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Install Gems Without sudo in macOS

I came across a neat little command line tool via Rob Griffiths’ Robservatory this morning, a Ruby gem named iStats1. Install is easy enough in Rob’s example, sudo gem install iStats, except that when you use sudo to install gems you are using the default macOS Ruby, and installing to system paths.

  1. As Rob points out, this is apparently not associated with iStat Menus

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Beware of VPNs

I’ve seen quite a few smart people recommend using a VPN service in the wake of the U.S. government’s decision to repeal privacy rules for ISPs. Unfortunately, I find this advice to be a bit misguided, or at least ill-informed. You can move your risk around, but in the end this comes down to an issue of trust, and avenues of recours... »

Daring Fireball - The Mac Pro Lives

Apple is currently hard at work on a “completely rethought” Mac Pro, with a modular design that can accommodate high-end CPUs and big honking hot-running GPUs, and which should make it easier for Apple to update with new components on a regular basis. They’re also working on Apple-branded pro displays to go with them.

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Politics

I woke up at four this morning thinking about politics, community, what I think the role of government should be, and how disappointed I am with our political choices in the past year. I don’t understand why so many people voted the way they did, especially christians, but I know that there is nothing I can do about what happens now. Not until the next election cycle in a couple of years anyway. Spending so much time thinking about it is not healthy, so I’m letting it g... »

Philippians

The book of Philippians is such a beautiful, and challenging book. This is what I needed to hear tonigh... »

The Life We Live

My daughter’s cheerleading coach passed away last night. What was first thought of as diabetes turned out to be an extremely aggressive cancer that took her after only a few months. She was only ten years older than my wife and I. Her family, and our community, will be grieving deeply for her los... »

Focusing is an Art, Not a Science

Because the truth of the matter is that, however you go about it, you do need to build your capacity for hard, focused work. That is vital in an age of complexity, where we need to carve out a niche. Most of us aren’t making widgets anymore, and much of that work is being replaced by machines anyways.

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Eero and Disney Circle

tldr: If you have a Circle device and an Eero mesh network, plug the Circle into the Eero connected to your modem with an ethernet cable.

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Your Life in Weeks

It kind of feels like our lives are made up of a countless number of weeks. But there they are—fully countable—staring you in the face.

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Nirvana

In Nineteen Ninety-One, I was a freshman in high school, living in a tiny house in small town Montana. Just me and my mom. My family, like so many at the time, had fallen apart. We had moved around a lot, I felt odd and out of place. I was angry, full of teenage angst, and generally pissed off at the world for the hand it dealt m... »

This is What Democracy Looks Like

On November 8th, 2016, approximately one-third of the American people decided that morals, character, and family values didn’t matter anymore. Or at least they didn’t matter enough to keep them from voting for the most unqualified presidential candidate in history, Donald Trum... »

On Computing Tomorrow

I’ve been thinking more about my defense of the Mac as a long-term computing platform, and I’m slowly coming around to understanding that at the base of my ideas is a type of willful ignorance that I should know better than to indulge in. The world is changing, computers are changing, and how we work and interact with them is changing drastically. To get to the root of this, let’s follow the five “whys” of why I need a Mac to wor... »

Future Viability of the Mac

Despite aspirations of expanding my fields of interest and adopting new hobbies outside of technology, my day-to-day work gets done on a Mac. I’ve got a vested interest in the Macs continued survival, I’m one of those “truck drivers” that uses their machine for all it’s worth, and would have a difficult time transitioning to anything else. In my job I need to run shell scripts and build Docker containers, I need to ssh to Linux servers and RDP into Windows instances. I need to write, edit, and run Python code that connects to a database through a ssh tunnel. I need to do things that are either difficult or simply impossible with iOS, but are dead simple1 with a Mac.

  1. Well, dead simple in the sense of “if you have nearly two decades of Unix experience under your belt”. 

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What Worked, and What Didn’t in 2016

Part of what’s been great about using Apple products is the feeling of living just a little bit in the future. The Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad paved a way towards a far less complicated future, where technology was seamlessly integrated into our lives, and enhanced our day to day interactions with our work and with each other. Apple, better than anyone, understands that technology is at it’s best when it’s nearly invisible. But, living in the future comes at a price, namely a sacrifice of stability and accepted norms of what works»

The Recipe

From time to time I wonder if I could get by without any 3rd party software installed on my Mac. What would I have to do to adopt to not using the software I’ve become accustomed to? In no particular order, as of this moment I’ve go... »

Ten Billion Reasons Why

What could an organization comprised of some of the smartest, most driven people on the planet do with ten billion dollars in a year? Apple increasing their R&D budget five-fold over the past decade is interesting, but the numbers they are talking about are not uncommon in the rest of the tech industry. What I find noteworthy is the comparison with NAS... »

More Phish

This is fantastic, pure Phish. I’m so glad that they’ve just been getting better over the year... »

The Dancer

We humans are complicated creatures. I run for miles at a time, even though I’ve got nowhere to go, and nothing is chasing me, nothing but time and old age. Some people collect stamps, others watch birds; there’s no end to the ways that we occupy our time. Some people write stories, or draw, or paint, or make pottery out of clay. Some people write poetry. My daughter, my oldest, spends her time practicing the ancient art of dance»

Homecoming Night

One of the surest ways I know I’m well on my way to crotchety old man status is not the grey in my hair, but my gut reaction to a certain tradition in our small town. To celebrate homecoming, our high school cheerleaders and dance team spends the night covering the high school football players houses, cars, and possibly yards with toilet paper, saran wrap, and plastic forks. They call it tradition, I call it vandalism, but, like so many other things in this tiny Iowa town, I’m simply outvote... »

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Amazon Prime really is the gift that keeps on giving. My latest discovery came in an email announcement from Amazon that they were making a selection of audiobooks from Audible available for free to prime members. All I needed to do is download the Audible app to my iPhone, log in with my Amazon credentials, and take my pick of titles to strea... »

Thinking it Through

My favorite new-to-me site is Farnam Street by Shane Parrish. I’ve been experiencing a slow change of interests over the past several months as Apple and tech related news fails to grab my attention. The last time this happened I lost more than a professional interest in the open source community, an area I left years ago and haven’t looked back. I can’t find it in me to care enough about iOS 10 to read the book-length treaties on it at MacStories, in fact the latest iPhone or iOS barely interests me enough to learn what’s in it and if it is anything of use to m... »

Studying in the Pit

I just started reading Cal Newport’s Deep Work and I’ve found myself nodding along in agreement through the introduction and first two chapters. His description of the environment needed for intense, concentrated study reminded me of a time I went through a period of deep work, one that is unfortunately difficult to replicat... »

The September Apple Event

Another keynote came and went yesterday, and there was nothing I could do after it was over. I couldn’t order the new iPhone 7, or upgrade my current iPhone to iOS 10. I couldn’t buy the new Apple Watch, and even the new iWork collaborative editing features are in new versions “coming soon”. When I tried to download the new Mario game, the App Store let me know I’d be notified when it was available. After everything was announced yesterday, today I’m wondering what the point of having the event when they did wa... »

Files and Folders

I started writing this post talking about how I was using DEVONthink, and, as often happens when you write things down, I started thinking critically about how I interacted with the application. I took a folder full of screenshots, walked through some usage scenarios, and checked and double-checked what I was actually doing with the application. Then I exported everything to the Finde... »

American Politics

The truth is, American politics are terrible. We have a two party system, and neither party is one I can truly embra... »

Write it Down

If you really want to remember something, write it down. By han... »

Life Long Intellectual Pursuits

I’ve always been curious. I remember having coffee with my cousin and her boyfriend as a teenager and saying, in my naïvety, that I wanted to know everything about everything, to know all that was knowable. Even then I knew that was impossible, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to know as much about the world as I could. As time went on I started to dive deeply into different subjects, and put off others till I had more time. Now that I’m looking at forty and an ever growing list of things to learn and do, I’m experiencing something new… panic at the thought of running out of tim... »

How to Pick The Right App

Computers are complex tools; designers and developers are always trying to strike a balance between usability and usefulness. I have a theory that over time a computers configuration grows to resemble the mental state of its primary user. Each machine is a unique mix of file and folder organization methods, naming schemes1, and application choices. Those choices can reflect the level of technical knowledge and values of the user, but only if the user has made a conscious choice in what apps to use.

  1. Or the lack thereof. 

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Voicemail to OmniFocus Workflow

I got back from my morning run today and was sitting on the back porch, enjoying the morning air and the feeling of contentment I get after a great run. I logged my run in Day One, and noticed a voicemail from yesterday that I hadn’t dealt with ye... »

Overload and Archive

A few years ago I adopted David Sparks’ paperless workflow. I installed Hazel and TextExpander, bought a ScanSnap scanner, and started dutifully scanning all of my paper that came in the mail. I scanned the water bill, my bank statements, and notices from my son’s second grade teacher about upcoming snack days. Over the years, and 2000 documents later, I’ve got a massive database of useless fact... »

BBEdit and Python Tags

I’m in the process, a very long process, of switching from Vim to BBEdit as my primary editor. The reasons are long and varied, but boil down to me being tired of screwing around with Vim’s configuration. I do a lot of work in Python now, and I’m using the experience of building and maintaining cloudchain to learn how to navigate BBEdit. Hopefully, someday I’ll be as good here as I was with Vi... »

So Humble

Trump is dancing in the absurd no... »

cloudchain

Today, the team I’m a part of at TargetSmart is releasing our first open source project, a bit of Python I like to call “cloudchain”. cloudchain is designed to make it easy to store and retrieve secrets using AWS. cloudchain relies on the AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) Key Management Service (KMS) to securely store and manage access to encryption keys, and stores the encrypted secret in a DynamoDB tabl... »

Manton's Stickers

I was listening to Core Intuition a few weeks back and Manton said that if anyone was interested in his project to let him know, and he would send a couple of stickers. I was interested, so I emailed him a quick note, and quickly forgot about i... »

Why Blog?

Monday I was offered a new position, yesterday I accepted it. I’m hoping that this is the last time I’ll have to look for a job for a very, very long time. Having an unexpected change in your career and having to search for a new job is one of the most stressful things a person can do. It was hard, I didn’t sleep wel... »

Making The Move From Sysadmin to DevOps

Everyone’s professional path follows a slightly different trajectory. We are each a unique recipe of skills, experience, and interests, which shape who we are and how we come to be in the careers that we have. My experience in moving from a systems administrator to a devops role is unique, because, well, we are all uniqu... »

DevOps & Evolving Systems Administration

The phrase “DevOps” gets thrown around quite a bit, so I thought it might be helpful for me to write down exactly what it means to me. DevOps is the evolution of systems administration. A few years ago, I noticed that the SysAdmin field was finally starting to change, after years of being relatively static. For decades, A sysadmin would set up the hardware, install the operating system, setup SSH (or, telnet in the bad old days), install your application, and get it running. Even when virtualization became more mainstream and worked its way into production workloads, it didn’t change the core tasks of a sysadmin. There were simply more boxes to manage, and without appropriate configuration management, each virtual machine became a unique little snow flake. A few tools became more commonplace like CFEngine, Puppet, or Chef to ease the burden of virtual machine sprawl, but it wasn’t until cloud computing came along that the role of a sysadmin really started to change.... »

Everything Changes

And everything is changing for me again. The CTO of the company I work for spoke with me yesterday, our office is being shut down and they are laying off the staff. I’ve got till March 1st to find something ne... »

Mac Power Tools

My brief experiment with mutt ended mostly how I expected it would. With me turning on my email in Mail.app again and carrying on as normal. I try to understand the draw to using such an archaic tool as mutt, but there’s simply nothing about it that appeals to me. Not at this stage of my life anywa... »

Power Tools

After reading through Matt Gemmell’s latest post on mutt and the good doctor’s response, I fired up my old mutt config and gave it another run through. Well, after being a bit snarky on Twitter, of cours... »

Mac Magazine

Sometimes I think I’d like a really great magazine, like The New Yorker, but for Mac geeks. A beautifully printed, monthly magazine with all the best news, tips, opinions, analysis, predictions, and howtos from the Mac community. I’m not looking for what Macworld used to be, I’m thinking more along the lines of The Atlantic. Something classy, something worthy of printing and keeping out in the living room under the coffee table. Something I’d look forward to reading cover to cover every mont... »

Winning NaNoWriMo

So, I won NaNoWrimo, and wrote a “novel”. Although, it’s not really a novel, more like a novella, and it’s not really written just yet, it’s 50,000 words that somewhat make up a complete story, but with more plot holes than you can shake a stick at. Couple that with the number of inconsistencies in the world building, flat characters, characters who’s names I forget half way through the writing, and two chapters that I decided I was going to throw away completely, and you’ve got what is colloquially known as a first draf... »

US Cellular Strikes Back

Let me start by saying that US Cellular has the best coverage in Iowa. No matter where we go in the state, we’ve got a great signal, almost always in LTE. My Internet access is fast, and I can’t remember the last time I dropped a call. The cellular service is great, and the only reason I stick with US Cellular. After days like today I need to remind myself of these facts, because almost every time I interact with them face to face, on the phone, or over the Internet I leave frustrated and feeling like I’m being dupe... »

Faith, Hope, Love

What if Christians actually lived the way Jesus commanded us t... »

Moby Dick

I’ve been slowly working through my list of books, and Saturday I finally knocked another one off the list, Moby Dick. Herman Melville’s whaling epic took me a while. Inside those 663 pages, there’s probably a good 300 page book, as it is, Moby Dick covers both the human condition and the intricacies of butchering a whale in the middle of the ocea... »

Standing Around

I was having problems with my lower back, not an uncommon issue, especially for those of us who spend our day staring at a computer screen. My problem was exasperated by my poor posture in my chair. I tend to slouch after a couple of hours, and then slowly slide lower and lower into my chair until, at the last moment before I fall out of it, I reposition myself and sit up again. I also run in the morning, and I rarely have time to stretch properly after a run, a bad habit that needs to be addressed. By the end of the day I’d stand up and crack my lower back three or four times, and know that if I turned in the wrong way I would be out of commission for a week or so while my back untwisted itsel... »

NetNewsWire 4

I’m not sure if I discovered Daring Fireball through NetNewsWire, or NetNewsWire through Daring Fireball. Either way, in my mind the two are inexorably linked to my introduction to the Mac community. A group of people who value usability and good design, typography, readability, and simple good sense. Before the Mac, my thoughts on software were that it was either written by thousands of contributors across the globe, or thousands of drones in basement cubicles. What I learned through NetNewsWire was that individual craftsmen made the best software, and I could get to know them through their work. I started making it a point to follow the people who made the software I use... »

Link Blogging With Quicksilver

I can’t quite make up my mind on how I feel about “link blogging”. On the one hand, there’s already a lot of people out there who do it better than I can. On the other hand, sometimes I want to share something and make a few pithy comments about it. It’s out of that second feeling that this script is bor... »

Starting a New Post With Automator

Automator is one of my favorite tools on the Mac, and unfortunately one of the most unappreciated. I have several workflows and services that I’ve built up over the years, things that I could have turned to a third-party tool like Keyboard Maestro, Alfred, or even my beloved Quicksilver for, but I like the simplicity of using a built-in applicatio... »

A Runner

My workout this morning called for five miles. Run two, walk one, run the last two. I think in the Fall or Spring it would have been fairly easy, but today, in the July heat and humidity, every step felt like dragging a pair of anchors. My muscles gave out sooner, my breath ran out faster… it was a hard workout. I finished it though, because what I’ve learned is that even when it’s hard, even when you are having a tough time and not going as fast as you’d like, you always have to finis... »

On Computing

I often daydream about not caring about my computer, and being able to go blissfully through my life with little concern about the mix of applications, storage of data, and how I interact with the machine, but that’s just a dream. The truth is I do care. I care a lot. I care enough that I’ve developed my own personal philosophy of computer use. I use this to determine which services and applications I will most likely be happy with. It helps me, maybe it will help you to... »

Smartphone Cost and Value

iPhones are expensive. Well, not just iPhones, all smart phones, Android, Windows, what have you. These little gadgets that we can walk out of a Verizon store with without paying a penny now wind up costing thousands later, once you consider the total cost of ownership. This is especially true if you are paying for an entire family, possibly one with two teenage daughters with phones of their ow... »

Select A Column of Text in MacVim

I often need to work with columns of text; output from commands, text grabbed from a web page, what have you. Since I have a somewhat odd aversion to using a spreadsheet like a normal person, I discovered, nearly by accident, that I could easily select a column of text in MacVim.»

Research Kit and the GPL

Apple released ResearchKit as an open source project on GitHub today. The project is complete with pull requests, a wiki, and a few sample projects to get started. While the project is great in its own right, it was the context of this tweet by Daniel Jalkut that caught my ey... »

The Invisible MacBook

A thread of minimalism weaves through Apple’s products, starting with the Bondi blue iMac and flowing to the Apple Watch. One could argue that the minimal thread weaves back to the original Macintosh, a single, all-in-one device that made computing accessible, but I think the theme is most visible when looking at the modern age of Apple. Jony Ive’s designs have consistently focused on aesthetically pleasing, usable design. A concept that simultaneously puts the device at the center of our day, and almost makes it disappear. Technology is best when it is nearly invisible. The Apple Watch may be the culmination of this invisible tech, but it’s the new MacBook that I believe embodies the design philosophy of Apple best. When the lid is closed on the new 12” Retina MacBook, it’s so small and light that you hardly know it’s ther... »

Word Lookup Changes in 10.10.3

Yosemite 10.10.3 brought a few subtle, but welcome changes to the interface used to look up a word. I normally access this by tapping on a word with three fingers on the trackpad, or right clicking the Magic Mouse and selecting “Look Up”. Since I often read above my level of comprehension, I use this feature all the tim... »

The New MacBook

The tech world is once again loosing their grip after Apple has gone, as they see it, too far, too fast with the new MacBook. They can think of a thousand reasons why the Mac’s single USB-C port is a deal-breaker for any sane person. The single port is too restrictive. What if I want to hook up a USB mouse while I’m charging? Why isn’t there a removable battery? Why can’t I expand the storage? Less space than a Nomad. Lam... »

Reading at Night

A couple years ago I started reading classic books to my boys before bedtime. We started with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, then Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, followed unsuccessfully by Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea 1. Next, we read one of my all time favorite books, Treasure Island, the classic pirate story from which nearly all other tellings of pirates are cribbed. We might go back and read that one again someday.

  1. I’m a bit mystified by people who enjoy this book. My boys and I found it quite boring, and I wound up skipping large sections devoted to describing, in detail, the fish and other underwater life. 

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The Long View

Computers as tools for creation are unique in that they change and evolve over time as software is updated. A hammer that you buy today can reasonably be expected to perform the same in twenty years, assuming that the tool is taken care of properly. Similarly, the bench that you build with the hammer will still be good to sit on, no matter what happens to the hammer that built it. Not so with computers and software. Not only do the tools used to create change over time and perform in sometimes unexpected ways, the artifacts of our creation are often subject to artificial limitation on use. How ridiculous would it be for a bench to only be able to be sat in if you were holding the hammer you used to build it? And yet, this is the arrangement we agree to with our software more often than no... »

The Best of What's Around

Marco struck a nerve with his latest post lamenting the declining quality of Apple software. The post was picked up by “analysts” and debated on television by a panel of “experts”. While I understand the frustrations of those affected by more serious bugs than I’ve seen, I can’t help but wonder if they really understand what the alternatives are lik... »

Adopting BBEdit Scripts for Vim

In addition to my experiments with the design of this site, I was also testing out BBEdit as my main writing and programming tool. BBEdit didn’t stick, but I did like some of the scripting the good Dr. Drang has done, and wanted to adopt a few for MacVim. I started with three of his scripts today, one to paste and select text in one command, one to convert a tab-separated table to Markdown, and another to even up the Markdown table so it’s easier to read in plain tex... »

All Mine

I’ve been experimenting with the design of this site for the past couple weeks. First, I used a default Jekyll template, slightly modified to my liking. Next, I tried out a very nice theme that made good use of hero images and included nice typography. I changed the name of the site to “INTERACT”, and briefly considered leaving it at that. Unfortunately, the more I looked at the site the more it looked like it belonged to someone els... »

Cellular Options

I pulled into the gas station on my way home after a long day, picked up my phone in my left hand, intending to put it in my pocket, and opened the door of my pickup. While pushing the door of the truck open, the phone slipped out of my hand and fell face down on the pavement, shattering the scree... »

The Million Monkeys

Computers, the bicycles for the mind, the idea engines; when we work at a computer we open the door to limitless avenues of creativity. Cracking open the lid of a laptop can be the first step to writing a novel, starting a new career, or getting in touch with long lost friends. But, when the machines misbehave, when they don’t perform as expected or present their interface in ways that are difficult or impossible to decipher, even the most mundane of tasks become a chore. The possibilities for the future melt away under the perception that computers are difficult and unreliable, our untrustworthy opponent to getting things don... »

Merry Christmas

It’s nearly midnight on Christmas Eve. I’m the only one awake, perhaps with the exception of my dog, Oliver, although as the minutes tick by I’m less sure of him. Tomorrow morning the kids will wake us up earlier than we’d like, and we will tear into the presents, eat a wonderful breakfast, and have a fantastic day enjoying each others compan... »

Green Beasts

My commute takes me past the sanitary landfill every morning, a daily reminder to be careful about what I throw away, and what I can recycle. Driving by the dump doesn’t bother me per se, but the maniacs who drive the dump trucks do. I’ve learned to watch the turn into the dump, watching for the massive metal beasts, trying to anticipate when they’ll pull out, and if I’ll have to swerve out of their wa... »

Things That Dont Belong in Browsers

I still have a soft spot in my heart for Firefox, but it’s not my primary browser. I use Safari for just about everything, except the rare occasion when I need flash, then I use Chrome. Firefox is only used in the even rarer occasion that I need to use a site that Safari doesn’t support properly. Since I use all three browsers, I keep an eye on new features and development, wondering if something new from Firefox will draw me away from Safar... »

New Mac Essentials - 2014 Edition

It appears I’ll be getting a new Mac soon, which means it’s time to take inventory of what I need. I’ve written about this a couple of times before, and it’s interesting to look back and see what apps stick, and which have gone by the waysid... »

Open Source News Design

Finding good design in open source can be hard, but it’s almost impossible to find in open source news sites. These sites take “reader hostile” to a new level. Take example “A”, Phoroni... »

Sensible Information Organization

There is no one application or system that is right for managing all of your information. If there were, we wouldn’t need apps like Contacts or Calendar, those things would just be merged into the Finder, or whatever mythical computing system I found myself wishing for the past couple of weeks. This is a good thing, even if not having a single view into all my data drives me a bit nuts sometimes. Specialization allows applications to provide a better experience for the specific type of data they were designed to handl... »

Shellshocked Security Specialists

Between 2000 and 2003 I was part of a small group that was responsible for the security of the network in a remote military base. The work we did there was foundational for the rest of my career, at least so far. Once a week our team shut down for the afternoon to do training, and in the training one of us was responsible for researching a topic in depth and then presenting it to the rest of the team. We built web servers, firewalls, and proxies with OpenBSD, managed our intrusion detection system that we designed and installed ourselves, we even built a honeypot to watch malicious traffic. We spent a lot of long nights, and did a lot of hard work, but it paid of... »

A Technical Education - The Operating System

It’s good to think of a computer as something like a cake with several layers. If the hardware is the first, and foundational layer, then the operating system is the second, and applications are the third. Today, we are going to look at that second layer, and leave with a basic understanding of what an operating system is, what it does, and what the differences are between the major operating systems available toda... »

A Technical Education - Base Level Hardware

The first and most important thing to remember when considering a computer is that computers are machines. Incredible, wondrous, bordering on magical machines, but machines nonetheless. They were built by people who are no smarter than you, and designed by people every bit as fallible as you. There are no magic incantations, no special spells, and no generational gap that make one group of people better able to understand computers than another. Computers are machines, machines that you can understan... »

A Technical Education

I didn’t grow up with computers. They just weren’t a common thing in Montana in the 80’s. When my family moved to Texas for two years during my sixth and seventh grades, one of my friends had one in her room that we would play Oregon Trail on, but otherwise it was unremarkable. With the exception of video games and VHS tapes, my childhood was very much like the childhoods of the generations before me. If I wanted to see a friend, I’d have to walk over to his house. If I wanted to send someone a letter, I had to sit down and write it out on paper, scratching out misspellings along the way, then folding it up, stuffing it in an envelope, licking a stamp on it, and dropping it in the mailbox. And then, I’d wait. Sometimes for weeks, sometimes for months. In the past twenty years however, our world has changed dramaticall... »

Home Built Software and Systems

GigaOm is running an article written by Ralph Dangelmaier, the CEO of BlueSnap, claiming “We’ve reached the end of ‘build it yourself’ software.” It’s a nice thought, along the same lines as “We’ve reached the end of ‘host it yourself hardware’,” and “We’ve reached the end of you needing anything other than what someone else has already developed.” In the past fourteen years I’ve been in the industry though, the systems I’ve seen run the best are the ones hosted on our own hardware running our own code. Off-the-shelf software can be great for certain situations, but if you are outsourcing a core function of your business, what kind of value are you really providin... »

Marked Down

If you really, really care about Markdown, Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror and Stack Exchange fame has a new project for you. Apparently, Jeff didn’t think Markdown’s original creator’s care of the code was quite up to snuff, and decided to build a new project to more accurately codify the syntax and implementation details. All good things, if, again, you really care about such details. If, however, you are using Markdown like the majority of us: to making writing on the web a bit easier, well, this all might go by unnoticed. At least, it probably would have if Jeff had named his project anything other than “Standard Markdown... »

Small Site Update

I’ve been publishing this site with Jekyll for several years. I’m not sure exactly when I switched over from Wordpress, but it’s long enough ago that I’ve forgotten when I started.1 Over the past few weeks I’ve run into a few issues with Jekyll that have caused me to reevaluate if it was still the right choice for me. The short answer is no, the long answer is that this site is now published with my own Python script.

  1. There was, of course, Paragraphs, but I’m content to let that go. Making peace with your past, learning from your mistakes, and moving on older and wiser is the only way to live in peace. 

... »

What it Does

Our relationship with technology has become unexpectedly skewed. I was just reading through Sid O’Neill’s recent article, Losing Apple, and found myself nodding along on several points, particularly her... »

Responsibility

“UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.” – The Lorax

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Site Design Non-Update

The site design of jb was very nearly upgraded tonight. Well, upgraded is not quite the word for it. Changed is more accurate. Even though I’m quite happy with the look and feel of the site, from time to time I get frustrated with one aspect of it or another. I’ve spent more time that I want to admit thinking about readability, fonts, font sizes, spacing, kerning, and the like, but occasionally I’ll look at another site and think “that looks good”. And then mine looks like crap for a day or s... »

For The Fun Of It

I still need an anything bucket, and nothing fills that gap like my old friend Yojimbo. I was an early adopter of Yojimbo, back with version one, and I upgraded faithfully for version 2 and version 3, but I held off for a long time on version 4. In the mean time I tried Evernote, DEVONthink, Pinboard, and just the file system to fill the void that Yojimbo filled so gracefully. No more, I’ve come home, and it feels great to be her... »

Command-T Crashing Vim

For some reason today when I opened up MacVim and hit ,t to navigate to a file, MacVim crashed. The terminal spat out an ugly, and unhelpful error about “deadly signal SEGV”, but knowing that I just invoked the Command-T plugin, the error was easy to track down. Command-T is not like other plugins that I have installed with Pathogen, it lives on its own and is not updated as a Git submodul... »

Parsing iostat Results

In the course of load testing a new system, we gathered the output from iostat from a group of servers. In addition to parsing through the device statistics, we thought it would be handy to graph the CPU stats as well. We set iostat to run every five seconds and captured the output in a text file, one per server. This gave me a sizable pool of data, but with everything I needed on separate line... »

A Different Vision of the Future

I ran across a few articles in the past week or so that predict the majority of the population will be living in cities by 2050.1 I don’t dispute the projection, these people generally know what they are talking about, but I would like to do a bit of daydreaming of my own. I can envision a world of small towns populated by remote workers and independent service providers, communities with relationships that are closer, deeper, and happier than their city dwelling counterparts.

  1. There are several others. Just do a search for “seven billion live in cities in 2050” for more. 

... »

Statement of Faith

I am a Christian. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that he became a man and was born to a virgin. Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life, and died on the cross as the ultimate sacrifice for all of humanity, for all time, past and future. He was raised from the dead three days later, spoke to his disciples, and now sits enthroned in glory in heaven at the right hand of the Father. Through Faith, I accept this truth, and I accept Jesus as my personal savio... »

Be Excellent To Each Other

The recent row over iA Writer’s developers and their patent application reminded me what a small community the Mac developers are. The real problem was never about iA attempting to patent their work, the issue was that they forgot their place in the ecosystem. There are a few in the community that give freely and abundantly, like Brett Terpstra, and when iA threatened to use their patents offensively against Terpstra’s Marked, the community rightfully condemned the... »

Bigfoot Footnotes in Jekyll

Like the good doctor, I knew as soon as I saw Bigfoot that I would be adding it to this site. 1 I’ve avoided footnotes up till now because the HTML formatting for them seemed far too fiddley, and the Jekyll Markdown processor I was using did not support them.

  1. I’ve always liked footnotes. 

... »

Burn it Down

As the year comes to an end it would be easy to look back and see all of the things that didn’t work. Mistakes were made, endeavors failed, and it was generally a tough year. Some things that I thought would work out did not, and some things I thought I had more time before I had to deal with came due. Sometimes, when things aren’t working out, it’s best to burn it all to the ground and start ove... »

Desktop Setup For a Sysadmin

My Mac is a finely tuned machine. I have been using a Mac for Unix systems administration work since 2006, starting with a PowerMac G4, and have developed a smooth and efficient workflow. Most of the important tools are open source, and the ones that are not are very high qualit... »

Zen, Art, and Tools

I’ve been a Mac user since returning to the states in 2003, but I’ve been a Unix user for a few years longer. Originally, I was drawn to the Mac because it was a fantastic interface on top of a solid BSD Unix core, but as I grew more familiar with the platform, I became more drawn to the level of attention to detail. The Mac is a quality machine, but today I’m writing this on a Dell running FreeBS... »

Go2 and Paragraphs Are Now Open Source

I see no reason to keep the code for Go2 and Paragraphs to myself. I have no plans to continue developing them, have received no requests for support, and have seen very, very, few sales over the past few months. So, as of now, both Go2 and Paragraphs are released as open source, under the MIT license, available on GitHu... »

Avoiding Complexity

I’ve noticed a tendency in my Mac setup to veer towards higher levels of complexity. In truth, I’d rather not use anything outside of the Apple provided ecosystem, but for one reason or another I’m constantly drawn to other apps and command line tools. It is a struggle to find balance between applications that actually enhance my productivity, and distractions that pull me away from the task I’m attempting to use my computer fo... »

Exciting Night

My wife and I were sitting at the dinner table chatting, winding down for the night, when I saw a pair of headlights shining in our back window. The back side of our house faces the middle school parking lot, with a good amount of lawn and trees between the edge of my land and the beginning of the gravel, so it is not too unusual to see cars back there, but late on a Saturday night did seem strang... »

Technical Education in K-12

Our small school is nearing the end of the four-year cycle for a one-to-one program that provides all students in grades six through twelve with a white MacBook. Students are free to take the laptop home, and parents must sign an agreement to pay for any damages. Over the course of the past few years I have become strongly, almost vehemently opposed to the progra... »

For The Public Good

I just finished another article for OStatic where I imagine what web services would be good candidates for public, non-profit organizations. The two services I came up with are search and email, both I consider essential Internet tools. I’ve wondered about the democratization of the Internet before. One thought I had was wondering about the possibility of each household owning their own “server”, or server type device that connected them to the Internet, but also became part of the Interne... »

Personal Information Architecture

For my computer to be useful to me I need to be able to quickly save information, and then easily retrieve it later. Saving and retrieving information sounds like a simple enough use case, but doing both quickly and easily does not. The more information you have saved on your computer, the more difficult it is to effectively retrieve the information you need the moment you need it. Researchers and developers have been tackling this issue for decades, but so far no one has come up with a single best solution that works for everyone. What we need is a way to store and retrieve information without having to stop and think about the method or means of organization. The organizational method should provide an effective affordance without resorting to decoding the method itsel... »

Farmdog Closed

Update: July 30, 2013 - Farmdog is not closed, but I am rethinking everything. Paragraphs will continue to be supported for the foreseeable future.»

Where We Stand

In the online help for Paragraphs, I have a rather odd statemen... »

The Hardware Racket

Every now and then something just gets to me, and for the past few weeks, that something has been the process of purchasing enterprise hardware. Servers, SANs, load balancers, the kind of equipment that, instead of a price and an “Add to Cart” link, comes with directions on who to cal... »

Mozilla Turns 15

Mozilla has been one of my favorite open source projects since I first learned of them back in 2002. I remember downloading the Mozilla browser, and thinking that it was just like Netscape Navigator (no surprise there), an all-in-one browser that threw in the kitchen sink, just in case you needed it. You can still download it’s descendant, SeaMonkey. Not long after, I heard about another browser they were calling Phoenix, that, as it was explained to me, pulled out just the web browser from Mozilla, and left everything else alone. I downloaded it, and it was fantastic. Incredibly fast, lean, and simple. It became my favorite right away. There was only one release of Phoenix, after that the browser was renamed briefly to Firebird, and finally, Firefo... »

Scout Beta 2

So, quite a bit has changed in the past week or so. I got a lot of great feedback from a few beta testers, and stomped out a few bugs. A bigger deal though came from a couple of people who noted that they got confused in some of the views on how they were meant to proceed. Confusing the customer is absolutely the last thing I want to do with Scout, so I took off my developer hat and put on my HCI hat and tore Scout apar... »

More Scout Tips

Eventually I’m going to need to compile this into a proper help doc, but for now, documenting Scout with Scout will d... »

Beta Testing Scout

Well, as much as I’d love to procrastinate for the rest of eternity, the time has come for Scout to take it’s first baby steps out of it’s private testing ground and out to a few interested folks who would be brave enough to beta tes... »

Electrogent's 50 Rules

One of my favorite things about the Internet is finding a little treasure trove of writing and style that I previously did not know existed. Electrogent is one of those little gems, and his list of 50 rules for his son is full of timeless advic... »

Details

Thought of the wee... »

Vim Power

vim_iconNo server, desktop, or laptop install is complete without Vim, and yet, there are times when I still see questions pop up on IRC about how to do basic editing of config files with vi. I remember, years ago, asking some of the same questions of an older Unix guru, and asking why I should bother learning such an eccentric and “outdated” text editor. His answer has stuck with me, he said “Because it is the only text editor guaranteed to be on every server, and some day you will need it, and have no other alternatives.” Vim, short for “vi improved” is ubiquitous, but it is also so much more, and the time you spend learning it will be repaid to you tenfold in productivit... »

Meta

You get good at something by doing it repeatedly. I’ve been writing on this site for six years now, but with little direction or topic. I’ve gotten good at not making anything of the site, which is not where I wanted to be when I wrote about why I kept this site in 2011. I’ve not kept to a regular schedule, or a common theme, so I am not surprised to see that the only traffic I have going to the site is my own, and a few that found the site from Google. The preceding statement will make the next seem a bit ridiculous, but bear with m... »

Cutting Corners

After reading the MacSparky piece on craftsmanship, I’m reminded of how I like to look at my career as a systems administrator. I find that there are times when things that are not quite right just bother me. Like when there are inconsistencies or one-offs scattered throughout the environment I am responsible for. There may well be perfectly logical reasons why some systems are monitored and some are not, why some are registered with configuration management and others are not, but in my mind it is these little inconsistencies that add up and make your work look slopp... »

iTunes Gets A Bad Rap

I’ve searched high and low for an alternative to iTunes, but I’ve yet to find a suitable replacement. I use iTunes for playing music, mainly over AirPlay in my home office, and it works great. I’ve got smart playlists, star ratings, and an iTunes Match account to keep everything in sync between home, work, and mobile. Given my investment of time and money over the years, it’s possible that I may be suffering from some type of sunk cost fallacy, but honestly I really enjoy iTune... »

iCloud and Core Data

I inadvertently started a bit of a conversation today when I complained about the state of NetNewsWire on Twitter. I’ve been a NetNewsWire user for years, and I was very surprised when it was sold to Black Pixel. My surprise turned to disappointment when the application was not updated, and now NetNewsWire has stopped working for me completel... »

Scout and FTP

Building a desktop application that manages creating your site is great, but only publishing to a local folder is for the birds. After only a few posts using Scout, I can say that the process of publishing to a folder, switching to Terminal, and running rsync will not fly for any potential customers I may have. It’s a pai... »

Misunderstanding NSString

So, while I was debugging the first post using Scout, I found an oddity in NSString. I was building the links between the posts using stringByAppendingPathComponent, to join the site’s base URL with the path component of the individual post. Unfortunately, that method seems to be stripping one of the forward slashes off of the http:// string, which screws up building link... »

Footnotes and Other Scripts

I’d like a really simple way to insert footnotes in the text. However, I’m not sure how much of that I can do with the Markdown parser that I have now, which means inserting ugly HTML, which I’d really rather not have. I could do something in the generation of the site, inserting my own marker in the text and parsing through that later, but that seems like reinventing the wheel. Surely there are better ways to go about thi... »

Dogfood

I would like to introduce you to Scout, my desktop, baked blogging engine. I’d like to, but Scout is not quite ready yet, so I’m keeping him under wraps till I’m sure. There is only one way to be really sure, and that’s to use Scout to publish my own blog, every da... »

A World of Things

It is very easy when living in the technology field to ignore the actual physical space we occupy. Skills once thought essential are slowly being forgotten as we move farther and farther away from a culture of being able to create and fix things»

13 Virtues for 2013

Instead of looking back, I like to look forward. As a guide on how I’d like to live the next year of my life, here are Benjamin Franklin’s famous 13 Virtues, written when he was 2... »

No More Guns

I’m angry. You should be too. On December 14th, a young man shot his way into a locked elementary school in a small town in Connecticut and murdered twenty children and six adults. This is an abhorrent act by a mentally ill person, but the magnitude of the act was amplified because the murderer had access to guns. Big gun... »

On Culture

You never need to prove to anyone who you are. You simple are who you are. Claiming that someone else is faking their interest in a topic is ridiculous. Our interests and curiosities define us just as much as, if not more than, our histories and personal experiences. Friendly competition between peers on knowledge of the esoteric details of a given subject is good fun, but not a defining prerequisite for claiming curiosity about the subject. I would like to think that the previous few sentences are unnecessary in a conversation with adults, but unfortunately, as the recent conversations surrounding “fake geek girls” has shown, that is not the case. In a sad way, many of us have not matured past the social battleground of middle schoo... »

Quiet Time

The office is empty this morning. I just closed iTunes, and I am enjoying listening to my own thoughts. No music, no talking, no background, just quiet. Sitting in silence is a luxury these days, and one that should not be taken for grante... »

Energy Saver Preferences

My MacBook at work sits on my desk all day and all night. When I sit down to work on it, I expect it to be ready for me, and ready to ask how high when I tell it to jump. I get a bit annoyed if I come back after a few minutes or an hour and find that the Mac has gone to sleep while I’ve been gone. So, I spent a few minutes in the Energy Saver preference pane to configure the machine to my schedul... »

Forgotten and Beloved

I was given a clean slate of a Mac to work with this past Monday, so I gave some thought to which apps I wanted to use. Looking back at some of my favorites that have fallen behind, I was left with a bit of nostalgia for the apps that once made the Mac experience great. It is easy to tell which developers care about keeping their application up to date, just check the top right corner and look for the full-screen opposing arrows. If they are not present, there is a good chance that the application has been abandone... »

iOS 6 Headphones

I have been pleasantly surprised by one small enhancement in iOS 6 that probably affected a very small number of people. I drive a 2006 Saturn Ion that has an auxiliary port in the car stereo for plugging in things like iPhones. I have about a half-hour drive to work in the mornings, and I listen to podcasts downloaded with Instacast. Since I want to control the audible volume with my car stereo knobs, and I want the best possible signal from my iPhone, I turn the volume up to maximum for the driv... »

ArcDown - My First Open Source Project

Part of a Farmdog project I’m working on needs nice syntax highlighting for markdown. After searching around for a bit I found Ali Rantakari’s PEG Markdown Highlight project, and knew that it would be a perfect fit. Unfortunately, the code was not written for ARC, or Automatic Reference Counting, and my project was. Rantakari’s code worked fantastic outside of ARC, but inside it needed a few days worth of love and attentio... »

The Computer User I Want To Be

Learning about computers can be a dangerous thing. Breaking though the veneer of graphical interfaces reveals inefficiencies and inaccurate metaphors. For example, rsync copies files faster and uses fewer resources than the Finder. Copying lots of files is what rsync does best, but being a command line power tool there are a few subtleties with using it that are not readily apparent. As your skill grows, so to does the tendency to eschew modern tools in favor of “power tools”. You begin to see the inefficiencies of graphical tools as problems, problems that you need to fix. I’ve been down that roa... »

New Mac Essentials - MacVim

Investing time learning a text editor is a serious commitment. Over time, you find yourself reaching for the editor’s built-in shortcut keys everywhere you type. In my case, I do almost all of my writing in MacVim. Unfortunately, MacVim comes with a fairly steep learning curve that many are unwilling to tackle. Part of the complexity of Vim, from which MacVim is derived, is the configuration. Over the years I’ve come up with a setup that works for m... »

The Winchester Imperative

Major Charles Emerson Winchester III was a fictional character on one of my all time favorite shows, M*A*S*H. While he had many memorable scenes, the one that I remember best is the first episode he is introduced. Winchester was sent to the 4077th to assist while they were short handed, and he was not used to the incredibly hectic pace that the doctors needed to work at to save the lives of the wounded. The doctors tried to prod Winchester to move faster, but he responded with a line that’s been echoing in my mind latel... »

A New World

CocoaHeads changed my life. This afternoon I am killing time in a coffee shop, about to head to work for an appointment with HR. When I get there, I’ll turn in my badge, they will wish me luck, and I’ll walk out the door. Monday, I start a new chapter in my life with T8 Webware. To say that I’m a little nervous about this change would be an understatement. I’ve spent time with these guys, they are smart, ambitious, and I believe in what they are doing. I’m going to be part of building something awesome, and I’m extremely excite... »

Uncompromising

Others have already said so much about Steve Jobs stepping down as the CEO of Apple that I had serious doubts about adding my voice to the existing cacophony. Others have written so much, and surely so much more will be over the next few days. I had doubts, but I have this to sa... »

Writing Online

Every so often I get the inkling to make this site more than what it is. Since 2008 I’ve been writing fairly regularly here about whatever comes to mind, and in doing so I’ve covered several topics. I’ve written about Android and Mac geekery, success and failure in Mac development, business, psychology, systems administration, personal stories, and memories. More than anything, I have tried to inspire others, and sometimes, if I’m very, very lucky, I succeed»

A Glimpse of the Future

The Motorola ATRIX 4G is technology released before its time. At first glance, it seems like any other Android phone with impressive technical specs and questionable user interface decisions, but the phone as a phone is not the interesting part of this devic... »

Personal Quality

My daughter had an ear infection. A common occurrence in children, so I brought her down to our local doctors office. The doctor took one look at her ear and knew what needed to be done. He wrote out a prescription, gave me a few instructions, and sent me on my way. I then had two choices, I could drive the twenty miles into the city to get her prescription filled by Walgreens, or I could drive seven miles over to the next town to see if the local pharmacy could take care of it. I decided on the shorter tri... »

Text Editing in MacVim

The venerable BBEdit recently received a big upgrade, and looks poised to attract users of TextMate, which, by all accounts, has been abandoned by its developer. I tried to love BBEdit, but it always felt like trying on someone else’s clothes. They might look good, but that does not mean the clothes will be comfortable for you. Recent conversations about text editors on Build and Analyze led me to rethink my position, and examine in more detail how I came to choose MacVi... »

Mission Control

OS X Lion is a big step forward in personal computing, and, over the next few years, we are going to see a lot of our preconceptions about how computers work begin to melt away. Apple is setting a high bar for themselves and their developers. Lion is an ambitious release with ambitious goals that are going to take some time to actually come to fruition. However, as futuristic as Lion is, Mission Control feels like a step bac... »

Letter to Lotus Notes Developers

I have some issues with the design of Lotus Notes. I’m a relatively new user, I started using Notes in 2006, and at the time we were using 6.5 on Windows. I’ve since upgraded to 8.5.2 on Mac OS ... »

Stereotypically

Apple makes great products, and Brooks Brothers makes great clothes, but neither make the man. It is pure foolishness to judge another person at all, much less using a measure as trifling as a choice of comput... »

Found On The Path

I woke this morning at 5:20, got dressed, and went outside for my morning workout. Today’s weather was beautiful, perfect temperature, and the smell of fresh rain. Lately I’ve been riding my bike, a Schwinn that is neither strong enough to be a mountain bike, nor sleek enough to be a road bike. I would call it a “small town bike”, as it gets me around all four corners of our small tow... »

Supersite

Daring Fireball linked to Paul Thurrott today, citing Paul’s comment that Lion is simply an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary update. John says»

Two Views Of The Cloud

A few years ago, there was a distinction between the “world wide web” and the Internet. The distinction has decreased, but in the wake of Apple’s landmark WWDC keynote, I think the technical distinction between the terms is an important point to make. The difference between the Internet and the web that rides on top of the Internet forms the basis for two very different points of view for the future of personal computin... »

On TermKit - Steven Wittens

I’ve been administering Unix machines for many years now, and frankly, it kinda sucks. It makes me wonder, when sitting in front of a crisp, 2.3 million pixel display (i.e. a laptop) why I’m telling those pixels to draw me a computer terminal from the 80s.

»

Solving The Right HA Problem

High Availability, HA for short, refers to an applications ability to continue operating after a hardware failure. HA comes in many different shapes and sizes, but two methods in production today are the presence of multiple machines performing the same task, and pairs of machines in a master-slave setup. Sometimes the master-slave setup is extended to include several slaves, but the main idea is that if the master should go away, the slave will pick up where the master left off, with no interruption in servic... »

Wallpaper

Desktop wallpaper is a cheap trick. It’s only purpose is to make your computer screen look pretty, but I have yet to come across a photo or a work of art that I found to be anything but distracting. There is very little difference between UI elements like windows and objects depicted in a picture behind the windows. If you can see it, your brain needs to identify i... »

Introversion Intuition Thinking Judgment

INTJs apply (often ruthlessly) the criterion “Does it work?” to everything from their own research efforts to the prevailing social norms.

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Mandatory

My workplace is adopting Agile methodologies for our development and client relations departments. As part of the adoption, it was decided that all of IT would attend a three hour overview of what Agile is and why it was important. This is all fine and well, but in making the training mandatory, instead of optional, the organizers lost a good deal of opportunit... »

Imperfect Dock

Brent Simmons recently wrote about his dislike of the iCal interface in the latest developer preview of OS X 10.7. In his article, he says how the torn paper present in the interface of the latest build would eventually force him to find an alternative, because he would always want to finish tearing the paper off. What caught my attention in the article more than iCal was how Brent deals with the Trash in the Dock. He constantly empties the trash, a habit I shar... »

Jekyll Bookmarklet

I have a handful of Automator scripts I’ve created to make maintaining this site with Jekyll just a little easier. The first script let’s me highlight some text on a web page and click a bookmarklet (or, more likely, hit the command+3 key combo), and the script creates a newly formatted Jekyll post with the highlighted text in markdown quoted syntax, and opens it in my default Markdown edito... »

Principle of Least Software

Use only the software that you need. No more, no less. Choose one application for each task, and become an expert on that applicatio... »

Keyboards and Wheels

I have one wish for the next major iOS release: full keyboard support. The iPad works with the bluetooth keyboard, and the original iPad came with a keyboard dock, but support for doing things other than basic text is sparse at best. My wish list is small, but meaningful. I would like to see support for all the keys on the keyboard, the ability to command-tab between running applications, and arrow key navigation for apps that include table view... »

Quicksilver and Go2

Go2 1.2 is in review, and when it is released it will bring a new feature that I’m hoping will speed up access to bookmarks considerably: Spotlight integration. Spotlight is amazing technology, and one of the biggest advantages OS X has over it’s competition. The Spotlight search and matching algorithms can index millions of files, which makes it a perfect companion for people who have anywhere from hundreds to thousands of bookmarked server connections in Go2. So far, my own menubar indexing gets a bit choked up at around 1500 bookmarks or so. It still works, but no where near as fast as Spotligh... »

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