MPU 269: Emergency Preparedness for Geeks

Episode 269 is up and live. Katie and I spent this show talking about emergency preparedness for  geeks. The show just doesn't talk about what to do with your tech in natural disasters, but we also talk about the subject in references to personal emergencies, illness, and death. 

Keyboard Maestro 7

Keyboard Maestro released its new version 7 yesterday. This new version adds several usability features that give this Mac automation tool even more power. You can now trigger macros just by changing window focus or even pressing the same key multiple times. It also features in-line help, auto completion of variable names, and a lot more macro triggers. I’m still wrapping my head around what I can do with these new features and will be publishing more on it here soon but for now, I just want everyone to know that it’s available.

Tembo 2

The developer of HoudahSpot has a somewhat lighter version, called Tembo. Tembo isn't quite as powerful as HoudahSpot but also takes more of a guiding role in helping you find your files. For a lot of people it will be just right for improving search on your Mac. This week, they've released Tembo 2.0. The application is on sale for $6.99 (usually $15) until the end of the month and worth picking up. There are versions of Tembo 2 in the Mac App Store and directly from the developer's website. This is one where you are going to want to be sandbox-free so pick it up from the developer directly. 

New features include:

  • Actions: rename, tag, or trash files from search results
  • Sharing: send files by Mail, Messages, Facebook, etc. 
  • File Info window: easy-to-read overview of important file properties
  • View options: font size, date format, grid of icons or previews
  • Menu bar button and global keyboard shortcuts
  • Up to 10,000 results in each group (up from 2,500)
  • Collapsible groups: hide seldomly visited groups
  • Option to hand a search over to HoudahSpot


I knew that 49 Billion had nine zeros but I had to write it down to appreciate it. That is, after all, a lot of zeros. Either way, today Apple announced that last quarter Apple had $49.6 billion in revenue in a slow post-holiday quarter. Do you remember when Apple was legitimately on the brink of extinction? Not anymore. 

Six Colors has some pretty charts that summarize all the details.


Home Screens: Matt Alexander

Matt Alexander (Twitter) was one of the most impressive guys I met at WWDC this year. In addition to the fact Matt is a geek, he's also an entrepreneur. Most recently Matt started a few companies: Need, that specializes in curating collections of men's clothing, accessories, and lifestyle products; and Foremost, that sells limited-run, American made clothing. Lots of people have big dreams. Matt just keeps making them happen. So Matt, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

I tend to live in Fantastical, Tweetbot, Reeder, Mailbox, and Slack.

(All of which feel very obvious and dull in retrospect.)

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Snapchat or Facebook.

On the former, I feel like I'm perpetually ten years too old to be using it so frequently. I do love it, though. (And, as a side note, it's a really great tool to use as a brand.)

On the latter, it's gross and everyone hates it, but I just can't quit. I've been a member since 2005 or so and, as such, have cultivated a great deal of connections — in England (where I grew up) and the US (where I live and went to university) — whilst it has also captured a huge amount of my formative moments.

I also have the Dominos app. Which is an app for ordering Dominos pizza.

Which is bad.

What app makes you most productive? 

Well, that's rather difficult.

In many respects, I suppose, I could say Mailbox. After all, that's where I deal with the vast majority of my correspondence.

Truly, though, I think Slack is my most productive app.

We run all of Need and Foremost in Slack — and we rarely email within the company any more — so it's become my go-to mechanism to check in with the team and ensure we're on the right track.

I've got a number of our tools (e.g., Braintree, GoSquared, and ZenDesk) setup to report directly into Slack, too. So, when I'm out and about, I can quickly glance at a private channel or two and get an immediate understanding of what's happening with the company.

Fantastical also ranks highly, but I just don't rely on it as much as I do the unique characteristics of Mailbox and Slack. It's more of a much better solution than it is something entirely different.

What app do you know you're underutilizing?

OmniFocus and Things are always installed. And I know I ought to be using one of the two a lot more. (I'm aware that many are yelling in favor of OmniFocus right now, too.)

Nonetheless, I struggle with staying on top of my to-do apps.

I tend to keep most of my day-to-day tasks on track without much of a system. I know people are probably shuddering, but my mind is always with me and up-to-date. My apps, on the other hand, are not.

Which is, admittedly, my fault. I'd be lying to myself, though, if I thought I'd suddenly change my habits drastically in that regard.

What is the app you are still missing?

Apps for Need and Foremost, of course.

I'm kidding. I'm not that terrible. (Although we are working on both. Hint.)

Seriously, I'd love an app that allows me to manage both of my companies a little more seamlessly. Where Slack has obviated email and brought my team much closer together, I'd love to see someone take on the broader workplace.

All of our documents and services live online, but I'd love a quick glance dashboard to gauge our traffic, sales, tasks, and so on.

Many such services exist on the desktop — Grow is a good one — where all your disparate metrics and points of interest are collated.

On my phone, though, I move between a wide selection of apps, many of which I simply ignore.

Equally, I'd settle for an app for GoSquared.

How many times a day do you use your iPhone/iPad?

I live on my iPhone throughout the day. It'd be impossible to count.

With regard to the iPad, I have an iPad mini 2, but its usage is limited to reading and playing embarrassing games on the sofa.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

In order, I have Launcher at the top as a quick launch directory for Weather, Google Maps, OmniFocus (which is fittingly embarrassing), and Uber. 

I have ESPN for football scores. (The football with feet, rather than the American one with hands.)

Stocks. Because I have two companies and need to make myself feel like I know what I'm doing.

I then have Swarm, Fantastical, and MailChimp. The former two are obvious. The latter I use very simply to watch our subscriber growth each day.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

It's been said before, but I'm genuinely able to run my businesses from my iPhone.

Regardless of where I am in the world, I can rely upon my phone (for the most part) to enable me to run the day-to-day components of the company.

And that's really an amazing thing.

A massive runner-up is iMessage. As someone who moved away from home in 2006, it was always difficult for me to stay in touch with my friends for years. And then iMessage came along and it became free, easy, and built-in. It was an enormous moment for me.

If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?

I'd love longer battery life.

Whenever I'm traveling, I don't have all-day access to charging cables at my desk. So, I often find myself with battery anxiety.

And I refuse to use a battery case. Or a case in general. Because I'm not an animal.

I'd also love to be able to set default apps for particular tasks. I always get a little sad when I inadvertently wind up in Mail or Calendar.

I realize that'd open a can of worms for many people — and I understand that extensions help — but I'd genuinely appreciate the flexibility.

Do you have an Apple Watch?

I do, indeed. I have a 42mm Stainless Steel Apple Watch with Black Sport Band.

I use the Utility face — sans numbers — with a red seconds hand.

It's extremely minimalistic — perhaps to the point of pointlessness — but I love it.

I've always worn minimal watches — which I miss everyday when wearing the Apple Watch — and the pared down Utility face is the closest consolation I can find.

What's your wallpaper and why?

Hoyoung Lee took a photo of three Need tie bars sitting on top of a stack of Need pocket squares during our launch party in November 2013.

It's the background on every device I own.

Anything else you'd like to share?

Thanks for having me! I promise to try to improve on the productivity front.


Sponsor: OmniFocus 2.6 and Video

I'd like to thank the OmniGroup for sponsoring MacSparky this week. The OmniFocus team has been hard at work, releasing version 2.6 this week. The new version includes some nice new features, including dark mode, swipe to flag, and push syncing. The new version is great. Don't believe me? Take a minute and a half to watch the below video and you will. Learn more at the Omni Group.

The Future of the iPod touch

Today we got updates to the iPod touch after a three-year hiatus. The updated devices are better than I expected. The entry-level device has 16 GB of storage—yes, Apple is still releasing devices with 16 GB of memory—and an A8 processor, 1 GB of RAM, and a good-looking screen for just $200. The price scales up for additional storage capping at 128 GB of storage for $399.

Expect for the next week or two lots of posts about whether or not the iPod touch still make sense in 2015. Let me save you a lot of trouble. It does. While I would agree with Apple that the device does not need a yearly update, it does need to stay relatively current.

When the iPad mini first released, I thought that it would be the death knell for the iPod touch. Specifically, so many parents buy these devices for their kids to give them an iOS device without a data plan. The iPad mini is in the same price range and has a bigger screen. However, my market survey (consisting of various kids in my life) demonstrate that their young eyes are quite sharp and they are happy with a smaller device with smaller text and smaller plants and zombies, so long as they—like their parents—can put it in their pocket and have it with them anywhere. Indeed after several years, none of the kids in my friends and family circles have said they’d be willing to trade their iPod touch for an iPad mini.

If anything is going to kill off the iPod touch, it will be competition in the cellular providers to get data plans so cheap that an increasing number of people just get phones instead of an iPod touch. While we’ve seen some progress on that over the last few years, I don’t think we’re anywhere near that time yet.

Stretching this hypothetical exercise even further into the future, it is entirely possible that we will get to a point where we don’t use cellular providers but Wi-Fi is just everywhere. In that case, the iPhone could become a lot more like the iPod touch than a iPod touch like the iPhone. 

Either way, I’m glad to see that the iPod touch finally got its update and I will not hold my breath for any further updates for at least two or three years from now. If you are in the market, now’s a good time to buy. One more thing you can count on: Long after the product is retired, people will still refer to it as the "iTouch".

Somewhat related … wouldn’t it be cool if the iPhone update in a few months got some of those new colors


Over the past week I've been getting messages from a college student trapped on a distant moon. He's scared and not quite sure what to do. He tells me what's going on and I've been giving him advice on how to stay alive. Sometimes he disappears for awhile when he's sleeping or working but eventually he comes back with some new problem. 

I'm talking about a new game for iPhone called Lifeline and it is quite a bit of fun with several unexpected twists and turns. The game isn't quite as free ranging as text adventures like Zork but it is a lot of fun and the real time elements give it something special. Since the gameplay is reading text and responding, the Apple Watch app is makes it even more fun. It's just $2 and I'd pay it again. I discovered the game from my pal Stephen Hackett.


Jazz Friday - Wayne Shorter’s Witch Hunt

Wayne Shorter is one of the few bridges that exist between the 50’s and 60’s bebop movement and the present. Wayne is currently 81 years old and still releasing excellent albums. Wayne is a saxophonist that got his big breaks in the Art Blakey and Miles Davis bands in the 50s and 60s.

In addition to some remarkable sax chops, Wayne Shorter is also a distinguished composer, writing many of the tunes Miles Davis recorded.

Wayne’s playing has evolved over the years and I had a hard time picking a single song to feature but in the end, I picked Witch Hunt from the 1966 album, Speak No Evil. The album featured Herbie Hancock on Piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Freddie Hubbard on trumpet. All of these gents have had solo careers of their own.

After spending some time recording modal jazz albums, Witch Hunt was Wayne’s return to more traditional chord-change based jazz. Witch Hunt in particular pushes my music nerd buttons because the song is built nearly entirely around perfect fourths. I also dig the smart intro.

It is worth noting that Wayne Shor

ter also later played the saxaphone for one of the pioneering fusion jazz bands, Weather Report.

If you’d like to hear some more from Wayne Shorter I’d recommend JuJu for some of his more modal jazz and Without a Net for some of his more recent stuff.

For Apple Music subscribers, here’s my own Wayne Shorter Playlist. Enjoy.

iTunes Family Sharing - Just 5 Macs

I'm currently working on a bigger post about switching my family to the iTunes Family Sharing plan for the second time. Things are going much more smoothly this time than the first attempt but there are still some interesting points to discuss. In the meantime, I wanted to share this one bit of information that took some sleuthing to figure out.

With iTunes Family Sharing, every member of the family is his or her own island, but not entirely. Specifically, the five computer limit in iTunes is spread across all of the accounts attached to your Family Sharing plan. Each person doesn't have the option of connecting five Macs. Instead you have five Macs to be distributed among the whole group. If you've got more than five computers and are running into authorization errors, that is probably the reason.

The Return of AppBox Pro

Years ago one of my favorite applications on my iPhone was AppBox Pro (Website)(App Store). This application combines a bunch of little utilities under one roof. If you want something to help you calculate a tip, figure out the difference between two dates, and get the exact details of your iPhone’s battery life, AppBox Pro would deliver.

While it wasn’t particularly spectacular at any task, it really didn’t need to be and I liked that I could do it all from one icon instead of 12. However, development lingered and when iOS 7 showed up, the world moved on but AppBox Pro did not. For months I would open up in hopes that it received the much-needed update and it never did.

I still held a glimmer of hope. Earlier today I was cleaning through folders of applications on my phone and found AppBox Pro buried deeply. Apparently I never got around to deleting it. However, the icon had changed. My eyebrows raised. Could this be the day? Indeed, it was. AppBox Pro has a nice new update that looks great and after using the application for 15 minutes, it seems to do just like before, deliver many little utilities competently.

The features include a date counter, budget tracker, menstrual cycle calendar, currency converter, solar and lunar calendars, unit converters, holiday counter, loan calculator, tip calculator, battery status and device information, magnifier with brightness, and (of course) a random number generator for those dungeon masters out there.

You get all this for two bucks. I’m happy to have it back on my iPhone and iPad.

Deferred Email

I’ve talked and written before about deferring email. If you’ve never heard of it before, deferring email is the process of making your email disappear for a certain amount of time (usually days) or until a certain date in the future. Some applications do this by putting it in a hidden or obscure folder. SaneBox does it at the server level so it works in any application. Either way, on the designated day or after the set defer period, the email comes back to you.

I made fun of deferring email when I first heard of it. It seemed dishonest and gimmicky. However when I tried it out, I quickly became a believer. There’s a lot of email that can stand be putting off for a little bit of time but isn’t worth the extra work and baggage that come with adding it to your OmniFocus or other task manager database. In that case, deferring email really works.

When you’ve got a good email deferment system in place, you get used to seeing an empty inbox so when something shows up, you take it seriously. Simply leaving emails in your inbox (or for that matter any other email box box) results in you getting used to having a bunch of unanswered email and, in my case, malaise and despair. I’m much happier putting an email off for two days and getting it out of my sight than having to see it there every time I open my mail client. Maybe this is just psychology, but it works.

I wrote a little bit about deferred email in this week’s ad spot for SaneBox. Several people have written in asking me exactly how I set up my SaneBox defer folders. Here they are:

There is no rocket science involved here. Since going out on my own, Saturdays and Mondays are no longer as significant as they once were. I’m always working. As a result, I set up the defer folders not on specific days of the week but instead length of delay.

3 Hours

I use this one for something that comes in that I need to look at today but can’t look at right now. I use this more than you’d think.

1 Day

This one is my pressure valve. When I can’t get to it today but it is something I’ll need to deal with soon, it goes here.

2 Days

This one comes in handy when I’m waiting for something to happen. Quite often someone will ask me a question in an email and its not quite yet time for me to respond. I’m either waiting for another piece of information from someone else or haven’t had time to do whatever is needed to respond. Two days seems like the sweet spot to defer those emails. When it shows back up in a few days I usually have the answer or light a fire to get the answer.

5 Days

This is the one I use the least. In order for an email to fall into this box it needs to be both of low importance and low urgency. Things that I’m putting off five days usually get their own OmniFocus task but once in a while something falls into that area where it’s not worth an OmniFocus task and I still want to keep it in play. 

Like I said earlier, there are apps that can accommodate these deferred emails or you can use a service like SaneBox. If the volume of email is giving you trouble, I’d recommend giving deferred email a try. I use it on my legal, MacSparky, and personal accounts and, at this point, can’t imagine going back. Also, if you'd like to learn more about email, I know of a pretty good book.