Mac Mastery and Knowing Your Tools

DSC_0220It may surprise you to learn that I’m not a master carpenter.

Truth is, I’m one of the least handy people I know (and I know a fair number of people). Handing me a saw and a hunk of wood, you might as well include the address of the nearest ER. It’s embarrassing.

My good buddy Chris is another story. I could spend several sentences extolling his handy guy virtues, but let’s just say the dude built his own bed. He’s good with his hands and he knows his tools. Whenever I have questions about building or fixing things, he’s the guy I ask.

Chris owns a Mac and an iPhone. See if you can guess who he calls when he has problems or questions with those…

That’s right. Me, baby.

Chris knows all about the doohickies and thingamajigs he needs to do his work. And I know all about mine, too. [Read more…]

Recording dreams: an exercise in iOS automation


Being a navel gazing, white, American male, it only makes sense that I see a shrink once a week. She’s really great. For the purposes of this post, we’ll call her Babs—which isn’t her real name, though I kinda wish it was.

In a recent meeting with Babs, we were discussing the quality and quantity of my sleep (which, to put it gently, suck miserably). During this conversation, we began talking about dreams. [Read more…]

Advanced OmniFocus Tactics: Project Linking


Let me tell you a completely made-up story.

I needed a new hedge trimmer last week. Out of nowhere, my old hedge trimmer bought the farm and, instead of just hitting Home Depot and picking up another electric pile of crap, I decided I wanted to buy a really fancy hedge trimmer. So, I found a pretend German company that produces the finest fake hedge trimmers money can buy. These trimmers are made entirely by hand; the engine runs on sunshine and the pullcord is made of unicorn tail hair. They even include an imaginary certificate of authenticty signed by the nonexistent person who builds them. [Read more…]

Do OmniFocus Better: 3 Fundamental Tactics

Of all of the important lessons I learned from my parents as I grew up, few stand out in my mind more clearly than my old man repeatedly instructing me on how scissors were to be held when walking.

“When you’re walking, point the scissors toward the floor so you don’t impale yourself if you fall down.”

If I heard that once, I heard it five hundred times, but my dad’s repeated admonishments about the scissors were enough to produce the intended outcome. Decades later, I still point the scissors toward the floor without thinking about it and I’m happy to say that I have yet to impale myself. [Read more…]

iOS Wizardry: Automating Your Daily Photo Project

6748759375_64ea47b3e2_bAt the start of each new year, lots of folks embark on a personal mission to take at least one photo per day. Maybe it’s a selfie.[1] Perhaps it’s a picture of a garden or a moose or whatever. The subject of the photo doesn’t really matter: just know that some people do this (maybe you do).

By combining a few of my favorite tools, I’ve managed to create an extremely efficient way to capture, organize, and store such photos. The process looks like this: [Read more…]

How to properly add lime to a bottle of Mexican beer

For years now, I’ve been watching friends and strangers alike make the same mistake and it needs to stop.

Of course, I’m referring to the clumsy, inelegant way most folks add a lime wedge to a bottle of cold—typically Mexican—beer.1 Applying a hunk of citrus to a refreshing, light beer is a quick and easy way to make it taste awesome, but it’s all for naught when improper technique is employed.

Here’s how most folks do it.

[Read more…]

The Fastest Way to Capture Stuff in Evernote (I Swear)…

New to Evernote? Tens of thousands of people have used Evernote Essentials to get up and running with Evernote quickly. Grab your copy today, have Evernote working for you by tonight.

I love Evernote. You probably do, too. Heck, why wouldn’t you? Evernote is freakin’ awesome. If it’s worth keeping, it’s in Evernote — that’s my motto.

I also like to quickly capture ideas, thoughts and other stuff when I’m out and about. My iPhone is quite adept at letting me do just that thanks to Drafts, one of my favorite iOS apps ever. Seriously, if you have an iPhone (or an iPad) and you take any kind of notes and you’re not using Drafts, you’ve made a critical error. But that’s another rant for another time.

With Drafts 3.0 (which is out today[1], by the way), I can quickly append/prepend to my Evernote notes without leaving Drafts. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me and I’m going to show you how it works.

[Read more…]

The Answer to Your Writing Prayers

I’ll keep this brief.

If you’re reading this, chances are quite good that you write things, particularly for the web. There are two ways to write for the web (in my opinion, of course):

  1. Using Markdown.
  2. Some other dumb way that’s probably hurting your liver somehow.
Lots of people ask me about Markdown; what it is, how to use it, why they should bother using it, etc. Keep reading.

The shortest Markdown description ever

Put very simply, instead of writing this:

I found the <strong>largest</strong> cheesecake <em>ever</em> by searching <a href="">Cheesecake Finder</a>!

You can write this:

I found the **largest** cheesecake *ever* by searching [Cheesecake Finder](!

Markdown is awesome and you should be using it.

How to learn Markdown

This part is even easier.

My good pals David Sparks and Eddie Smith have just released the newest addition to David’s series of awesome MacSparky Field Guide ebooks called Markdown (non-affiliate link). That’s how you learn Markdown. If I didn’t already know it, I would after reading this book (which I did and, believe it or not, learned a few things myself).

Oh, and it’s not a book in the sense you’re thinking. It includes over 90 minutes of video demonstrating how to actually use Markdown, an additional ton of audio interviews with several preeminent Internet writers and, of course, the actual book text. It’s more of an experience than simply a book, if you ask me.

Grab your iPad (you can also get it as a PDF if you don’t have an iPad) and pick up your copy of Markdown (non-affiliate link). Because you’re awesome and David and Eddie are awesome and Markdown is awesome. Just so much awesome.

Go. Be awesome.

Want it for free?

I have a free copy of this ebook (iPad version) to give away. Leave a comment below with your favorite lawyer joke (in honor of my friend David who is also an attorney) and the best one gets the book. Void where prohibited or whatever.

This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click them and buy something, I’ll earn a small commission. I’ve also placed non-affiliate links immediately after all affiliate links, so choose whichever one makes you more comfortable. Know that any affiliate product I recommend is something I personal purchased, use and love enough to tell you about.

Using GMail Filters and Canned Responses to Level-up Your Laziness

Recently, my wife and I got all gussied up and went to the symphony (they snuck me in the back door because I’m me). Because my good friend and brother-in-law is such a cool guy, he agreed to babysit our two kids for the evening.

We got home and he was curled up on the couch.

“I didn’t have the WiFi password.”

He wasn’t bummed, but I was bummed for him. Because I care, people.

Anyway, this happens somewhat frequently. People come to my house and they ask me for my WiFi password. No sweat really, but the password is long and complicated and I want to find a way to make them type it instead of me.

So I made a thing.

The Building Blocks of The Thing

GMail has a feature called Canned Responses. Basically, they’re pre-written emails that you can configure either quickly pop in as a reply to a message or send automatically using GMail’s Filters. I chose the latter for this particular case.

GMail has another feature (which, from what I’ve read, is available lots of places) which I’ll call the “+address feature”. I have no idea if it’s actually called that, but go with me.

Say your email address is Just say. You can tell people your email address is and any emails sent to that address will end up in your inbox. Spiffy.

But what you may not know, is that you can create filters based on these +address thingies. And filters can be configured to send canned responses. You may see where I’m going with this.

The Thing

To solve this problem of my guests not having my WiFi login information, I followed these steps:

  1. Created a new Canned Response in GMail containing my WiFi network name and password.
  2. Created a filter that will automatically reply with said Canned Response when people email a certain “+address”.
  3. There is no spoon.

Now, when my friends come over and ask for the WiFi info, I just tell them to email the special address and they’ll get the info in a few seconds.

Why You Might Think This is Stupid

That’s all fine and good, smarty pants, but if people don’t have WiFi, how are they supposed to send the email that gets them the WiFi information? Didn’t think’a that, didja!?

Actually, I did.

Because most of my friends are wealthy trust fund babies or whatever, they all have smartphones. And smartphones, as you may recall, don’t require WiFi to send and receive email. So, they send the email from their phone, get the WiFi info and plug it into their phone and computer. Boom.

Or you could just tell them the WiFi password, dummy.

Granted, but like I said earlier, my WiFi password is a super long string of characters that even I haven’t memorized. Maybe I’m being lazy, but programmers value laziness as a virtue.

Isn’t this inherently insecure?! What if some crazy hacker knob figures out the email address and gets your WiFi login!? Sheesh, you really are an idiot.

Two things:

  1. This person would have to be pretty crafty to guess my secret email address (and, yes, I know “security through obscurity” is dumb and irresponsible; sue me).
  2. This information is only valuable to people who are currently—or will soon be—within about a hundred feet of my house. I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure this excludes almost everybody in the whole world.

How to Do The Thing

Assuming you still want to partake in this foolishness, here are the steps to create your own Thing. You’ll need a GMail account, by the way.

  1. Enabled Canned Responses in GMail Labs — In GMail, click Settings, go to the Labs tab and find Canned Responses. Click “Enable”, then “Save Changes” (at the top or bottom).
  2. Open a new GMail message and type whatever you want the Canned Response to say into the message body. When you’re done, click the Canned Responses menu and choose “New canned response”. Call it whatever you want when prompted for a name (I called mine “WiFi info”).
  3. Click over to Settings > Filters. Scroll all the way to the bottom and click “Create New Filter”.
  4. For the “To:” field, enter your super secret “+address”, then click “Continue”.
  5. Set the filter to automatically send the Canned Response and Archive the message.
  6. Pour the gin because you’re finished.

This little trick certainly has wider application, so let that big hefty brain of yours swim around in this little pool of awesome for awhile and see if you don’t come up with your own fancy implementation.

Anyway, I hope this is useful to you. Ping me on Twitter and let me know if it is (or isn’t).