Full stack web developer, interested in all the things, but especially the web, code, design, Linux, OS X, PHP, WordPress, JavaScript & robots.

Tagged: software

Moving from Fever to Miniflux

I’ve been using Fever as my self-hosted RSS reader ever since Google Reader was closed. It’s provided a solid experience, but when it was announced that Fever was to cease being supported, I decided that the next time I upgraded my server, I’d move to Miniflux.

Yesterday evening, I upgraded my server (well, I moved it from using Ubuntu 16.04 to Debian Stretch) and installed Miniflux. The installation was straightforward and it only took a few minutes to import my subscriptions from the OPML that I’d exported from Fever.

Initial impressions are really good, Miniflux’s user interface is super-simple and very easy to use. It’s also very quick! I don’t have any metrics to compare, but it definitely seems quicker at updating/refreshing my subscriptions than Fever. This is also evident when connecting via its Fever API using Reeder.

Anyhow, it’s early days, but I think Miniflux is going to be a very good replacement for Fever. If you’ve been looking for a self-hosted RSS reader, it might be worth taking a look.

Provisioning a new MacBook Pro

Last night, I set-up a new user account for myself on a new (new to me) MacBook Pro. I purchased the MBP (Retina, 13-inch, Early 2015) from a colleague, a Windows guy who found that he had no use for a macOS device. The MBP is practically unused (really, not a scratch on it) and it’ll replace my MacBook, which I have given to Becky as a replacement for her ageing 2009 MacBook.

Everyone involved in this deal seems happy with the outcome, my colleague has some extra cash money, Becky has a shiny new (new to her) MacBook, and I have a slightly more powerful device with a lot more ports.

I should probably mention that before purchasing the MBP, I had considered (read as agonised over) buying a new ThinkPad t460s and installing Linux on it, but after watching a few YouTube videos (such as this one) of people suffering all the usual Linux compatibility headaches, I thought to myself, “Bollocks to that, I want something that just works.” Also, I have said before that I believe my previous MBP (Retina, 13-inch, Late 2013) was the best computer I’ve ever purchased, and I’ve no reason to believe the 2015 model should be any different.

Anyhow, regardless of how or why a came to acquire another MBP, it occurred to me that I don’t provision these devices very often, so I thought it might be a good idea to detail the software I installed. Below is that list, sorted alphabetically.

  • Amphetamine
    Because sometimes I like to prevent my laptop from sleeping. I was using Caffeine, but it doesn’t appear to be available any more.
  • Airmail 3
    A pretty nice email client. I use it with my gmail account and it works well. Has lots of options and features, yet performance is still really good. Oh, and it’s pretty too!
  • Bartender 2
    I’ve been using Bartender for a few months now. It’s surprising how many apps want to give you a menu bar icon under macOS and it doesn’t take long before things start to look cluttered. Bartender takes care of cleaning things up for you.
  • cfxr
    For making cheesy 8-bit sound effects for web games and videos.
  • Chrome
    Probably doesn’t need an introduction. I switched from Firefox to Chrome sometime last year, due to its outstanding developer tools. I still prefer Mozilla and Firefox over Google and Chrome, but I’m pragmatic and tend to use the best tool for the job.
  • ColorSnapper 2
    Nifty little colour picking tool. Has a nice user interface and options for exporting colour values in lots of different formats.
  • Downie
    I get asked to download YouTube videos a lot, don’t ask, Downie makes the process trivial. Recommended by MBW Picks.
  • Dropbox
    I’m an ownCloud user, but I still keep Dropbox around.
  • Etcher
    A great tool for burning Raspberry Pi SD cards. A bit worrying that it’s such a big download (it’s an Electron app), but it does the job well, so it’s forgiven.
  • Final Cut Pro X
    I’m often tasked with creating videos and Final Cut Pro X is total overkill for my needs.
  • Firefox
    As mentioned, I’m currently a Chrome user, but I’m still rooting for Firefox, so I like to keep it around.
  • GIF Brewery
    Probably the single most important application of all time. See.
  • Git
    Again, no introduction required.
  • HandBrake
    The open source video transcoder. I don’t use it as much as I once did, but it’s still a handy utility to have installed.
  • Icon Slate
    A nifty little tool for creating favicons and more.
  • ImageOptim
    As a general rule of thumb, I run all images through ImageOptim before uploading them to the web. Its simple drag and drop UI makes the job a breeze.
  • iTerm2
    One of the best terminal applications I’ve had the pleasure to use.
  • Magnet
    A recent addition to my software toolkit. Admittedly, it’s not super handy on a 13-inch laptop, but it does a good job of window management when I attach my MBP to larger external displays, where I have more screen estate to play with.
  • Microsoft Remote Desktop
    I’d be happy to not use Windows at all, ever, but when you work on a Windows Domain it’s almost impossible.
  • ownCloud client
    I’ve been using ownCloud for several years now and I love it.
  • Pastebot
    A clipboard manager with lots of options and features, including filters for converting lists into HTML etc. Another app recommended by MBW Picks.
  • Permute
    A handy media converter with a nice drag and drop user interface. Handy for extracting audio from videos etc.
  • Pixelmator
    Described as “Full-featured image editor for Mac”, I just use it to remove odd artefacts from photos. Again, it’s total overkill for my needs, but it’s not overly expensive and one day I might call on it for more.
  • ScreenFlow
    I use ScreenFlow to record screencasts/demos of the projects I’m working on. It’s quick and easy to set-up and has a surprisingly good editor for adding overlays, annotations, captions, titles and more.
  • Sequel Pro
    My go-to tool for working with MySQL databases. It has lots of handy features and it’s a lot prettier than MySQL Workbench (these things matter, honest).
  • Sketch
    I moaned about the subscription licensing model, but it didn’t stop me from using it. Sketch really is a fantastic app.
  • Skitch
    A handy tool for taking quick screenshots with annotations.
  • SSH
    macOS ships with SSH, so I just needed to create a new key and copy the public key to my servers.
  • Sublime Text 3
    I’ve switch from Sublime to Atom, and back again. Sublime is currently winning my favour due to its raw speed and performance. If Atom and Sublime were to have a race, Sublime would lap Atom many times.
  • TextExpander
    I’ve not signed-up for their subscription model, but I’m still using TextExpander, I love it.
  • TextWrangler
    I use TextWrangler as my auxiliary text editor — when I’m working on a project in Sublime, but I need to make a quick edit in a file outside of the project. This happens a fair amount.
  • Transmit
    Used for mounting remote drives over SSH. There are other tools available (Mountain Duck, ExpanDrive), but Transmit does the job nicely.
  • Transmission
    For downloading Linux ISO’s and nothing else, honest.
  • Tweetbot
    Used for tweeting random dribble. Probably the nicest Twitter client in existence.
  • VirtualBox
    I’ve been a VirtualBox user for many years, it’s perfect for setting up development servers.
  • VLC
    Because no system would be complete without the Swiss Army knife of media players.

The end. If you’re reading this and you know of some software that I might be interested in (based on what you’ve seen above), please feel free to post a comment and let me know. Thanks.

Writefull – A new way of writing with confidence image/svg+xml

Writefull is an app that gives feedback on your writing by checking your text against databases of correct language.

I’ve been using Writefull over the past week and it’s proper good. I love the “get words in context” feature. I also love that it’s cross platform and available for macOS, Windows and Linux. There’s also a nifty Chrome extension, if you’re that way inclined.

Inkscape Version 0.92 is Released! image/svg+xml

The Inkscape project announces a new version 0.92 of its popular vector drawing software. New features include mesh gradients, improved SVG2 and CSS3 support, new path effects, interactive smoothing for the pencil tool, a new Object dialog for directly managing all drawing elements, and much more.

I’m looking forward to trying this, it looks like a fab release.

Review of My Software and Hardware Choices

Prompted by Chris Coyier’s post, Review of My New Computer Equipment, I thought I’d post a review of my current software and hardware choices. So, six months ago, I wrote:

On reflection, I’ve replaced all but one of the OS X specific applications, and the change was painless. As with the previous post, and if I remember, I’ll take another look at this list in another 6 months. I’m wondering if I’ll still be using desktop Linux? I’m thinking that I probably will.

I thought wrong, well sort of. I’m actually using macOS, Linux and Windows. Yup, I’ve ditched the silly idea that I need to run the same OS on every system and I now use whatever I fancy, or, I choose the best tool for a given job.

My workstation consists of 3 systems and they’re all sharing the same keyboard and mouse via Synergy. Throughout the day, I switch seamlessly between macOS, Ubuntu and Windows 10, across a total of 5 monitors. It’s fucking glorious.

I run macOS on my 2013 MacBook Pro, Ubuntu on a Dell desktop and Windows 10 on my X220 ThinkPad. The machines all vary in age, but they’re all fitted with solid state drives and their performance is more than adequate.

When I’m at home, I also have the same 3 operating systems available. My hackintosh desktop runs Windows 10 (mostly for Steam). I run macOS on my MacBook and both Ubuntu and Windows 10 on my X220 ThinkPad.

It’s quite liberating when you realise that you don’t have to belong to a particular OS camp. Computers and operating systems are just tools and whilst it’s normal to have a favourite or preferred tool, it’s not good to exclude everything else in favour of using it, especially if there’s a better tool for the job.

On reflection, I’m really pleased that I decided to breakout of my comfort zone and I’m really enjoying my current setup. My choice of software and hardware is like a melting pot of the best tools available and it enables me to get stuff done. It also provides for a varied experience and prevents me from getting too bored with one system.

If you’ve found yourself in the position of using just one operating system, whether that’s Windows, macOS, Linux, or some other exotic OS, I’d wholly recommend mixing it up and taking full advantage of what’s out there. OS variety is the spice of life.

Goodbye Mint, Goodbye Fever image/svg+xml

As of today I’m officially suspending sales and support of Mint and Fever. But! As self-hosted software, absolutely nothing changes and you can continue using both Mint and Fever as you were yesterday.

I read this news via my self-hosted Fever instance. This is sad, but not unexpected. I’ll probably continue to use Fever, until the next time I upgrade my server, when I’ll look for an alternative. I’ve looked at Miniflux in the past, which looks pretty good.

All the Ways I Automate image/svg+xml

Scripting and automation have been in the conversation lately, owing to Apple’s reported disbanding of the macOS team responsible for them and the departure of scripting advocate Sal Soghoian from the company last month.

They sounds like arcane, abstract concepts. And to be sure, scripting and automation are the sort of feature that’s used by more like 5% of users rather than 50%. But in pondering Apple’s possible shift in automation strategy, I began to consider all the ways I use it in my working life.

I’m always interested to discover new productivity hacks, so I enjoyed reading this. Also, I wasn’t aware of Automator, or how useful it can be, until I started using OS X. I have to wonder why the folks at Apple don’t make more of a song and dance about it? I can’t say for sure, but I think I’d have probably switched to OS X sooner, if I’d known more about Automator.

Bartender 2 image/svg+xml

Bartender 2 lets you organize your menu bar apps, by hiding them, rearranging them, or moving them to the Bartender Bar.

My menu bar apps were getting out of control, so after hearing about Bartender 2 on a recent episode of The Talk Show, I purchased a copy. The app cost me ~£12, but it’s a nifty utility, so I’m happy to support the developer. Also, according to the FAQs:

A Bartender license is for 1 user, for use on all their Macs.

Cool beans.

Google Debuts ‘PhotoScan’ App for Scanning Old Photos With iPhone image/svg+xml

Google today launched a new app called PhotoScan, which is designed to make it easy to scan printed photographs using your iPhone’s camera.

PhotoScan instructs users to take four separate quick images of a printed photo, stitching them together to create a perfect high-resolution digital copy. Google’s multi-image capture method eliminates issues that normally plague digital photos of print photographs, including glare and distortion.

This looks pretty cool, I’m looking foward to giving it a try.