Ramblings from Josh Sullivan

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Sun, 14 Apr 2019

Browsing Privacy

I’ve recently gone all in on privacy related to my browsing habits. I’ve switched to Brave for my browser and use DuckDuckGo for my search engine with fall back to Wikipedia via Bangs. Brave is a Chrominium based browser and therefore has the entire Chrome extensions library available while also respecting your privacy. It isn’t as resource intensive as Chrome on macOS, but Safari is still far better. Unfortunately, I keep finding more and more sites that have issues on Safari that don’t occur in Brave. Plus Brave allows you to block JavaScript which has been useful in preventing the annoying You have an Ad Blocker, please whitelist us” popups, if it’s a small site I usually whitelist unless they are obnoxious with their ads/popups, but for sites like NBC Brave JS blocking is excellent.

My browsing habits don’t require the need to hide them from people, I share a lot of my life online between this blog and my wiki, but that doesn’t mean I want to freely market myself to companies that don’t need my information. I’ve found with Brave and DuckDuckGo, sometimes my results aren’t as accurate as they were on Google, but more often than not they return the correct results. In the cases I don’t find what I am expecting a quick visit to Google will get the result, and with Brave Private Tor Browser, Google can’t tie my search to my profile. Another great benefit of the Brave browser is its ability to stop all auto-play videos, Safari has this feature, but I found a couple of sites it didn’t work on, Brave blocks them no matter what. If you are looking for a browser that respects your privacy, I think Brave is a great solution that is worth at least downloading and trying out.

privacy

Mon, 8 Apr 2019

BrainBox Shortcuts

TheBrain’s BrainBox is a great new feature in version 10. Think of BrainBox as a global inbox for TheBrain. On the desktop, you can add files to it, and in browsers, you can add URLs. Unfortunately, it falls short on iOS in capturing in different applications and different data types.

I’ve created two shortcuts to compensate for the inability to capture URLs anywhere but Safari or Safari web view.

  1. Add to BrainBox: takes the currently open page of an application in a web view and passes the URL to the share sheet, at which point BrainBox can be seen, and the URL can be sent to it.
  2. Add Clipboard to BrainBox: takes the current clipboard then shares it to the share sheet as a URL, at which point BrainBox can be invoked to pick up the URL and save to TheBrain.

Both of these actions do not require the opening of TheBrain due to the BrainBox syncing within the extension.

My BrainBox Wish List:

  1. Add other data types, such as Text Files, Photos, and Outlines.
  2. Web view on app.thebrain.com (Which is supposedly being developed)
  3. Integration within Shortcuts; Not just an extension but API access within Shortcuts will enable so many actions throughout iOS.

I’m looking forward to how TheBrain Technologies further develops BrainBox and hope to see at least the first two on my wish list added before the year is out. Hopefully the third is added at some point because I do believe that a great many people will make some great Shortcuts to improve their workflows.

thebrain

Tue, 2 Apr 2019

Rise and Fall of Evernote

Ahead of Its Time, Behind the Curve: Why Evernote Failed to Realize Its Potential

This is a great read, listing all the steps Evernote took to lead it to where it currently is situated. I loved Evernote in the beginning and used it for some years, and then I encountered a bug that showed about a quarter of my notes as empty. I immediately left for DEVONthink and haven’t looked back. I did eventually sign into Evernote again about a year later and found that the notes content were visible again, so I quickly used the DEVONthink Evernote import tool and imported all the notes, I’ve not signed in or been tempted to use Evernote since.

Evernote had the promise to be such a great product, and I think it could have achieved it. Unfortunately, they branched out to multiple different areas to quickly and stopped concentrating on the main product. The Mac app became so buggy I remember numerous people flocking to Apple Notes. At that point Evernote started to become more of a joke than anything, then of course Work, Chat, Socks, and other ridiculous popups started and Evernote lost most if not all credibility with power users and even a lot of regular users.

Even if Evernote had become the power product that was first envisioned for itself, at this point I still would have left it. Currently, I like hosting my content and making sure I have control over everything I do and use. DEVONthink can be purely hosted by myself via Sync Stores through WebDav on my Synology, although I use iCloud for syncing. But if iCloud went away tomorrow, I can switch to Dropbox, or WebDAV and host it myself on my Synology or a VPS that I control.

For most people, if Evernote had continued on the path of improving the main functionality and keeping resources behind it, I believe they would currently have many loyal users. Who knows where Evernote would be today if they had continued their progress from the late 2000s and early 2010s, but I think now is an excellent time for Evernote to quietly devote time and resources into fixing the issues they have, then build upon that success and maybe it will once again be a service to which people flock.

software devonthink link

Sun, 24 Mar 2019

Posting on macOS with Keyboard Maestro and Drafts

So far on the Drafts for Mac version, I’ve been using Keyboard Maestro in the absence of actions. It has worked pretty well, although I’ve found if the macro edits the draft, then it needs to save the version for it to export correctly. One of my favorite macros is posting to my blog. It’s a straightforward action, based on keystrokes and pauses, but it creates an almost frictionless posting solution.

TextExpander and Drafts

Currently, I enter the tags and metadata via two TextExpander snippets, due to my preference to have time to think about the tags. The first TextExpander snippet is run every time before I start the post; it adds the Permalink, Title, and Tags metadata to the beginning of the draft. Then I start writing the post, once done I add the tags and the ending of the permalink. Finally, I run the second TextExpander snippet which adds the date and the timestamp at the top of the draft.

Keyboard Maestro Macro

The Keyboard Maestro macro allows me to post the draft to the Dropbox folder quickly. It cuts the first line of the draft, which is the timestamp in the format YYYYMMDD-HHMMSS (ex. 20190324-095114), then saves the current version with the first line cut, Exports the draft, deletes the full filename, pastes the timestamp and adds .txt then saves the file. It’s almost as simple as my action on iOS, which after I add the tags I tap the Feather Pen icon in the actions keyboard and it immediately parses out the first line as the file name and saves the body, everything but the first line, as the file contents.

Simplifying my Writing Workflow

Recently I’ve been trying to simplify my posting strategy, and once actions are added to the macOS version of Drafts, specifically the ability save to Dropbox, I will be retiring this macro, but for now, it gets the job done efficiently and quickly. Previously I had multiple versions of the TextExpander snippets for it was as Micro.blog post or long-form post, now I’ve combined them into two TextExpander snippets that cover all post types.

I prefer to do most of my writing in Drafts because it quickly syncs to iOS and I can pick up where I left off on any Apple device without hassle. I do prefer Sublime Text for writing long-form posts due to the ability to pick it up on my Windows machine at work when I have time to write a little bit. For now, most of my long posts start in Drafts then get saved to the drafts folder in my Dropbox Blot folder at which point I can open them in Sublime Text and write. If I know I am going to be starting and finishing a post on macOS or iOS then I will continue to write in Drafts, such as this post which was written entirely on macOS.

You can find the Keyboard Maestro macro here. Please be aware the macro will download immediately on clicking the link

Also be aware this is an incredibly simple workflow that you may have no use for, if you don’t include a file name at the top of your draft it will not work correctly, but you can edit it to work within your workflow.

writing blogging software

Mon, 11 Mar 2019

Dropshare

I have a constant back and forth with sharing tools. I previously used Droplr, but they abandoned their iOS app (recently re-released but no better than the previous version), the website is abysmal, and support took almost a week to get a response, on to CloudApp I went.

Last January I received a promotion from Smile Software for $20 off CloudApp’s yearly subscription plus 6GB of bandwidth per file, so I signed up. Since then they removed their iOS app, then reintroduced it as a new app, but it was the same with more bugs because they did not update anything in my experience. Then they force you to go to the beta website, but the beta website for months now continuously reloads before the page finishes loading. To get to the old UI, you are required to click repeated on the link and hope you get it before the page refreshes. So off I went to Dropshare.

Dropshare is not like the others (or it wasn’t in the beginning). It gave you the same functionality as Droplr and CloudApp but on your hosting solution or cloud storage. I had already used Backblaze B2 Bucket with Arq for backing up my Synology and Macs, so I felt more comfortable with them than anyone else. Once you create the bucket, you need to make it public, then set it up in Dropshare as a connection. The great thing about Dropshare is it gives you the option to have multiple connections. So you could host all images on one connection, then all videos on another, and finally files on a separate one. Recently, thanks to Jason Burk I’ve switched to Wasabi for my cloud storage needs, mainly due to the lower prices and faster loading. Due to Wasabi being an S3 compliant service, any application or service that can use S3 can attach to Wasabi.

One of the best features of Dropshare is the URL shortener service, either theirs or a custom one. At first, I just used theirs, then moved to Bitly. Recently I implemented YOURLS, a solution which is self-hosted and uses a domain name you own, so I’m not reliant on a companies URL in case they go out of business. The shortener works for URLs dragged to the icon in the menu bar, so you have an easy way of shortening URLs on the Mac as well as sharing images, Gifs, videos, and files. I’m still working on a code snippet system, but for now, I am sticking with Github Gists or adding it to my wiki. Dropshare recently added URL shortening on iOS, so now I can shorten URLs on every platform from one application.

If you’ve been looking for a sharing tool but want the flexibility of a solution you own, then Dropshare is definitely for you, and I would recommend giving it a shot.

review software

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