Battery Breakthrough

I've always been told that battery technology is the bottleneck. Until we can figure out how to push more power in smaller spaces, it will be hard to evolve portable devices to the next level. As an example, just look at all the constraints smart watch makers are facing with the amount of screen time they can be turned on and the problems with charging your watch. A team at Stanford seems to have made a breakthrough with better materials. The whole thing feels pretty science fiction to me using elements with "infinite" growth and tiny nanosphere cages to hold things together. Nevertheless, it sure would be nice if I could get a week out of a phone charge instead of a day. Do you think our kids will bore their children with stories of having to charge their phones the way we bore our children with stories of rotary dials?

Systematic 107, Nominally on Presentations

Yesterday I recorded an episode of Systematic with Brett Terpstra. It was my third podcast of the day (after a full day of work) and I was pretty punchy. We started talking about Presentations but very quickly the talk digressed to mind mapping and then Ella Fitzgerald and free range chickens. I always have fun with Brett.


 

Bartender's Five Second Rule

One of my favorite Mac utilities is Bartender, which allows you to create a sub-menu in the menubar. I run an ever-fluctuating set of utilities in my menubar and sometimes they end up filling up the whole bar to such an extent that they get buried under application menus. This is particularly a problem if you are working on a small laptop that doesn't have much menubar space to begin with.

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 4.24.32 PM.png

Bartender fixes this. Specifically, it lets you choose whether a menubar icon exists in the menubar proper or Bartender's sub-menu. Using Bartender you can take control of your menubar without giving up any of your beloved menubar applications. It even, remarkably, works with Apple menubar applications.

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 4.24.51 PM.png

An often overlooked feature of Bartender is the ability to promote a menubar application to the menubar proper when it is active. By checking a box in the preferences, you can move a menubar application to the main menubar whenever it's doing something or for a set period of time after it's doing something. This is particularly useful for applications like Transporter and Dropbox where you don't need to see them often but when they are active, it's nice to have quick access. I call it the five second rule.

If you haven't tried Bartender yet, you should. It's a simple app that brings sanity to your geeky menubar. If you have Bartender already, take a look at the preference and enable a few of your own five second rules.

MPU 205: Geek Vacation

I've been thinking a lot lately about using technology on vacation and how to maintain actually enjoy time away from work in this strange always-connected world. Katie and I covered these topics and more in the most recent Mac Power Users episode.

Little Snitch to Keep LTE Costs Down

Today I discovered several people have been writing up ways to use Little Snitch to hold down LTE data costs as tethering becomes more common. The idea is to have Little Snitch clamp down on data hogs, like Dropbox, iTunes, and online backup services, when you are tethered so you don't burn through your LTE data. Eddie Smith and Guillaume Ross have both covered the technique admirably and it is enough to get me to re-install Little Snitch after not having used it for years.

I particularly like Eddie's footnote about Dropbox and how he gets burned when people he shares folders with drop files in his Dropbox account with no warning. Having written a media rich book with Eddie, I'm pretty sure he could have changed that to read he gets burned when David Sparks shares large files with no warning. 

1Password Keyboard Shortcuts

Few software companies get blogging the way 1Password does. They just posted a helpful guide to using keyboard shortcuts in 1Password that had a few tricks I didn't know. For instance, did you know holding the Option key will reveal a password and Command-Shift-C copies the password without any pesky mousing? Follow the above link for all the details.

Incomparable Meetup

With the San Diego Comic-Con in full swing, a lot of the Incomparable gang is in southern California. Tonight they are going to do a meetup at the Stone Brewing Company in Escondido at 6pm. I'll be the one running around like a great big fan boy.

Pasting Plain Text with TextExpander

There are a lot of ways to paste text. The most common way I do it is with the Command-C and Command-V shortcuts. However, a lot of times you are working with text that is carrying a lot of formatting baggage and when you use the standard paste, the text shows up in your document unusable. Most apps that deal in text give you an option to paste and match formatting and the keyboard shortcut for that is usually Shift-Option-Command-V or some near-variation of that. The trouble is that the shortcut isn't universal and, even worse, some apps that involve text fields don't have any support for an option to paste as plain text.

TextExpander to the rescue. This is perhaps the easiest snippet I've ever posted. I just invoke the clipboard formatted as plaint text. My snippet is xpt (X-Plain-Text). This works everywhere on the Mac. (Even Microsoft Word.) I find typing x-p-t much faster than wrapping my fingers around more complicated combinations or mousing into menus.

I've also got one for pasting rich text from the clipboard, x-r-t, that I use much less frequently. 

I know this is a bit obvious but I showed this to a friend recently and she thought it was pretty swell. You can download my clipboard snippets below. Also, I've got a lot more snippets for download over here.

Clipboard TE Snippets

The Yosemite Public Beta

Apple is releasing the Yosemite public beta today, which is pretty remarkable. It's been a long time since Apple has opened up an operating system beta to the general public. In the abstract, I think it is a fantastic idea. Developers are, generally, power users and bugs slip through that developers may never experience but would be obvious to non-power users. Jason Snell explains the details at Macworld.

All of that said, I don't recommend jumping into this beta unless you have an extra Mac sitting around. Even then, you have to be careful. Apple is making a lot of changes to iCloud and iCloud data is very much in flux right now in the betas. There be dragons.

Fantastical for iOS 2.1

Today Flexibits released Fantastical version 2.1 for the iPhone and iPad. There are some useful features in this update including:

  • Snooze support
  • The ability to search and add contacts or locations when creating a new event
  • New event invitation notifications and app icon badge option
  • Upcoming birthday notifications
  • Event preview when duplicating and moving items
  • Keyboard shortcuts when using an external keyboard

There are more but the above features really jumped out for me. The apps are also on sale. The iPhone app is half off at $5 and the iPad app is 33% off at $10.

Delight is in the Details, Version 2

Shawn Blanc has been obsessing on creativity and released a multi-media book worth checking out. It is called Delight is in the Details and includes audio interviews, videos, and more. The books is 25% off until tomorrow. As Shawn explains it:

Average, “good enough” work is no longer good enough. Our success, our products, and our reputations all rest on the details, the delight, the intention, and the vision we bring to our work.

Delight is in the Details is packed with practical advice, tips, encouragement, inspiration, and insight. Resist the prevailing tide of “good enough” work that leads to forgettable products and a dissatisfaction in your work life. This book and interview series will teach you how to reach for excellence and find joy and delight in the journey.

Sparky's Pens, July 2014

Click to enlarge.

I’ve received several emails lately asking what kinds of pens I'm using these days. Not much has changed. I still have my fancy Pilot Namiki Vanishing Point with the  fine nib that I first wrote about a while back. I’ve had it a couple years now and still not managed to lose it. There is definitely an art to using a fountain pen and when I loan it to someone that’s not used one before, they tend to hate it. I’ve got it down and it still makes me smile to use it with my chicken-scratch writing. I know picking an ink for a fountain pen can lead to an entirely new fetish. I haven’t gone that far down the rabbit hole (yet). For now I’ve been using these Pilot black cartridges.

I have also bought several Zebra Sarasa pens. Jet Pens has them in multiple colors (my favorites are blue-black and red) and multiple tip sizes (.4mm for me). I keep these in my various desks and bags. I primarily use the Pilot fountain pen but when I need color, the Sarasa pens do the job. 

Streaming Voice Dictation in iOS 8

Apple announced streaming voice dictation in Siri, which shows you your words as you speak them, at WWDC. This feature has existed on Android for awhile and it is something I'd very much like to see on iOS. However, Apple was mum on adding the feature beyond Siri to normal voice dictation. If they've got the ability to do it in Siri, why not everywhere else too? As confirmed by 9to5 Mac, you can now stream dictation anywhere on iOS. This is a big deal for dictators, such as myself. iOS 8 just keeps getting better and better. 


 

Sponsor: Hoban Cards

Hoban Press is sponsoring MacSparky.com this week. I’ve heard from many readers that love their new Hoban Cards pressed out of Hoban’s 1902 letterpress machine. I sure love mine. 

HOBAN CARDS

Hoban Cards specializes in in minimal calling cards. This is a less expensive way to get into letterpress printing. Evan has been adding new designs and he is now up to 18 beautiful, typographic calling card templates. These are perfect for individuals or businesses looking for a unique and classy alternative to conventional, mass produced, soulless business cards. For a limited time, he has a nice discount on some of the new templates.

HOBAN PRESS

Hoban Press specializes in custom letterpress printed items like business cards, stationery, and wedding invitations. This is the best choice if you need to use your own logo or artwork. They also provide design and layout services.

MPU 204: Presentations

Episode 204 of the Mac Power Users is now available. In it Katie and I talk about some of our favorite tips for giving good presentations and I talk a little bit about behind-the-scenes with the new book at the end.

Marked2 is Now in the Mac App Store

Brett Terpstra is kind of legendary in nerd circles. He makes wonderful tools that makes our lives easier. I bought Marked 2 when he first released it outside of the App Store and use it all the time. Now Brett has the app for sale in the Mac App Store. It's more customizable than ever before with themes and advanced writing and proofreading tools. 

For a limited time, Marked 2 will be available for $9.99. The regular price will be $13.99. This will serve as both "introductory" pricing for new users and "upgrade" pricing for existing users of Marked 1.4.