Replacing Google Reader

With Google Reader closing up in July, people are jumping to new RSS software and services. Some went to Feedbin, some to Feed Wrangler. Fever° also got some attention. As a longtime Fever° user, I got asked why you should use Fever°, and its greatest feature is that it keeps out things you don’t really (or shouldn’t) care about. But it’s not the same as most other RSS readers. This is pulled straight from developer Shaun Inman’s site.

If you’re considering switching to Fever, here’s a few things you need to know:

  1. I am working on Retro Game Crunch full-time (okay, overtime) for at least the first six months of 2013. My Mint and Fever support inboxes were already backed up before today’s announcement.
  2. Fever will always be self-hosted.
  3. Fever was not designed to match Reader feature-for-feature. It is opinionated software. It is not meant to archive feed content.
  4. Fever is not supported on non-iOS mobile devices. As one guy designing, developing and supporting multiple apps you have to pick your battles.
  5. Fever has not been updated with Retina graphics yet. Good thing there’s great native Fever clients like Sunstroke and Reeder.
  6. Finally, I do not offer support on Twitter. Please use the contact form (and keep in mind the first point above).

You can subscribe to my publicly available saved Fever° links here.

Let Me Hide It

There’s a problem with this picture. It’s with UI control. It’s annoying that you can order folders, but you can’t order them above the useless (to me) stuff like editor selected articles, the web browser, friends, and search. I never look at these things, and useful search is limited behind a pay wall. Fine. I paid for the app, let me hide the stuff I don’t wanna see because I’ll never look at it anyway.

Evernote 5.0 for iOS

Evernote on iPhone

Evernote on iPad

The newest edition of Evernote for iOS is out and it’s a radical change. The old basic iOS style is gone. No more buttons at the bottom of the screen, which means more room in the list and note views, but that also means a very different style of menu navigation. The root view of the app looks like you’re staring down a drawer full of file folders. There are folders for All Notes, Notebooks, Tags and Places.

A Neat Thing

If you leave the Notebook view on Favorites, then you have essentially created a Favorites tab. You can do the same for tags as well. This allows for actually faster access to your most used notebooks and tags. If you go digging around (which you may be apt to do, I don’t know you) you’ll lose your place, but if you don’t do a lot of hunting around and just rely on search in Evernote, then you can get a hidden feature.

Source of Frustration

I’m really frustrated that Evernote can’t understand Markdown. If it did, I could see myself doing all of my note taking there. As it stands, things that will later be published to my blog or printed with Marked need to be written in a text editor that is purely plain text and comprehends Markdown. Unfortunately, I don’t think Evernote or the people who work on it will ever support Markdown.

Don’t Mess with Metadata

I used to really like Writeroom for iOS. It had a pretty native-looking iOS UI. It did fullscreen editing. It had lots of font options. Then, it got a makeover so that it looked like PlainText. I deleted off of my phone because there were a lot of other better text editors that supported Markdown in various ways and looked more native.

Because I’ve been enjoying FoldingText on OS X, I decided to play with Writeroom for iOS again. That turned out to be a really bad idea. When I synced it up to my usual Markdown folder in Dropbox, Writeroom rewrote all the metadata for my files and ruined the modified dates, created dates, and worst of all, the OpenMeta tags. I should be able to recover my tags through Time Machine, but I don’t think I will ever again use Writeroom for iOS.

P.S.- I really dislike FoldingText’s desire to force another default extension on me. (.ft)

Mindnode Pro for OS X: Affordable Mind Mapping

Screen Shot 2012 07 11 at 3 59 10 PM I’ve been wanting to get into mind mapping for a while now. I really wanted to try out Mind Manager, but it’s ungodly expensive. When I saw Mindnode Pro on sale in the App Store for half price, I jumped on it. Mindnode Pro is normally $20 but I snatched it up at $10. It’s been $10 well spent too. I’m extemely happy with Mindnode Pro.

Mindnode Pro may lack the staggering number of features that Mind Manager has, but Mindnode Pro has enough for most people. You can create multiple main nodes and then go crazy with all the sub-nodes. You can make the branches up to six different colors, and it really brightens everything up. Drab, it isn’t.

You can adjust a lot of the keyboard shortcuts easily to customize Mindnode Pro’s behavior to your liking. Mindnode Pro feels very lightweight. I’ve never had any hangs with it in a couple months worth of usage, on both my three year old Macbook Pro or my 18 month old Macbook Air.

If you have any existing OPML files from another application (including straight up outliners), they’ll work fine. You can also export your mind maps into plain text, OPML, PDF, image, or Free Mind formats.

If you happen to need the ability to create and edit mind maps on the go, the developers, IdeasOnCanvas also offer Mindnode Touch for iOS.

Even at $20, Mindnode Pro is a great value. You get 90% of the mind mapping abilities you probably need at 1/20th of Mind Manager’s price.

Tags, Revisted

Pathfinder

I wrote a little while ago about OpenMeta tags and some software to implement them. I continue to be a believer in tagging. At every opportunity, I reduced the number of folders I use and consolidate as many files as I can into one folder and then tag them, sparingly. Over tagging files can be just as bad as having too many folders. Here’s an example of overtagging:

For a while, I was tagging work documents as ‘work’ and ‘COMPANYNAME’. It was overkill. I should know that anything that is tagged with my employer’s name is work. I shouldn’t need to tag those documents as ‘work’ too. Those files are already in a ‘Work’ folder in Dropbox.

Two updates to applications I had tried in the past came out last week and their new inclusion of OpenMeta tagging support has gotten me back into them. The first is Path Finder 6. I tried Path Finder out in 2007, I think, and while I liked it’s extra abilities over the Finder, it wasn’t ready to be a replacement for the Finder. Path Finder’s come a long way, and I think you can safely leave Finder behind. What I essentially do is run both in tandem, and I redirect all “Reveal in Finder” commands to reveal in Path Finder and Path Finder lets you hide the Finder’s dock icon. Finder can run in the background for Time Machine and you can use Path Finder exclusively. It’s pretty seamless.

Path Finder 6 also adds the ability to work with OpenMeta tags. You can edit the tags for any file, but Path Finder has these nifty “tag groups” you can set up and then every time you apply a “tag group”, Path Finder adds multiple tags that you’ve already assigned to that “tag group”. I still use Tags.app because of the ability to tag anything, anywhere rather quickly and Tags.app has a great search feature and tag browser that Path Finder doesn’t.

Oh, one more bad ass thing. Path Finder 6 can queue file transfers! No more grinding hard drives to a halt when you initiate multiple transfers at the same time.

The other piece of software is the new version of the MailTags add-on for Mail.app. MailTags now adds OpenMeta tags so the emails you tag with MailTags show up in Tags.app’s tag browser. I guess tagging emails is a natural extension of my newfound love of tagging files. Adding tags like ‘@action’, ‘@followup’ and ‘@waiting’ have made it easy to create Smart Mailboxes that help me get to certain types of mail quickly. I have a Smart Mailbox called “Priority Mail” that contains flagged messages, ‘@action’ and ‘@followup’. I check this once in the morning and I can quickly see what needs to be acted on or processed in some way.

Overall, I’m really happy with my tagging setup. I keep everything in Dropbox, my MailTags tags sync through iCloud’s IMAP system (or at least they appear to be) and I’m taking advantage of Smart Mailboxes and Spotlight Saved Searches to keep everything at my fingertips.

To Defrag or Not to Defrag…

Idefrag2 ss1

Do you need to defrag?

Well, it depends. Do you have an SSD? If so, no, you don’t. You’re not going to benefit from defragging. Do you have a regular spinning disk drive? Then yes, you’ll probably benefit from defragging. Contrary to what most Mac zealots will tell you, OS X doesn’t do all the defragging you need on the fly. If you write and delete lots of big files (videos?), you’re going to have a lot of fragmentation. I ran iDefrag and immediately found my 2009 MacBook Pro to have serious amounts of fragmentation. And it made sense, I download and delete large video files everyday. This creates huge holes in the table on the disk and thus it makes it harder for the OS to find the files I need even when doing simple tasks. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that it contributes to the MacBook running hotter when playing HD video as well. Probably hurts gaming performance as well.

So you need to defrag…

So we’ve established you need to defrag. Is defragging going to help your two year old Mac that has put its HDD through the ringer with writing and deleting huge files? Well, it could…but you’d have to wait a very long time to defrag it. I ran iDefrag and let it run over night, and it only made its way through 3% of my drive. I don’t think it’s because iDefrag isn’t able to defrag quickly, but during the analysis iDefrag did on my drive it said my drive was over 90% fragmented. I eventually gave up on the idea of defragging the drive and came to the conclusion that backing up, formatting the drive and starting clean was my best option. At 90% fragmentation, it’s hopeless. Defragging would take days, it would be quite taxing on the drive, and after two years, I’d like to start fresh. My theory is, if you do periodical defrags on a freshly created OS X install, the defrags would go much faster and wouldn’t allow the drive to become as fragmented as mine did.

iDefrag has a few different modes of defragging. The more thorough the defrag process, the longer it takes. The biggest selling point that got me interested in iDefrag was its ability to defrag without a boot disk. Sadly, this isn’t currently possible under Lion. iDefrag works with Lion, but you’ll have to create a boot disk (which is easily created from within the app itself). Coriolis Systems, developer of iDefrag (as well as iPartition), have encountered a few problems due to Lion, and they said on their blog that they intend to issue fixes as soon as possible. These sorts of utilities are always going to have problems with major OS updates. Thankfully, you can still use iDefrag with Lion, you’ll just have to use a boot disk. You can download a demo here.

Would You Like a Mint?

Mint, I Love You

I have bitched and complained about Shaun Inman a lot. A lot. A great deal of it’s been unfair. I complained about Fever’s iPhone interface. It’s still not great. I made fun of Mimeoverse. Which still looks boring to me. But I’ve always wanted to try Mint. Mint is a stat tracking package that you host on your own server. I wanted to try it out first when I was doing Pixelsnatch on Squarespace. Since I wasn’t running the site on my own server though, I couldn’t install and run Mint. Now that I’ve moved over all my sites except for Kernel Panic to WordPress installs, I can finally use Mint. I decided to use it first on this site.

I love Mint. I like it better than any stat tracker I’ve ever used. It’s lightweight, the peppers (extensions) allow third-parties to create add-ons for Mint, and the interface for the iPhone (unlike the terrible Fever UI) is beautiful and offers almost all the same functionality of the desktop browser UI. The default pepper includes basic tracking like visits and referrers. You can then download and add other things like the iPhone UI, user agents, window size of visitors, locations, RSS feed tracking, and downloads. I’m not sure why the non-default peppers that are maintained by Shaun Inman himself aren’t just included in the default install of Mint. It seems like all the default peppers could be in there from the start and turned on by the user, but I guess he didn’t want to add anything that the user might not use. It’s added hassle to the initial setup, but it’s not that big of a deal.

Should You Have a Mint?

If you have a self-hosted Web site, I recommend checking out Mint’s Web site at the very least. Play with the live demo and see what you think. It’s a little pricey at $30 a license, but it’s very pretty and very useful. I wish there was bulk licensing deals, because I’d love to use Mint on all four of my sites, but $120 for stat tracking on sites I don’t actually make money on is a big dollar amount. That said, I’m very happy that I bought it for this site and urge everyone with their own sites to check it out.

Say Bye Bye To Ugly Text Editors with Byword for OS X

Byword05

I love TextMate. It’s a powerful text editor. The bundles available for TM let you do all sorts of things you never thought possible with it. It has great Markdown support, which is a complete necessity as far as I’m concerned, and the blogging bundle lets me post to my WordPress blogs without leaving the text editor. It’s not the most full-featured blogging set-up available, but it’s pretty darn good. What I don’t like about TextMate is how it feels when I’m writing longer stuff. The only way I can put it is: TextMate has no soul. It’s going to sound a tad silly, I know, but TextMate, while it’s very awesome, is better suited for coding and editing short snippets of text. I don’t know why I think this way. For a long time I used Hog Bay Software’s Writeroom for all my writing. It may seem hard to believe if you started following me from Kernel Panic, but a few years ago, I was a software review-writing machine for Smoking Apples. The desire to constantly write about software kind of went away, and was replaced by the far easier outlet that podcasting is. I find it much easier to talk about tech topics than write about them. At a certain point, the non-stop chatter about if a UI is pretty gets tiresome.

Back to the reason I’m writing this here piece though. I wanted to write about Byword for OS X. Byword is a streamlined Writeroom. It’s main draws are its aesthetics and simplicity. It’s all black and white. No color, whatsoever. It’s got a light theme and a dark theme. It’s got a couple preset font choices (you can edit the font if you want to though). It does plain text and rich text. You can get a Markdown preview as well, thanks to the latest update. It’s a little bit of a problem that you can’t choose any extensions other than .txt and .rtf though. I had gotten into the habit of naming all my Markdown files .mdown or .md, but it’s not a deal-breaker. It also has a separate option for “New Document” and “New Markdown Document”. I’m not entirely sure what the difference is. The Markdown preview can be used no matter which you’ve chosen.

Screen shot 2011 05 26 at 2 22 48 PM

The last little cool thing that Byword can do is “focus” on text. Like iA’s Writer for iPad, Byword can focus on one to nine lines of text or on entire paragraphs. Anything above or below the “focus” area is still visible, just grayed out.


If you wanna buy Byword and help out the site at the same time, buy the app from the Mac App Store for $9.99.

Creating a Personal Wiki on Mac and iOS

I’ve had this desire to build a wiki over the last couple of months. I suppose it’s a part of my desire to have a mostly text-based database of everything. A wiki seemed like a more open way of cataloging information, as opposed to something like Evernote. As much as I like Simplenote, it’s no good for creating media rich documents, the notes don’t have inherent links to each other, and sharing info from Simplenote is a pain in the ass. So I started looking into building my own wiki. Not necessarily about just me, but I thought that something others could access might offer some sort of value to people who read my blog, follow me on Twitter or listen to my podcasts.

Then I came across Mac and iOS apps that help you build personal wikis. They don’t offer quite the same kind of openness that a real “wiki-style ” wiki offers. They backup to Dropbox, but there’s no easily accessible URL that people can visit. The two I tried were VoodooPad for Mac and VoodooPad for iOS and Trunk Notes for iOS. (VoodooPad is made by the same guys who make Acorn for Mac.) Both apps strive to make building a wiki easy and they do a good job of it, but if your goal is building a publicly accessible wiki, they aren’t gonna fulfill your needs. However, if you want something just for yourself that’s easily editable, they might just work.