I've been going through my backlog of Mac Power Users podcasts and it has revitalised my enthusiasm for sorting out my digital life. One of the major areas of focus is sorting out my digital filing strategy.
I have been a long time user of Devonthink Pro Office, and have been going paperless for a good few years now. Devonthink is a great app, but it does lack in certain areas for me:
I have been listening to David and Katie over a series of maybe 10 of their latest podcasts in quick succession. I am hearing the same common theme, 'nested folders' and 'Evernote'. The word Evernote is usually followed by a lengthy explanation by Katie about how she organises her notebooks. One thing I have taken, and learnt from David is you need a good file naming convention and a lot of good automation. Those two items in my mind are synonomous with SIMPLICITY! Listening to some of the ways they are handling their data does not sound simple to me, but hey, each to their own.
Off the back of this, I set out to find a way to simplify the way I store all of my data. I have the following requirements and objectives:
The first point is easy to achieve, every file will feature the file notations that you can read in David's book, Paperless. The file type is also an easy one, my files will on the whole be PDF and TXT files. These are open and will not 'go out of fashion' in the future. I have really grown to love text files, the old ways are still the best ways!
This leads me on to how will I store these files!? David uses nested folders, Katie uses this and Evernote (They may correct me if I am wrong!). Now, from many years of personal experience, nested folders are good - but a total pain in the ass longterm. I find the system starts to grow arms and legs. As your life changes, you add, take away and move folders and you can make it really granular or really high level. For example, do you make a folder per year to seperate bills or just have a single folder for those particular bills? The possibilities are endless and are very individual to the individual! I honestly believe that even the most strict and organised individuals like David will still expend to much effort and thought on a nested folder system over the years its in use. This will range from filing to finding files in this system. These issues also exist in Devonthink Pro and Evernote, but why bother thinking about this? What are nested folders going to achieve? You think they are going to help you find things more quickly? You think your going to be more organised? I disagree on all counts and here are two simple reasons why:
The last point leads me on to my final solution. I use spotlight to find my files. I use David's file notations so they are easy to find and my name is descrptive. Spotlight or any similar system makes it quick and rapid to find and open any file you need. I even use this system on my work Vista machine and it works just as well there too! So how do I manage my files? I keep everything in a single folder! Well, it isn't quite a single folder... I will explain what my system is made up of:
Dropbox - All of my folders/files except one folder are kept in Dropbox so that I can access them all from any location on my iOS devices (Notice I don't need Evernote App for this!). On Dropbox I use the following folders:
File Store Local - Any red files are moved here from the 'Working on' folder after four weeks. This folder is the only one that resides outside of my Dropbox and is located in my 'Documents' folder. I will be buying a File Transporter shortly which this folder will sync with making the contents available on the road but not to the world and the CIA! Without the File Transporter I still have these files on the go at the moment via the Backblaze App.
So there we have it, a simple system that in essence requires no software outwith the OS, but can be glammed up for automation, backup and mobile access with only two small preference panes and a couple of free iOS apps. So far I have found the following benefits to this system:
I will update this post with the graphic flow chart of this workflow when I have completed it and also any updates as the system progresses. How are you managing your files?
What is markdown and multimarkdown, I hear you ask? Markdown is a syntax for writing in plain text whilst retaining the ability to output to various file formats with formatting. Think of it as Latex for dummies. Multimarkdown is an extension of Markdown adding additional features that were lacking from the original syntax. I guess that can be equated to C, C+ and C++.
So why on earth would you want to write in this intriguing syntax? Well, there are many reasons but how about I give you just some of the main plus points that got me hooked.
First, it is a none proprietary format. Text files were there at the dawn of computing and they are highly likely to still be there long after we have left the planet. Word documents on the other hand have undergone several iterations over the years with large issues of backwards compatibility. So if you like the idea of being able to open anything you have written with no hassle in a few years time, read on.
The next benefit, which kind of goes hand in hand with the last one, is you can open them anywhere! Windows, OSX, Linux, iOS, Android and the list goes on. All devices can open, understand and allow you to edit a text file! The same cannot be said for MS Office documents!
Another benefit, good in this ever increasingly mobile world is small file sizes. As an example, I had a work project Word file that was approximately 2.3MB. The same text in a text file? 7KB! That's almost 336 times smaller! Ok my Word document had graphic in it, but that graphic was also located on my hard drive, thus, existing twice. With markdown it would be referenced and, therefore, only existing once.
The syntax leaves you with a readable text file whilst retaining the ability to export how you like. I wrote my Ph.D thesis in Latex. It was great, the ability to just write and not have to worry about formatting or annoying office interfaces. It really allows you to just, well, write! However, Latex isn't for everyone and the syntax can be a little intense. In my opinion though, it provides one of the best document outputs of any program today. The great thing is, markdown can be output to Latex!
So, how do you get started? Well many of the sites around today will tell you to go and read John Grubers site then go to Fletcher Penny's site and hey presto. Well you know what? Their sites really suck for picking this stuff up! They are two very clever guys, but unfortunately that reflects in how they explain things to the lay person! If you want a good 'idiots guide' to Markdown then there really is nothing better than David Sparks Field Guide to Markdown. I've followed David Now for a while on Mac Power Users podcast and I really dig his style! His field guides are brilliant! As a word of caution if your a fairly advanced user you may find some of them slightly dummed down for your taste. I can, however, say that the Markdown guide and the Paperless guide rock!
So that's it for my introduction to why I'm embracing this great syntax! My next post will show you how my markdown/multimarkdown workflow goes to help you implement your own. I find David and the others tend to use so many apps to get things done, my workflow uses one, at a push two. That isn't a criticism of David, its clearly working for him, but it can be daunting as a new user to know which way to go. Someone telling you how they use three or four apps doesn't always really help.
So I have seen a number of posts now from people who have migrated from WordPress to Jekyll and are loving it. My personal history with web development was back to the good old days of a text editor making HTML pages with an index.html etc etc. I learnt to code it properly, then the likes of dreamweaver started to emerge. I went to uni and preferred alcohol and nights out instead of my coding and in that time all this PHP mumbo jumbo came out, CSS? WTF?
Anyway, Jekyll is a step back to the old skool, essentially what I see as a cross between the old web developing and LaTeX. In the simplest terms your posts are written in text files with markdown and every time you run the process these files are processed along with a formatting file and the output is a generated static website. There are ways to make incremental updates etc, but I am trying to convey in simple terms. So why would I want to move over to Jekyll? Well let me list the benefit in my eyes, your milage may vary:
There are going to be some inherent issues with getting this to work though:
Anyway these are just some of my thoughts so far, I hope to make a series out of this documenting what I did to hopefully help anyone else out. I will also be writing this in simple terms!
If any of you have implemented Jekyll please feel free to comment or if anyone has had any bad experiences or questions also drop me a comment!
EPS to PDF conversion is, for the average person a pain in the butt. A while back I wrote about how to easily convert your EPS files to PDF via terminal. Whilst that was an easier method that opening preview every time it is still time consuming. I have therefore written an Automator program to do it for you. The program will ask you to select all the EPS files you want to batch convert then it will batch convert them and put the PDF’s in the same folder as the EPS files (with the same file name). I have added the file to my server here.
Feel free to have a closer look at some of the ads on my website to say thank you and to help contribute to my bandwidth costs of bringing this file to you.
This is the second post in the series. In this post I am going to look at the software I currently use, the ones I am basically going to have to replace. There are a hell of a lot of good apps on the Mac and I will honestly be sad to replace these apps.
This list is not exhaustive, there are many more applications I have purchased and never use. The apps mentioned above are the main ones I use on a daily to weekly basis. Baring in mind that I have paid to upgrade a lot of the mentioned apps it may shock you to know that for the apps above, if you were to go and purchase that list right now it would cost you $1082.74!!! I must have easily spent almost $3000 on software for my desktop alone, add to this the tie in I have with my iPhone and the equivalent apps I have bought to use them on the go and you can see just how much money has been wasted when there are free alternatives out there.
The next part of the series looks at how I have started using open source software and how you can also use it for free right now. Please feel free to comment below.
All of what you have read today, was written and edited on Ubuntu Linux
Begin Rant – Please skip this if you wish and move direct to the main content
Recently I have become a little pissed off with closed ecosystem’s a.k.a Apple’s way of doing things. It has always been a system I have relished and thought was a great idea. Back in the days of the iBook (A machine I adored) there were no issues with your Apple system, it really did just work! Today, things are very different. There are many different hardware configurations, it is now Intel based and we have all these iOS devices popping up like jack rabbits. If you are one of those people that has had a bug (iPhone 3G and iOS 4 for example) then you know how frustrating it is whilst you wait for Apple to sort it out. You are at the complete mercy of a huge corporation!
There have been multiple things that have really started to get to me, if your a regular reader here, you already know what they are. If not, I will recap. When the move to Intel initially occurred, the build quality of the new machines was s**t. I went through 7, yes 7 Macbook’s. One was even quality controlled by Apple in Ireland, and to be frank that was a POS. Thankfully, those days are a thing of the past, Apple build quality really is back to where it was, if not better. Next, ever since the intel move I have found the operating system to be buggier, slower, and generally more windows like every iteration we get. A user should not be left wishing they had stayed on a previous version of an OS. I wish I was on Tiger still, just like I wish I was still on 3.1.3 on my iPhone 3G. Version 4.1 has improved things, but it is still not usable. Add to that the way Steve commented about user feedback on the Apple TV…. either he is telling lies or he has asked a total bunch of muppets. Everything Mac fans have been asking for with that device for years he has negated. We wanted openess, the ability to play any file type, we wanted a blu-ray or DVD drive and we wanted a TV tuner. That Steve-O is what makes a great TV device for your living room.
Why be at the mercy of a company that cares more about money that it does about you? I mean, and I quote:
“we don’t care about existing users, our target is windows movers” – Apple Recruiter 2006.
So on the back of this rant, I wondered, given how much time and money I have invested in the Mac and iOS platforms whether I could actually make a complete move to open source and like it. From what I can see, it would offer me greater freedom both in terms of hardware and software choices….. it would also free my wallet. I tend to spend quite a bit on Mac applications….. especially with the latest and greatest versions you seem forced to buy to get the functionality you really wanted from day one. This will be a series of posts about my transition to open source, the replacement of all my main apps and how I did it. It will serve as a demonstration to all about how easy it is to do and how you can all give it a go, right now, without any investment on your part at all.
Please subscribe to the RSS feed if you are interested in seeing this series unfold and PLEASE comment on the threads. I want to know what you think, how many of you are open source now and what you think to closed ecosystems as shown in my rant.
Recently I found myself needing to quickly and easily convert some .eps files to .pdf. You can simply double click on the EPS in OS X and Preview will convert it however this cannot be done in batch and you have to go through the process of saving the .pdf.
There is a quicker and free solution to this in OS X and it is already built in…. Terminal.app.
That is all there is too it! Happy converting!
I have been an iPhone user since it was first launched in the UK. One of the nice features that came in a January software update was the ability to save an icon on your home screen that relates directly to a website. This allowed you to easily launch and few a site with one push of your finger.
A couple of weeks ago I had an icon made by Arron Hirst from RazorianFly. Arron is responsible for most of the graphics you see on my sites, mainly the icons, banners and post banners. I hope he continues to provide me with these excellent graphics for shameless plugs on my sites
Arron will soon be starting up his own graphics design business which I hope will continue to provide DavidJMoore.com with great, simple and clean graphics. Who knows, if the site becomes popular I may even be able to pay him, but that wouldn’t be frugal, or help me retire at 45.
To place the DavidJMoore.com webclip icon on your desktop you need to follow the steps below:
After this a screen will appear where you can edit the title of the icon, after you hit ‘Add‘ on this screen your iPhone or iPod touch will return you to your home screen and you will now see the DavidJMoore.com icon there – Happy Tapping!!
I decided to write this post due to a rather large issue I have just had with Orbicule’s Undercover software after I had an iMac go in for repair recently. The iMac died suddenly and was to have it’s logic board replaced. Upon collection of the Mac at the Apple store the genius powered the unit on. We logged into the account and boom
HELP HELP, I AM A STOLEN MAC cried the iMac!! It appears that the logic board replacement had tricked the software into thinking it hadn’t been online for 2 months and the software automatically switches to plan B according to the software’s developer. According to the message on the iMac screen connecting the unit to the internet and completing a reboot would resolve the issue. But if your net connection is supplied dependent on your mac address how do you plan on connecting to the net after a logic board replacement!? The machine has a new mac address and there is no way of accessing it as the orbicule software essentially locks up the mac. In fact it also will proceed to dim your screen to make the “thief” take it in for repair or try to sell it on. Maybe a reason why Apple replaced the 24″ screen which had nothing wrong with it for £382!!Anyway I detract, the way to get round this issue if your unable to connect to the internet is as follows: 1. Restart the Mac and hold down the Command s keys in order to boot into single user mode. 2. Once booted enter the following command (Don’t type it wrong and get the spaces right this is critical)
/sbin/mount -uw /3. This command mounts your hard drive 4. Now enter
rm /Library/Launchdaemons/com.orbicule.uc.plistto remove orbicule 5. There should be no message in return, if you see one you have typed something wrong. Repeat again if you get a message. 6. You should also carry out the following command
rm /Library/Preferences/connected.plist7. Type
exitto reboot your mac.
The above list will have now uninstalled Undercover so you must reinstall it by downloading it and installing it from the Orbicule website. Though, thankfully, there should be much relief after following these steps as your Mac should now be usable!
Oh and on a final note, to all of us that use Undercover. Don’t for one second think that if your Mac is stolen and it does end up at Apple for repair that they will call Orbicule to verify. Despite reporting to them it was a stolen mac and asking them to call a recovery line they just didn’t bother and didn’t even ask for ID on collection to verify that we were the machine owners compared to our registration in their database…. well done Apple!
I found myself in a particularly nasty place yesterday. I had followed advice given to me by an Apple engineer and either what they told me to enter in terminal was wrong, OR, I mistyped. Either way the result was a iMac that would not boot and gave a kernel panic at every grey boot screen. I tried resetting the PRAM/NVRAM via command-option-P-R, I tried booting from single user mode, booting to safe mode and booting from the DVD to bypass the HDD. None of these worked and all resulted in the kernel panic.
So i call Apple care and the guy there was fantastic and he determines a fried logic board and happily gives me a case number to have it repaired under warranty. Now I have been a Mac user for long enough to know that you don’t (Most of the time) go from working fine to rebooting and having a fried logic board. So I racked my brain and spent hours on Google and I am happy to say I fixed it, and I will share with you what the issue was and how I fixed it in the hope it may help many others in the future.
Now for reasons I won’t delve into I have an EFI Firmware password set on my Mac. I presume if your reading this article your the same. The EFI firmware password essentially stops you doing any of the important key combinations at boot, resetting PRAM/NVRAM, single user mode the whole shebang. Now this is useful in many many circumstances except when your screwed like I was. Essentially when I thought I was resetting my PRAM and NVRAM I was doing absolutely nothing. If your as screwed as I was and cannot get to a DVD to boot OR you have forgotten your password there is only one way around it.
I hope this helps anyone that was in as much hot water as me! Good luck
My names David Moore. I'm an Engineer working in oil and gas
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