town, I can do my scanning at home on my trusty Fujitsu ScanSnap 1500M.
  3. Business accounting software. My accountant wants me to use MYOB. I have the FirstEdge software for OSX, and there is no iOS application support.

In 2013, things are changing. While Keynote has not improved media handling as yet, there are other web/app based solutions that I am exploring. For scanning, the introduction of the iOS capabilities into the Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500 suggests that future versions of their mobile scanners will do the same. For financial accounting, I might upgrade to a package that would allow mobile integration. Or just live with the fact that I do my finances only from the home office.

March 2013 presents itself as another month with no scheduled courses that require rich multimedia, though I have some other courses/presentations that will allow me to test some concepts. My MacBook Air is in with the Genius Bar folks for repair, so it seems to me that I have once again the opportunity to use the iPad as my main on-the-go device. I am going to focus on making presentations work on the iPad, as scanning is on the horizon.

I’ll make two quick predictions and see how they turn out.

  1. The iPad will have made giant strides, and will be close the gap on becoming my primary on-the-go device
  2. There will be no new iPad launched in March

Keep an eye on djp.me/ides/ to see my posts tagged about my iPads of March 2013 experiences.

Week 2 of the Get Stuff Done Promo on the Mac App Store

Week 2 of the Get Stuff Done Promo on the Mac App Store

We have entered week 2 of the Mac App Store’s Get Stuff Done promotion.

Get Stuff Done on the Mac App Store

Get Stuff Done on the Mac App Store

This week’s focus is on the Organise part of productivity, and features apps to reduce clutter in your mind, your house and on your Mac.

I am a big fan of the MindNode Pro app. I used to use MindManager, but I’ve found the OSX and iOS versions of the app to be lacking. Mindnode Pro works smoothly, and integrates iCloud to make the most of sycning between Macs, iPhone and iPad. It’s my current pick for mindmapping.

I also like the extremely useful Daisy Disk, which I use regularly to check out the data on my Mac drives.

I’ve taken advantage of this promotion to grab Gemini to see how it goes in cleaning up duplicate files.

Check out the Mac App Store’s Get Stuff Done promotion if you’re in the market for apps that will assist