August 2012

08/31/2012 20:27:18

Editing the Character Palette in OS X Mountain Lion

I just found out that OS X Mountain Lion now has the ability to enable additional character categories in the Character Palette, and it also allows to sort the list so that you can quicker find the special characters you’re looking for.1

Enable additional categories

To enable new categories click the small wrench icon and select “Customize List…”.

Sorting categories

You can’t sort the categories lists in the menu though. To do that you first have to close the Customize List… popover and click and drag them in the normal menu. You should see a blue line between the entries indicating the drag operation is available.

  1. The search also seems to be much improved compared to previous versions of OS X. 

08/31/2012 14:24:29

Avid Studio iPad App becomes Pinnacle Studio. Grab it now, it's free.

After its announcement that Avid will be focusing on the high-end professional market, the company gradually sells its consumer and low-end professional products.

One of the last contestants of this sell out is Avid’s Avid Studio iPad app which now has been re-released by Corel as Pinnacle Studio.
The app is currently free, so grab it now. Avid Studio (or Pinnacle Studio as it’s now called) is a fantastic professional iPad video editor.

I don’t know why Avid does these things. It as though they won’t see the writing on the wall. Is it so in obvious that these mobile computers will replace, or at least integrate very tightly, with desktop computers?

Anyway. Another thing that I’d like to mention is how Corel handles the “transition”. Making the app free until September, 18th. I suspect the app will stay free or be kept cheap but will get some additional In-App Purchases to add functionality to the app.

08/29/2012 19:58:47

Inside my Hyperactive Brain

Funny how things happen sometimes; I stumbled across Better Mess a short while ago, when Michael contacted me via mail just the other week. Coincidentally he suffers from a similar problem that I do.
I’ve been thinking back and forth whether to share this with the world or not, but reading his article and our private conversation gave me enough confidence.

What’s my problem

As I said, I “suffer” from a disorder that is very similar to ADHD. In fact I have ADHD, but without the AD part. What does that mean?
It means I can concentrate very well, but as soon as something distracts me, I go down that rabbit hole very very quickly (hyperactively).

My body moves constantly. As a result of “obsessive moving behavior” I had the problem that I actually hurt myself (read: until my fingers bleed). The thing is, I never saw my ragged fingers as a problem I could fix. So I never bothered, and took it for granted. Maybe you feel the same.
Another problem was that I just got very angry, very quickly, about all the negative comments I got from commenters on my blog and twitter. To a point where it felt so bad that I just wanted to throw in the towel. Now I can deal with this problem much more elegantly, because I learnt what to do. I learned to sit back, relax and look at what the person wants to tell me. (NVC to the rescue.)

Having ADHD, or a hyperactivity disorder, sounds bad to most people, but since I’ve been diagnosed I realized why I live my life the way I do, and now I can live it more fully than ever. Actually my hyperactive brain helps me do my work every day (I work as screencaster for those who don’t know).

When I think out new projects, I use mind maps to get an overview of the “big picture”. Because I’m hyperactive, my brain is able not to spend too much time with one little detail, but move forward instead. This is good for planning projects and working on projects. I naturally keep stale projects moving.
It also helps me to “master” the apps that I need to make a screencast of. It takes me about half a day/day to learn an app. An ability that naturally helps me do my work. Others “get into an app” much more slowly it seems.
Reading was always a problem for me. I realized later that reading is not the problem. The problem is my reading speed. My reading speed is just slower than my brain expects new information coming in. I literally get bored by the book.

So that’s my problem: people and things around me are simply too slow.

I’ll explain later how I counter my problems.

How it all started

For a long time I had this feeling that I just can’t concentrate. I thought it’s my fault and I just need to concentrate better. You know, just “do it”.
I always had problems reading. When I studied my audio engineer diploma, reading was a pain. My eyes just couldn’t stay on the page, I digressed all the time. So I started getting into managing my time (Getting Things Done, Time Management, etc. I learned a lot of stuff about management and motivation. A lesson I shouldn’t regret, as it turned out.) to help me. It helped, a little, but I still couldn’t read. It dawned on me I might have ADHD, but I ignored my worries.

I began working as lecturer and audio engineer. Most of the time during this time my problem wasn’t too apparent. “Editing” is great for someone like me, all the little things my brain has to keep in mind, all the hundreds of shortcuts to edit as efficiently as possible. I just edit faster than someone else, because my brain and body move faster.

Then I started studying again. This time a Bachelor’s degree in Audio Production. Again reading was a pain. Writing my second thesis was too. I ignored the problem.

Eventually yet another degree was on the horizon, a Master degree in Sonic Arts. I went to London, studied, and eventually got my degree. Focusing on paper wasn’t easy.

Then some time around last year I listened to one of the first episodes of Back to Work where Merlin admitted his ADD problem publicly.
In previous years I always wondered “Man, do I really have ADHD? I must have ADHD! The level of my inability to focus isn’t normal. I’m sure. … Nah, it’s probably nothing.”
Then I heard Merlin and thought to myself “How old was he when he got diagnosed? 35? 40?” If it was possible for a man of his age to get diagnosed with ADHD, then it was possible for me too.
I went to the doctor, explained my problem and he sent me to a therapist. Some tests were done to find out whether I can concentrate well and … my concentration is fine.

ADHD and Hyperactivity

Wait, what? Yes, my concentration is fine.

So, what’s the problem then? Do I really just have to get my act together after all? If it only were that easy. (Thanks to all the helpful Internet people who made this suggestion by the way!)

I can’t “just” get my act together. I can’t just turn it off. I can fight it with medication or with other techniques though. I chose the latter.

As I learned from Michael’s ADHD post, the difference between ADHD and Hyperactivity (besides having a cool acronym) seems to be the following:

My brain is constantly trying to wander away from me, but it’s not for lack of desire or passion for how I’m spending my time.” (emphasis added)

That’s different for me. My brain doesn’t digress by itself, but as soon as something little (tiny, actually) shows up, I’m distracted. A Growl notification? I’m out of my flow. The “new mail message” sound? Zap! I’m in a different world.
The rabbit hole problem is one I have too. Because I move so fast, I very quickly get into the obsessive state. After my therapy I now know why I do the kind of things that I do, and I actually embrace the time I spend “digressing”, e.g. by writing stupid scripts.

How I deal with it

By now you may wonder what I do about my Hyperactivity. The answer is really easy: “control”.

When I started to overcome my problems I had one more go at all the management techniques I learned years before. This time though from a different angle. Time management wasn’t just there anymore to keep myself organized, it is now a way to keep myself healthy.
If I don’t plan in advance, I get distracted all the time. The more I plan, the better I get through the day. It’s that easy.

Planning my day in advance is important: My brain can adjust to the environment, I can think about my day, I can imagine the things I’m going to do. Then when it actually is time to do the things, it is easier to start working.

Work and Free Time Environment are almost the same

I spend a lot of time in front of my computer. It is therefore really hard for my body and my brain to tell the difference between whether I’m doing stuff for recreation or stuff for work. The clue here is to set strict rules for each environment.
It helped me a lot to have an office I can go to. Just leaving my home on specific times sets work and free time apart. When I’m in the office at around 9-ish I usually spend some hours to communicate and basically “un-control” myself, so I have more energy later for my core business hours. I call this time “admin, emails, invoicing”. I use this time to read news about what’s going on in the industry, reply to emails clients sent me, try to get in touch with possible new clients, report bugs about beta apps I’m using, check Twitter, Google Reader, call my banker or tax consultant and all the other things.

At 12 it is time for me to get into “work mode”. I meditate for about 20 minutes. This helps to clearly distinguish “networking mode” from “work mode”. My brain gets that.
My meditation practice is called Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) by Jacobson. PMR has been known for many years to help with tension in the muscles. Hyperactive people are among those this practice can help, too. It does. It took only a very short period of time to see visible results. A PMR session is basically “trying not to move”. About 17 minutes a day of not having to move, relaxes me so well that I don’t unconsciously destroy my fingers anymore, I concentrate better. And all those nasty commenters? They’re just humans now!
I also go to the gym three times a week and I go running regularly to expend my “kinetic” energy.

At 12:30 I check my emails one more time and then start working.
As I said earlier, the smallest distraction in form of a little bing or notification destroys my flow. So what marks “work mode” is minimizing these to a bare minimum. I turn off Notification Center (⌥-click the menubar icon). I close Mail. I turn my phone silent. I turn my iPad and phone upside down, so that when the screen flashes I won’t see it. (Actually that’s a pretty huge distraction for me)

There’s more though.


Writing, or doing solo tasks in general, requires my whole attention. I appreciate doing a lot of creative things on my iPad since the screen is so big and I can only do one thing at a time.

On the Mac I solved this problem differently. I need one app that fades out all the other apps and hides my otherwise too-distracting wallpaper (a lovely Enderman drawing). Currently the app that does this is Desktop Curtain by Many Tricks. I used Quiet before. I draft my mails in OmniFocus (iPhone, iPad, OS X), TextEdit, or Byword (iOS, OS X).
I also use OS X’s Zoom feature available from the Accessibility panel to make the app as big as possible.1

Planning is really easy with a mind mapping app. My favorite is MindNode (iOS, OS X). I have used this app for years now, it’s great. Mind mapping is good to get a “30,000 feet overview” of a screencast. My mind moves quickly. That way I can constantly add new ideas here and there. When my creative energy runs out, I organize the map. Later my map translates into actual work steps.
I use OmniFocus to plan projects. Together with MindNode and OPML I can easily convert my mind map to a list of tasks. A list of “things to do” is also easier to exchange with clients, because most think in lists. It doesn’t matter much for me. Though I prefer lists after sketching out an idea.

My body wants to move. That’s just how it is. I try to get away from my computer regularly. I use apps like Pauses, Time Out, or BreakTime (iOS, OS X) that darken the screen and block all mouse and keyboard access to whatever I’m doing. Most of the time this is just annoying, but what I learned through meditation is that I need to be aware, I need to realize what’s going on. “Hey, this is the thing that you set to move around occasionally so that you’re body won’t hurt you.” When I’m conscious enough, I stand up and walk around.


That’s it basically. My secrets to dealing with Hyperactivity is: meditation, moving regularly and keeping distractions to a minimum.

  1. The “scroll wheel” can be used to zoom in quickly. Set it in System Preferences. 

08/27/2012 20:19:03

If you didn’t know already, Dropbox is built with Python. What I didn’t know though, was how much of it is built with it. Apparently it’s almost the entire thing. Listen to this talk from PyCon 2011 about the history and technology Dropbox uses. (Skip the first 15 minutes if you’re not interested in the personal slightly-long-ish history part.

08/22/2012 07:21:01

iPad Typewriter

I don’t like it because as one person says in the comments:

"I had to stop the video because I flinch every single time I hear the glass being struck that hard."

08/18/2012 14:05:04

Alfred Extension: Remove Download Warning

“This” is an application downloaded from the Internet. Are you sure you want to open it?

This warning is very common to most of us. It saves non-tech users from (hopefully) installing malware on their computer. Most of the readers here however are tech-savvy enough to make a conscious decision whether, in this case, an app, is always allowed to be launched without asking.1

Alfred Powerpack to the rescue!

This is a Shell Script Extension which integrates itself as Action and will execute the following command. It will remove the quarantine extended attribute from an app/folder2 or a single file:

xattr -d -r {query}



Call Alfred, press fn (or whatever key you set to bring up the actions), type “Remove” and press ↩.



Want a shiny icon to accompany this extension? Here’s a ready-packaged download for you:

  1. You can disable the warning globally as well. I don’t want to do that, I think the warning itself is good, but I want to be able to disable it on a case-by-base basis. 

  2. and all of its subfiles! 

08/17/2012 20:25:17

Documentary: Steve Jobs One Last Thing

via @aptgetupdateDE

08/15/2012 20:24:03

Keyboard Maestro Macro: Symbolic Link

After my woes with my hard disk recently (and after having an awesome birthday!), I decided to do myself some good and purchase a SSD.1

I decided to go for a double-drive configration in my MacBook Pro. Here’s a good article by Matt Gemmell describing things you might want to consider.

The method he proposes uses symbolic links. I didn’t like the Terminal typing and came up with a Keyboard Maestro for this.
I’m using the “Prompt for user input” action to get the source and destination for the link. Just drag any file from the Finder to the text fields and Keyboard Maestro will insert their POSIX path.

Note: Version 5.3.2 has a bug where it doesn’t accept drag operations from the Finder unless the text field is highlighted! To make a destination become active, select its text field.

The macro runs ln -s "source" "target" (source and target will be enclosed in double quotes) on the Shell.


The macro

  1. I went for the Crucial M4 256GB. 

08/14/2012 11:10:36

"Move to Trash" for Mountain Lion's iCloud Documents

On Mountain Lion apps can also manage documents right within an application. Apps have the ability to move, rename and duplicate documents.
The only problem is, at least I couldn’t find it, there’s no option to delete documents (quickly) as well.

Let’s suppose you’re drafting an email in Byword. Now you select the message and press ⇧⌃M to send it to your spouse.
After the message is sent you can ⌘O to show the Open dialog, then right click the draft to delete it.

That doesn’t “flow” naturally for me. Open to delete a file? For me deleting means move to Trash. But when I go FileMove to…, the list doesn’t include “Trash” (by default).
The list of folders contains all of Finder’s sidebar items though, which we’re going to use here.

  1. Go to Finder, New Window ⌘N, and Go to Folder… ⇧⌘G
  2. Type “~/.Trash”
  3. Click the blue folder icon in the top of the window and drag it to the sidebar.

From now on, whenever you select Move to… you have easy access to the Trash folder allowing you to delete files instantly.
The only downside I could find is that OS X doesn’t ask whether you’re really sure you want to delete the file. So be warned!

Note: You can even set an Application Shortcut (System Preferences) for: BywordTrash⇧⌘T.

08/13/2012 20:20:13

Living in the cloud: how I lost a hard-drive and stayed productive while my MacBook was in repair

My main hard drive died recently. I probably won’t have to express how unfortunate of a situation that was. The reason why I’m writing this is that I want to share my “adventure” and hopefully someone will find something useful in here for his or her own backup.

My Setup

Setting up a spare machine

I realized there were four apps that I need to setup a new machine:

As I realized, just installing my other beloved apps like Keyboard Maestro or Hazel is useless without restoring from a backup. Since I was on a machine I had to give back, I didn’t want to install this machine as my computer.

The Mac App Store is a great convenient place. You just go there, browse the list of bought apps and go “I need this, this, and this.” Getting the app’ data back though, is a problem the App Store, unfortunately, doesn’t solve.

Restoring data

Bringing a Mac back to a state where you can use it for work is actually really easy. The Migration Assistant has several options for you. You can either setup the new machine the same as the old one was, keeping all your configuration, or you can be picky and choose only specific directories for restore.

Because my MacBook Air was only an intermittent solution, I didn’t actually restore anything. What I did restore, however, was my ~/Projects folder.
After the work day when I set up the computer, I opened the Time Machine backup in Finder and copied Projects to my Dropbox. It used to take some time, but once I had the folder in the cloud, I could work normally.

Working off the cloud is a big relief. Once a screencast is edited it is already backed up to multiple machines!

The machine could have died immediately again, it wouldn’t have been a problem.
You want to have as much of your stuff in the cloud as possible.

Getting the app data back wasn’t a big problem since I had my online backup. I had a download of my ~/Library so I could selectively decide which Application Support folder to restore. This way you quickly will be able to get all settings, keychains(!), etc. back.

Happy Ending

The week went by pretty quickly. The Hazel Tutorial is completely edited and everything was saved in the Dropbox folder on the spare machine, my editor’s Dropbox, Dropbox’s servers, and our little media server at home which also uses my account.
On Friday I got my machine back. This time I restored from Time Machine. The computer was set up in 4 hours. After that, it downloaded everything from Dropbox. I moved Projects back to ~/ and now I’m happy again – of course again with off-site and on-site backup.

PS: Backblaze

If you are with Backblaze I would recommend taking a look at CrashPlan. From this experience I can tell that Backblaze might have the nicer interface, but their restore is horrible. They provide only a ZIP that you can download. Downloading 70GB of data is a pain in the *** and takes a long long time. In fact it took so long that the ZIP file has been deleted by Backblaze while I was downloading it. (Thanks for that by the way!) They delete every restore file after a week.
Now that I have downloaded everything, I also see what’s wrong with their backup. They restore almost nothing of your old metadata. Which means that you have the data, but not the things you had assigned to them. Finder labels? Gone. Spotlight Comments? Gone. Permissions? Gone. Time stamps? Gone. Your brew installation? Gone. Apps? Gone.

08/10/2012 20:23:35

WWDC Videos 2004-2008

Apple has apparently republished the older 2004 until 2008 WWDC videos.
I’m uncertain whether you have to have a paid developer account to watch these.

08/09/2012 20:22:53


TimeMachineEditor is a software for Mac OS X Leopard, Snow Leopard and Lion that lets you change the default one-hour backup interval of Time Machine. You can change the interval or create a more sophisticated scheduling.

It works on Mountain Lion too.

08/09/2012 12:02:56

Keyboard Cleaner Maestro

The problem

I have this ritual to clean my computer before I leave for the office every Monday morning. I’ve been using Keyboard Cleaner to block keyboard and mouse access until the machine is cleaned.1
Until recently this app has been Keyboard Cleaner. A free app that does exactly that.

Since Mountain Lion though, apps without developer certificate can’t be run anymore (easily).2 So I’ve been living without it for quite some time now, but I wanted it back. It seemed intriguing to me to check out whether Keyboard Maestro would be able to replace an entire “app”.

The solution

I’m calling it Keyboard Cleaner Maestro.


Keyboard Cleaner Maestro


Keyboard Cleaner Maestro opens TextEdit3 with a new document, clicks the green traffic light button to maximize the window before it goes into a loop where it constantly does just two things:

It works quite well actually. And it keeps one app off my hard disk. Thanks, Keyboard Maestro!

  1. You could also just turn off the screen, which even has a shortcut (⇧⌃⏏) or can be activated with a Hot Corner, but this would mean that the user would have to set “Require password: immediately” in the Security settings, which I have. Oddly enough I prefer running an app instead. 

  2. That said, Keyboard Cleaner has been submitted for App Store review early July 2011, but apparently didn’t make it into the Store. I assume the app didn’t provide enough “value”. (Though there is an app that does the same thing, only “shinier” with a bit more bling.) 

  3. Don’t you wish that TextEdit would be quicker again too? 

08/01/2012 20:29:20

⌥-click to disable Notification Center

Very neat. I think Notification Center turns itself back on after a day or so, I read somewhere.

via reddit