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I Still Miss Notify.app

Notify 2.1

I’m a big fan of Inbox Zero and I wish I didn’t have to give e-mail so much of my attention, but since I’m in charge of support for my company it’s a priority for me. That may make me a bit of an “E-Mail Monkey“, but so be it. It’s a point of pride that I, and the rest of our team, respond so quickly to customer feedback.

That’s not to say that I’m not envious of people who can process their e-mail just twice a day. If support wasn’t one of my roles, I would jump at the opportunity to do the same. Since I’ve chosen not to, there are a few steps that I take to minimize the interruptions. One of the techniques I was a big fan of was to use an app called Notify.

Nofity.app would sit in your menu bar and would check my e-mail accounts and notify me when I had mail via Growl. Of course leaving my e-mail client open would obviously do the same thing, but I liked the fact that I could keep it closed. A simple notification would let me know if the e-mail was urgent, but I didn’t have the constant reminder of a badge notification that I had X number of unread messages.

If the message was urgent, then I could launch Mail.app and address it, but if it wasn’t then I could leave well enough alone until I was ready to process my mail. Again, it was a small thing, but I found it very handy to help me stay focused throughout my day.

Unfortunately, the developer abandoned the software on May 11, 2011 and it no longer functions since I upgraded to Mac OS Lion.

The other day I was lamenting the fact that I still miss not having this little utility. I did a few Google searches to see if I could find an alternative, but came up empty. That was certainly a disappointment, but I was happy to find that I wasn’t alone.

Another Plug For OpenDNS

I did a post last week entitled “I Hope This Isn’t A Trend” and in it, I mentioned how one way to protect yourself from phishing attacks was to use OpenDNS on your computer, or router. The other day I found another reason to recommend the service — malware protection.

Mac Trojan Outbreak

Last week, news come out that approximately 1% of all Mac OS computers were infected with something called the “Flashback trojan”. If this is news to you, then I strongly urge you to go read this MacWorld article from Rich Mogull. It gives you all the information you need to know regarding the outbreak, how to test to see if your Mac is infected and how to prevent becoming infected.

Apple was a little slow to release a fix, which is what led to the outbreak, but OpenDNS was quick to respond in 3 days with news that if you were using their service, you are protected. Color me impressed!

But Isn’t DNS Super Nerdy?

Yes and no. If you dig into the subject, it’s of course pretty nerdy; however, OpenDNS has made it super easy and you don’t have to be a geek to use it. You simply change two fields in the network settings on your computer, or on your router. That’s it!

For home use, I highly recommend creating a free account and setting your router to use OpenDNS. If you’re mobile, then adding the same settings to your laptop is a good idea too.

To help walk you through the process, Katie Floyd, of the MacPowerUsers podcast, did a wonderful screencast on the subject, which I’ve posted below. If that’s too much detail for you, OpenDNS has excellent tutorials as well.

A Great Read – “Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out”

I love great writing.

Paul Ford has written an article for NYMag that definitely qualifies as great writing (like just about everything he writes). In Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out, Paul eloquently clarifies how most Instagram users feel about the Facebook acquisition and provides a great deal of clarity in the process.

There are so many gems in the piece, but here’s a little sample.

So if you’re an Instagram user, you’ve been picking up on all of the cues about how important you are, how valuable you are to Instagram. Then along comes Facebook, the great alien presence that just hovers over our cities, year after year, as we wait and fear. You turn on the television and there it is, right above the Empire State Building, humming. And now a hole has opened up on its base and it has dumped a billion dollars into a public square — which turned out to not be public, but actually belongs to a few suddenly-very-rich dudes. You can’t blame users for becoming hooting primates when a giant spaceship dumps a billion dollars out of its money hole. It’s like the monolith in the movie 2001 appeared filled with candy and a sign on the front that said “NO CANDY FOR YOU.”

A great read. [via Ftrain]

Oh, and if you like this article, be sure to check out The Age of Mechanical Reproduction, which I’ve linked to in the past.

Oh… Please Don’t Go In There

I’m in the process of Dumping Google and one of the steps I’ve taken is to replace Google Analytics with Mint from Shaun Inman. Brilliant analytics app from a brilliant guy. Anyway, while I was in the FTP client and looking at the file structure of the site, I couldn’t help but notice some cruft.

For example, there was a scripts directory that contained who knows what in there. Unfortunately I couldn’t leave well enough alone and did a quick search to see if there were any posts that referenced one of the scripts that I recognized. There were about 5 and as I edited each one it quickly became apparent I should have left well enough alone.

I started this blog back in 2002 and there’s been a ton of updates over the years. I’ve also moved hosts more times than I can count and moved from MovableType to WordPress. Looking back over a 10 year span there’s a ton of bits-and-pieces to this blog that no longer work as they were originally intended.

It’s fun to go back and read old posts, but for anyone that runs their own blog, I don’t recommend that you do any editing — it’s not pretty *shudder*.

I Hope This Isn’t A Trend

Yesterday, I received the following text message on my iPhone.

20120404-194540.jpg

There’s a couple of things that give me pause here.

  1. The sender assumes I have a phone with a web browser so either they’re taking a random guess, or they know I have an iPhone
  2. The URL will probably confuse most people.

I don’t have any studies to back this up, but I think it’s fair to say that most people don’t know how URLs work, much less what the most important portion of a URL is.

The first thing you see in the above text message is the www.apple.com and that’s the least important part. However, the average user sees apple.com and assumes incorrectly that the message is from Apple. The most important part is the todayswinners.info — that is the ultimate destination that this spammer is wanting me to go to.

This text message is doing something called phishing and it’s goal is to trick you into giving them your information. I didn’t click the link, so I don’t know what specific information they’re trying to extract from me, but that’s their goal.

Unfortunately, it’s not going away anytime soon and now that I’ve received my first text spam message, I’m sure this is but the first of many I can hope to receive. I’ve already added my number to the Do Not Call List over a year ago, but that’s not going to stop this kind of activity.

How To Protect Yourself

The only way to protect yourself from a phishing scam is to know what to look for. I highly recommend taking the OpenDNS Phishing Quiz and see how you score. I just took the test and was surprised by some of the samples. It’s a good way to see just how clever phishers are getting these days.

If you want to take extra steps, you can also choose to use OpenDNS on your home network. One of OpenDNS’ features is that they block phishing sites among other things. It’s free for home use and it’s what I use on my home network. I’ve been using them for a couple of years now and have been very pleased.

There’s a simple guide to setting up OpenDNS on your computer, or router at use.opendns.com that gives you step-by-step instructions.

Something To Look Forward To

Proof Web App

For the past two years, I’ve been lucky enough to make it down to my home town of Baton Rouge, Louisiana for a guys weekend. The RedStick Brewmasters have their annual crawfish boil in April and it’s made for the perfect anchor to getting my buddies together and hanging out. Fresh homemade beer and all the crawfish you could possibly eat (trust me, I’ve tried) shared with your best friends is a little slice of heaven. Unfortunately, this year I’m not able to make it due to commitments at work and while lamenting that fact, I stumbled across something that lifted my spirits — Proof.

Proof is a web app designed for the iPad that gives you a virtual tour of Scotland via tasting single malt scotches. It’s technically a drinking game, with the object being to submit tasting notes and see who has the most refined palate.

I may not be able to make it to Baton Rouge this Spring, but at least now I have something to look forward to! 🙂

Clacky Types Again!

When I made the switch to the Mac back in 2006, one of the hardest things to give up was “Clacky”, my much beloved IBM Model M keyboard. Not having the Command Key, or a Windows key for that matter, was an unfortunate deal killer for me. Granted the keyboard was made in 1990, so neither of those keys existed at that time, but alas I opted to bid a fond farewell. Since then I’ve used a Kensington SlimType and then eventually the Apple Bluetooth keyboard. In addition to my affection for typing on my desktop keyboard, I had also become quite accustomed to typing on a laptop. Both of the keyboards that I migrated to were of the laptop style, so it wasn’t something that was hard to adjust to, but I have frequently thought back fondly to my days of banging away on old “Clacky”.

A Friend Rekindles An Old Flame

A few weeks ago my good friend, Mike Rohde, tweeted that he had just purchased the Das Keyboard and I was curious as to why. His reply? Twitter   rohdesign  mashby Flashbacks to ambe He recently landed a book deal with PeachPit Press and with the long hours of typing ahead, he felt he needed a new tool to help ease all the hours of typing that he’s expecting, or so I would assume. The Das Keyboard is a modern keyboard and uses a similar buckling spring that the old IBM Model M keyboards used. [Edit: Actually, the Das uses a Cherry MX switch, which is a mechanical switch, but it’s not a Buckling Spring] They’ve recently announced a Mac version and after seeing what Mike opted to purchase a thought occurred… “Could I still use Clacky if I wanted to?”

Testing On The iMac & The iPad My first test was to simply attach the

PS/2 to USB adapter to the end of the extremely long cable and plug it into my 27″ iMac to see if my desktop would even recognize the keyboard, much less, let me type. Standing behind my computer, I plugged her in and then walked around to sit down. My screensaver was up, so I had to enter a password to get to the desktop and was able to enter the password on Clacky! Test 1 complete. The next test was to see if I could use Clacky on my 1st generation iPad. Adding the USB adapter from the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit, I fired up the iPad and waited. There was an error message stating that my device wasn’t compatible, but I launched the Notes app and typed a few strokes and was surprised to see that it worked! Of the two writing environments that I would find myself in, I could easily use my IBM Model M. Amazing. iPad and Clacky

Why Did We Break Up? Oh Yeah…

The instant I started typing, it felt like home. The feel. The sound. All of it came rushing back and I felt guilty for leaving Clacky in storage for so long. It was akin to remembering an old flame and wondering why it is that you guys broke up in the first place. And then you remember why.

1. She’s Loud I’m on the phone a good bit for work and I often type notes while I’m talking. There’s no way that I could do that discretely with Model M. It’s not that I’m trying to type in secret, it’s just that it’s distracting to the other person on the phone. Granted, I could always keep my Apple Bluetooth keyboard on the side, for when I’m on the phone, but I don’t know that I would want the additional clutter of a second keyboard.

2. She’s Missing That Special Something I use the Command Key all the time on the Mac and not having it makes it near impossible to use my desktop. I also use function keys quite a bit and need the “fn” key to access some of the speciality keys. There are options to remap another key to take the place of the Command Key, or the “fn” key, but it’s just too big of a stretch — literally. Since I use the “Ctrl” and the “Alt/Option” key as well, I would have to use a key that’s in a completely different location from where I naturally look for it with my fingers.

3. She’s Fat The Apple Bluetooth keyboard and the Apple Magic Pad both fit inside the footprint of the IBM Model M with room to spare. Now, I’m not so much of a minimalist that the footprint is a deal killer. It’s the fact that it changes my orientation beyond just using the keyboard. I’ve become quite accustomed to not having the numeric keypad on my keyboard. The track pad fits nicely in the space typically reserved for the keypad and I like how my hands fall when I’m working. Having the keypad back means that I have to reach out for a mouse, or trackpad and it just feels awkward to me now. Since switching to the smaller keyboard, I’ve had fewer back issues and I think it’s due in large part to the change in my setup. It’s been years since I’ve been to the chiropractor and I used to go about every 6 months for a tune up.

So Is Clacky Going Back To Storage?

NO. Sure there are a lot of negatives and for day-to-day typing, I just can’t see using Clacky. However, there is a scenario that I can see all those negatives falling away — extended typing. I have a new user manual project that is coming up soon and I can definitely see using Clacky to make quick work of that project. Also, I can see wanting to break her out when I’m writing blog posts, such as this one. Often times I think they’re going to be short and sweet, but inevitably they turn into much longer entries and having such a beautiful typing experience is a real bonus. In both of those examples, I’m doing extended typing where I’m not shifting focus (cmd + tab) into other applications and I’m limiting my distractions (phone calls) so that my sole focus is on typing. In these scenarios, Clacky is the perfect companion. Case in point, I’ve typed this entire blog article on the iPad using WriteRoom. There’s no Command key on the iPad, so it’s not missed, and I’ve been able to simply focus on typing. Thanks to the built-in support for DropBox, the article was continually synched to my desktop and I was able easily bring it into MarsEdit and add the images and the few remaining links. Overall, it was a very seamless experience.

My Dream Keyboard

The Apple Bluetooth keyboard will be my main keyboard for the foreseeable future if for no other reason than the fact that it’s quiet. However, I can imagine having a secondary keyboard that is stowed away and brought out when longer typing sessions are required. Here’s what that dream keyboard would look like…

1. Buckling Springs Spending this afternoon typing on Clacky has been _so_ much fun, so my dream keyboard would have to have these keys.

2. Small Footprint
I like the abbreviated style of the Apple BT keyboard and don’t need the keypad, so I would want the same format

3. Mac and Special Keys
Having the Command and Option keys, as well as the audio and brightness keys are a must.

4. Wireless
I’ve become spoiled by Bluetooth. All of my import devices are wireless: keyboard, track pad and mouse. Not having a tangled mess of cables is really, really nice. Now that I’m thinking about it, if you took the Apple BT keyboard and put buckling keys on it, I’d be in heaven! 😛

Additional Photos & A Video

If you’d like to see the rest of the photos I shot, as well as a video of what the keyboard sounds like when typing, you can view them on my Flickr page at this link.

My Morning View

This is what my mornings look like most days.

I have a small thermos of coffee that I bring from home and I sip on it all morning with the cup I got from Alterra when I visited Mike Rohde in Milwaukee.

My wallet, which contains my iPhone as well (BookBook) sits in front of me and I usually take off my wedding ring since I type so much throughout the day.

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