Ramblings from Josh Sullivan

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Thu, 13 Jun 2019

My Mac Toolbox

I wanted to expand on the list of hardware and software I use to get my work done.

Hardware

The hardware I use daily (or almost daily) to get my professional and personal work done.

  • Mac Pro Late 2013 Model
    • One for the office and one at home
  • HP Z2 Mini Workstation (at work)
  • iPad Pro 12.9 256GB
  • iPhone XS Max 256GB
  • ScanSnap ix1500
  • Synology DS418play
  • Synology DS1918+

Software

Email

I use Fastmail as an email provider with a custom domain. I prefer to own the domain, and Fastmail was the best option for privacy while also being easy to use.

I use Apple Mail on macOS and iOS, I know a lot of people have gripes about it, but I find it works very well, it’s swiping gestures are more than enough to get me by, and with keyboard shortcuts via Keyboard Maestro I have all the sharing features I need.

Task Management

I first heard of GTD on the MacPowerUsers podcast, and at that time, it was synonymous with OmniFocus, so I purchased OmniFocus, and for a long time, about eight years, I used OmniFocus. Then Federico Viticci began his quest to try every task manager in the book, and I went along for the ride. I tried Todoist, 2Do, Things, GoodTask, Remember The Milk, never sticking to one more than a couple of weeks and eventually found my way back to OmniFocus for another year. Then last December, I was getting frustrated with the way the online version of OmniFocus as going so I decided to test Todoist again, mainly because it had the best online component and natural language processing. I’ve stuck with Todoist since December of 2018 and haven’t looked back.

File Storage

File storage is something I wrestle, and flip flop with a lot and recently have decided to stick to what I am doing now because it is working very well for myself. For everyday sync and general storage, I am using Dropbox, and I signed up for the professional version last year because of image text searching and Smart Sync. I’ve seen the new plans and am going to stay with Professional due to a few features, image text searching (AutoOCR), Shared link controls, and Viewer history. I didn’t realize how much my sharing habits would change since last year, but I’ve become more public online and more active in forums, in a coming out of my shell sort of way and so the more I share, the more I needed control over these options. I like iCloud Drive, but I did have a horrible experience with an Excel file on which I worked for about 3 hours getting right then instead of saving it to the desktop I saved it to my iCloud Drive, and it was corrupted. I had to run PhotoRec to recover the autosave file, but that took two days to finish and ever since then I won’t trust iCloud Drive with my data.

The other file storage location, usually cold storage is a DEVONthink database in the general topic/area of the document — more on DEVONthink to come.

Writing and Blogging

All of my writing starts and is finished in Drafts. It can begin on iOS or macOS (thank you, Greg!) and I can pick it up on any other Apple device I have with me. For long piece articles, I usually save them to DEVONthink as well, so that I have a history of the piece.

For blogging, my blog is hosted with Blot.im and synced via Dropbox. I tried Git for a few weeks but changed back to Dropbox because it was much simpler to use. I now have three Blot.im blogs, my main blog, my photos blog and my dummy blog, which I use for testing CSS and script changes before pushing to either of the other two sites.

Security

Internet security is crucial these days, and that starts with strong random passwords, there’s no application I trust more than 1Password to keep track of all my passwords, credit cards, software license, identity cards, secure notes, and very few select documents. I remember three passwords, all different, my 1Password master password, my Apple ID password, and my work password, the last two are only because I enter them every day somewhere. I purchased a family plan for my significant other, my cousin, my grandmother, and I when it first came out. I’m happy to report that all of them use it regularly, and my grandmother is pleased to have a place to put her passwords where she can access them on her iPhone, iPad, and her Windows desktop without having to put them in a notebook, as she used to do.

For ad blocking, I’ve become very partial to AdGuard, which continues to get better. It does a better job than anyone else because it uses an HTTPS certificate on the device to grab traffic then section out the ads, scripts, and junk from sites as it loads them. I’ve found it to block more than 1Blocker which I used in the past, while also allowing you to be more selective about whitelisting individual components, subdomains, or the full domain.

Browsing

My browser goes hand in hand with Security, I use the Brave Browser, which includes excellent ad blocking tools, but my favorite feature is the script blocking. You can disable scripts on a page from running, which is hugely beneficial to blocking the annoying autoplay video popups and the join today javascript popups.

Note Taking

Almost all of my notes start in Drafts, or the DEVONthink note-taking window. Drafts is easier on iOS due to the immediate cursor when you open it, while on macOS a quick ⇧⌥⌘N will launch the DEVONthink Take Note window, while ⇧⌘1 will launch the Drafts Quick Capture window. All personal notes are sent to either my Notes database or Personal database depending on the nature of the note. Otherwise, they end up in my Knowledge Base database or Work database. All notes are written in Markdown.

Others

I’m not sure where to put TheBrain because for me it solves many issues.

  • CRM for both Professional and Personal Use
  • Processes and Procedures for all of the types of data I handle, this also allows me to keep track of the different application I have and if they can be used for another kind of data at a later date
  • I keep a work log, so I know what I did on a given day, and a personal record that doesn’t make it to my public wiki journal
  • I also keep track of Books, Movies, and TV Shows
  • Link Tracking - I’m currently using it to keep track of Forum Posts, Blog Posts, and other general websites that I find while browsing throughout the day, I then send it to DEVONthink if I want to archive the link or will connect the thought to another branch of my Brain.

TheBrain isn’t quite there in terms of note taking so small notes are okay, but there has been some talk of improvements to the note editor in version 11.

Automation

The software I use for automation isn’t always used actively by me every day, but every day is running and doing tasks. Keyboard Maestro and Hazel are my most used automation applications. Hazel is always copying, moving, uploading, and deleting files on my Mac, I have no idea how much time I’ve saved by setting up the rules in Hazel, but by now, after six years of using it, it has to be days worth of time saved. Likewise, Keyboard Maestro has become an incredible time saver. I use it multiple times a day by invoking a keyboard shortcut that does some action or runs an Apple Script. During the night it runs a few different scripts to backup various applications, DEVONthink and FileMaker are two, mainly it zips the open databases then moves them to my Synology for backup to my cloud backup.

Another more simple automation tool I use is TextExpander, I am constantly using it for all kinds of different snippets where it is the date or getting the front most Brave window as a Markdown link or TiddlyWiki link for my wiki. It’s incredible powerful with AppleScript and JavaScript support and I’m happy to pay for the subscription.

macos workflow

Sun, 2 Jun 2019

Your Task Manager as a Read Later Service

OmniFocus as a Read Later Service - Matt Birchler

Ok, hear me out, but I’ve been using OmniFocus as my read later” service for about a month and it’s kind of working great for me.

In January, I made the switch to using Todoist, my task manager, as my read later service, and I have had the same experience. I’m never anywhere without internet, and Safari Reader View is excellent about showing only the content I want to read so the advantages that Pocket/Instapaper/DEVONthink offered of offline storage and simplified view were negated. Once done with an article, I will complete the task then do one of two things, 1. Process it to DEVONthink as a simplified PDF while sending it to Pinboard or 2. Only keep the completed task as a reference.

In Todoist I use Favorite Filters a lot, my read later list is one of them. Each article is formatted like such: Read: [Name](www.example.com) since Markdown is processed in Todoist it shows the live link unless I edit the task. Every other perspective/filter has a filter to stop any tasks starting with Read: from appearing. Recently, I’ve been watching more YouTube videos and instructional videos online, so I’ve also set up a Watch list as well, and that has also been very useful.

The thing that made this click for me was the realization that for me, my reading list is really just a list of things I plan on doing later. This is exactly what everything else in my task management system is, so why did things I wanted to read get broken out into this whole separate app that both took up more space on my home screen and on my cognitive load?

Matt’s line of thinking was precisely what drove me to move from Pinboard/Pocket/DEVONthink as my Read Later service in January. I have all the links I can read later in a task list which I review daily, and I know how much time I’ll have to read that day because I’ve already reviewed other projects for the day. Also when I have some downtime, I know where I saved the article/page link, instead of my previous hodgepodge of link saving between the aforementioned Pinboard, Pocket, and DEVONthink.

For anyone with a constant internet connection, and are tired of using multiple apps for the same type of processing I would recommend giving your Task Manager a shot at your Read Later needs. Doesn’t matter which Task Manager you use, at this point, they all can filter out specific tasks, so your reading tasks don’t clutter your real tasks.

reading todoist omnifocus link

Thu, 30 May 2019

Creating an NGinx Directory Index for Image and File Hosting

Due to Phil’s post on his wiki about Self Hosting Images I reached out to him how he had set it up and then realized I had already done something similar but forgot about it.

So without further explanation I’m listing out the steps I took to set up the NGinx Directory Index Listing.

On a DigitalOcean droplet (or any Ubuntu/Linux VPS) already set up with Nginx (if you need instructions for setting up NGinx Firewall access, follow steps 12-14 here), follow these steps:

  1. Get a domain or subdomain for the new site. In this example I used static.domain.com
  2. To restrict its access you can create a new folder in the home directory of your user profile (mkdir public), for example mine is /home/username/public
  3. While SSH’d into the VPS, navigate to /etc/nginx/sites-available/ then create static.domain.com by entering sudo nano static.domain.com
  4. In the File put the following (make sure to change the path in root to your path)
server {
        server_name static.domain.com;
        root /home/username/public;
        autoindex on;
        autoindex_exact_size off;
        autoindex_format html;
        autoindex_localtime on; 
}
  • Change the server_name field to your domain name
  • Make sure to change the path in root to your path
  1. Next you need to enable the site via Symbolic link: sudo ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/static.domain.com /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/ - Symbolic links site to enabled
  2. For an SSL Cert if you have cert bot install you can skip to step 9, otherwise continue to 7
  3. Enter sudo apt install certbot - Install Certbot
  4. Enter sudo apt-get install python-certbot-nginx - Installs Nginx Certbot
  5. Enter sudo certbot --nginx - Create HTTPS cert with Let’s Encrypt
    • Select whichever domains you want your cert to cover
    • Press 2 to redirect HTTP traffic to HTTPS, this is recommended
    • The conf files for your selected domains will be updated with the cert information automatically

You should now be able to access your NGinx directory index at static.domain.com while any folders inside that directory will now be accessible at static.domain.com/folder/

Sources:

digitalocean nginx

Fri, 17 May 2019

Monica CRM Experiment

Monica CRM was a very interesting experiment but it won’t last. TheBrain makes better connections for people, plus the notes and attachments are great in TheBrain but in Monica were a bit tedious to maintain. I like the interface and with some basic improvements it would do great. At this point in time I don’t think it is at a point where I can move everything from DEVONthink and TheBrain into Monica.

I am going to keep Monica up and running, I’ve moved it to one of my production Droplets on DigitalOcean so I can have the test server back. I’ll see if the updates in the future help improve notes/attachments and hope one day it can replace the homemade solution I have now.

thebrain devonthink

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