The Tao of Mac

The Office, Redux

3 days 10 hours ago

I’m changing jobs. Still at Microsoft, but moving to Architecture and Industry Services and reporting to the Office of the CTO in EMEA, which is a long-winded way to say I’m now managing technical delivery–it’s not engineering, but too interesting to miss out on. I may (or not) write about that sometime, but it is a great opportunity for me and changes a lot of things.

The change I’m going to write about today is that I’m now “home office” based (at least when not traveling), which is why I spent Christmas break rebuilding my home office and turning it into a more welcoming place.

Even though I already worked from home up to a third of my time, there were some things that needed fixing, and yes, there was some IKEA hacking involved.

The Setup

I am back to my very first home desk (a broad, expansive and clear-cut 180x90cm dinner table that is still larger than anything IKEA has to offer), which is surrounded by a bunch of re-purposed KALLAX shelving units for storage and additional “desk”/countertop space:

The initial plan, done in Shapr3D. I'll have more to say about the app itself someday...

This worked out reasonably well: I have plenty of elbow room, the long counter has room for my 3D printer and a few projects (like my Pi cluster and a bunch of my music gear), and I even managed to fit in a small sheltered nook with a comfy chair to read and “change gears”1 in in that gap on the right.

And there is (barely) enough room for an exercise bike (the oblique box on the left), which I intend to use more often.

Sitting Desks Are Definitely Cheaper

Thanks to complex family trading rules (my desk served as a dinner table for the past few years, and two of the KALLAX were not needed anymore), none of it cost me a dime (which was excellent).

That was the main reason I didn’t go for a standing desk (the other being that I couldn’t find one that was anywhere as spacious and am somewhat skeptical of the concept, at least for now).

The only two things I bought were an IKEA LACK TV table (which holds all the networking and power gear) that I modded to have enough shelf height to hold the Logitech Z333 subwoofer and enough clearance to allow for easy vacuuming, and an IKEA SUSIG, which is a very nice (and temperature-neutral) desk protector made of ground cork2.

The hacked LACK holding the UPS and the bass speaker, before I sorted out the wiring.

There is still some storage to re-arrange (there are a couple of large plastic boxes under the desk that really shouldn’t be there, but the thing is so wide and deep they are not a pressing concern) and I am still trying to figure out how I can set up a soldering station someplace, but right now it’s OK.


Since I started doing this in Winter, I made sure I got plenty of light I could tweak: I replaced my desk lamp bulb with a tunable IKEA TRADFRI one and got a couple of GLEDOPTO ZigBee RGBW LED strips for indirect lighting.

I realize that LED strips might be considered the modern day equivalent of disco mirror balls, but I got these because they have both white and yellow LEDs besides the RGB one, so I can tune the ambient lighting to a low, warm yellow color, which makes the room “feel” warmer.

One of the strips was slightly too long--but this clipping shows the white, RGB and yellow LEDs, and is handy for testing.

And yes, I can go all-out and get a TRON ambiance going if I feel like it, but so far the only use I found for the RGB LEDs is as a visual bell whenever there’s someone at the door.

Either way I’m still refining their handling by my home automation setup, which currently entails fiddling with color temperature gradients as the day goes by.

Time Management

A lot of people are biased either for or against remote work (and there are gigabytes of blog posts out there on the topic), but I’ve been doing it (on and off) for ages, and my current context affords a few extra benefits:

  • The modern Microsoft runs on Teams: so much so that I often have to mute or close it to be able to focus, but physical meetings are, thankfully, relatively few and far between.
  • I’ve always worked on Azure, which by itself renders location moot.
  • I can pop over to the local office every now and then and work from there if I crave social interaction (although I tend to prefer using lunch breaks for that, jus like when I worked in a traditional closed office).

But the key point here is that the trivial, but stupendously effective mind trick of dressing up just after 8AM and “leaving” for work the moment I step into this particular room works wonderfully for me, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

The only serious drawbacks I’ve found so far are that:

  • It’s hard to actually stop working. I’ve found myself working through lunchtime (and started taking forced breaks or having lunch on my way to customers). Some days I start winding down things as kids leave school and can supervise them, but on others I effectively work right up to dinnertime, so I might put in anything from 8 to 12 hours a day (especially if I need to finish something after dinner or get one of the typical Portuguese “panic calls” by six o’clock).
  • I’ve wired myself for sitting down to do “regular” work at my desk so effectively that it now takes actual effort to actually relax and pursue what few hobbies I have in that setting, so I tend to lounge about in the living room on weekends.

So I resorted to another mind trick: I actually unplug my Surface and remove it from sight every Friday evening.

Seems to be working out OK so far…

  1. I never found study at a desk to be comfortable, and taking my Surface away from the desk and flipping it to portrait mode forces a context switch that is more amenable to focus. ↩︎

  2. This saves some discomfort when laying my forearms on a chilly desk early in Winter mornings or an uncomfortably warm one in Summer afternoons. ↩︎

Rui Carmo

MacUpdate - Mac OS X

SeaStorm 3D Screensaver 1.3 - Watch a sea storm on your desktop.

13 hours 48 minutes ago

SeaStorm 3D Screensaver... Watch a true sea storm on your desktop with SeaStorm 3D Screensaver. This screensaver shows you off a stormy ocean surface with swirls over it, complete with sunset sky and lightnings. Launch it and be surprised by the stunning video effects and realistic atmosphere of storm.

Version 1.3:
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  • Mac OS X 10.4 or later

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FoldersSynchronizer 5.0.1 - Synchronize or backup files, folders and disks.

14 hours 58 minutes ago

FoldersSynchronizer is a popular and useful utility that synchronizes and backs-up files, folders, disks and boot disks. On each session you can apply special options like Timers, Multiple Folders, Filters, Exclude Items, Auto-Mount local and remote volumes, launch your own AppleScripts, set how to resolve conflicts, execute an incremental or an exact copy, include locked files, and more.

Note: 64-bit app successfully tested on macOS Catalina.

Version 5.0.1:
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16 hours 33 minutes ago

OpenMTP is a Free and Open-source alternative to Google's officially dead Android File Transfer app for macOS. Use OpenMTP to transfer files between macOS (Catalina support available) and Android phone using your phone's USB cable.

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Version 2.4.1: Features:
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16 hours 45 minutes ago

uSpammer quickly checks a list of email addresses for suspicious activity based on scoring provided by the API.

Email addresses repeatedly - and recently - reported for unwanted activity are highlighted and assigned with a score (0-100).

The utility is very flexible when it comes to input formats:

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Filter the results and copy email addresses from the results list for further processing.

The ideal companion for any system administrator and anybody managing a web site, online forum, or email communications in general.

Note: Please note that we are not related to the service

Version 1.0:

Note: This application contains in-app and/or external module purchases.

  • Initial release.

  • OS X 10.12 or later

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XML Edita is here to simplify XML editing and help save you time and energy while greatly reducing the risk of errors.

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John's Background Switcher puts beautiful full-screen photos and stunning montages on your desktop. Choose the photos from your own collection on your Mac or websites like Flickr, Facebook, Pixabay, Instagram, Vladstudio and many more besides. You'll never know what's coming next -- maybe photos from a recent holiday, landscapes from far and distant lands, pictures of small kittens or equally small dogs. If you're having a tough day, just take a look at your desktop and John's Background Switcher will get you through it!

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Once set up JBS quietly runs in the background changing your desktop and stays out of your way. And if you don't love it, tell me what you'd like it to do from the support link and I'll add it as soon as I can!

Version 3.0:

This version adds full support for macOS 10.15, adds sub-folder searching to Dropbox and OneDrive and fixes a few bugs. The full list follows:

  • Added the option to look for photos in Dropbox and OneDrive sub-folders (so you don't have to add all folders any more)
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  • OS X 10.9 or later

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Better Blocker is developed and curated by - that’s Laura, Aral, and Osky - we’re a tiny two-person-and-one-husky social enterprise striving for social justice in the digital age. (Osky doesn’t code much.)

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  • It’s open… anyone can help make Better even better.

Version 2020.2:
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  • This app will continue to get updates.
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  • OS X 10.11 or later

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BigHairyGoal 3.0.9448 - Mindmapping application.

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Big Hairy Goal is a tool for getting your ideas down and to arrange them in a way that gives you more insight.

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Version 3.0.9448:
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SOCSS is a powerful feature-packed 2D vector drawing software, so that it can be used for drawing, landscape design, newsletters, brochures, graphs & charts, fine illustrations, office or furniture layouts, business cards, forms signs, etc. SOCSS can be extended, by writing your own custom macros in the AppleScript programming language.

  • Simplified user interface makes it easy to learn and use
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Version 1.3.3: Fixed:
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  • macOS 10.12 or later

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CheckBook 2.6.12 - Manage personal checking accounts.

17 hours 8 minutes ago

With CheckBook, easily and simply manage your personal checking accounts.

A paper check register can't categorize your transactions or report cash flow over time, and it'll never balance itself. That's where we come in. Introducing CheckBook 2, the powerfully simple personal finance manager.

  • Precisely manage your finances:
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    • Reconcile your accounts to the penny
    • Schedule transactions that repeat periodically, like monthly bills and paychecks
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Version 2.6.12: New features:
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  • OS X 10.6 or later

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Battery Monitor 3.5 - Monitor battery health.

17 hours 13 minutes ago

Battery Monitor is a small auxiliary application useful in maintaining the life and optimization of a laptop battery. It offers the following features:

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Version 3.5:
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  • OS X 10.11 or later

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VersionTracker 1.2.3 - Maintain and generate version history logs.

17 hours 17 minutes ago

VersionTracker is a tool to help developers maintain and generate version history logs. Featuring multiple export formats and a handful of automatic functions, writing change logs has never been easier. Designed to fit any workflow, language, or platform, VersionTracker can simplify the release process. Features

  • Automatic version incrementing when possible
  • Easily set release dates with one click
  • Copy notes from the list as plain text
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  • Customize change type verbs; sort into groups
  • Reference notes to store commit or ticket IDs

Version 1.2.3: New:
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  • Asks to turn on update check in an unobtrusive way
  • Export plain text preferred by software listing websites
  • Import your existing notes from plain text
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  • OS X 10.11 or later

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iUnit 4.0.0 - Covert units of measurement like mass, volume, and density.

17 hours 42 minutes ago

iUnit is a unit conversion program for the Macintosh and Windows. You can convert between 1545 different units quickly and easily. iUnit also displays the values of 91 physical constants.

iUnit displays the values of the following types of constants:
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Version 4.0.0:
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  • OS X 10.9 or later

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GrandPerspective 2.4.1 - Graphically shows disk usage within a file system.

17 hours 43 minutes ago

GrandPerspective is a small utility application for Mac OS X that graphically shows the disk usage within a file system. It can help you to manage your disk, as you can easily spot which files and folders take up the most space. It uses a so-called tree map for visualisation. Each file is shown as a rectangle with an area proportional to the file's size. Files in the same folder appear together, but their placement is otherwise arbitrary.

Version 2.4.1:
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  • OS X 10.7 or later

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CLion 2019.3.3 - A power tool for a power language.

17 hours 50 minutes ago

Clion is a powerful IDE that helps you develop in C and C++ on Linux, OS X and Windows, enhancing your productivity with a smart editor, code quality assurance, automated refactorings, and deep integration with CMake build system.

Note: price is that of a one year subscription. Additional pricing options can be viewed here.

Version 2019.3.3: Refactorings:
  • Fix for the incorrect macro inlining
  • A regression in Extract Method has been fixed
  • Support for the /std:c++latest flag when using Microsoft Visual C++ Toolchain
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  • OS X 10.9.4 or later

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Missive 9.13.0 - Streamlined email service.

17 hours 57 minutes ago

Missive brings a sleek and more streamlined email collaboration process. With native notifications, unseen Dock badges, and a clean UI, you can now close that browser tab and ditch your old email app for good (psst, make sure to set Missive as your default email client in the settings).

Note: Pricing options can be viewed here.

Version 9.13.0: Missive Chat:
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  • Assign to me personal rule action
  • Reply all option for "Send response" rule action
  • Search input in From dropdown
  • Creating a new draft no longer moves the conversation to top for the author
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  • OS X 10.10 or later

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Cookie 6.0.10 - Protect your online privacy.

18 hours 3 minutes ago

Cookie prevents third parties from hijacking your browsing experience. The sites you visit store "cookies" in your browser without your knowledge or consent. Some are helpful, but others are frustrating and invasive. Cookie can help.

  • Consolidate all your browser privacy settings
  • Simplified View that takes care of all the technical details for you
  • Advanced View which puts you in total control of all your privacy settings
  • Combined cookie view displaying all cookie/flash/localStorage data in one easy to manage view
  • Cookie's can be favorited on a per domain, or per cookie basis. You decide
  • Individual Browser settings. It is possible to configure different automatic removal options for each browser. In the case of Chrome/Chromium/Canary/Brave you can even configure settings per user!
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  • Hotkey support, so you can remove all unwanted data quickly and easily
  • Customizable tracking cookie definitions
  • Whitelist individual tracking cookies
  • Clean, modern and Intuitive User Interface
  • Helpful setup window
  • Browser extension protection
  • Full Screen support
  • iCloud support
  • Dark/Regular theme

Version 6.0.10:
  • Support for Edge browser
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  • Updated copyright

  • macOS 10.14 or later
  • Safari, Chrome, Chromium, Firefox, Opera, Vivaldi, Safari Technology Preview, or Firefox Developer Edition

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Patternodes 2.2.8 - Generator for parametric graphic patterns and illustrations.

18 hours 18 minutes ago

Patternodes is a tool for creating graphical patterns, animations, gradients, or illustrations based on repetitions. This is done by defining a sequence of steps, a recipe of sorts, that describes the pattern. Each pattern element or operation is represented by a little panel called a node, and the nodes are then linked by connections drawn between them. As the nodes can be freely combined and connected, this gives you a very flexible and powerful interface.

While this interface requires a different way of thinking, it also offers a lot of benefits compared to traditional Illustrator-type editors. Most importantly it enables you to use sliders to instantly change any aspect, like color, spacing, scaling, rotation or repetition count of any part of the pattern without having to undo/redo any steps. You can also specify animation value ranges for any of these parameters.

The resulting pattern tile is always shown in the bottom preview view, repeated and updating in real time with any changes, giving you instant feedback of what the end result will be. To make pattern creation easier Patternodes also includes a lot of nodes that automatically perform common tedious tasks like repeating elements at the tile edges to make the pattern seamless, or randomizing different aspects (like color, position, rotation, etc.) of the elements in a pattern to give it a little more life. Finally, when you're done you can simply copy the pattern tile into whatever illustration or graphics application you use, or export it either as vector graphics or a bitmap image file. Animations can be exported as GIF, QuickTime MOV or numbered PNG or JPG files

Version 2.2.8: Added & fixed:
  • Support for importing many more image formats, including photoshop psd, tga, raw and more.
  • Improvements to the Finder Quick Look file .pnds previews.
  • Interface performance.
  • Connection security and handling of network problems during license syncing.
  • Additional license information is now available from the About window.
  • Rendering info statistics panel is now an overlay in the main preview instead os a separate panel.

  • OS X 10.11 or later

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Camtasia 2019.0.7 - Powerful screen recording and production tool.

18 hours 23 minutes ago

Camtasia for remarkable screencasts made easy. Create eye-catching training, presentation, and demo videos…the easy way. Camtasia screen-recording software is streamlined, intuitive, and makes you look like a pro.

Easily record onscreen activity, Keynote slides, camera video, microphone, or system audio - all with sparkling clarity. Record in front of a live audience or at your desk. Edit to perfection. Turn it into a stunning, HD-quality video at the perfect size to share on popular video sites, Apple devices, your website, blog, or anywhere you like. Make them wonder how you did it.

Version 2019.0.7:
  • Bug fixes and improvements

  • macOS 10.12 or later (Rendering is not supported on external USB monitors)
  • Intel® Core™ i5 Processor with 4 CPU Cores (Recommended: 2.8 Ghz Intel® Core™ i5 Processor with 4 CPU Cores or better)
  • 4GB of RAM (Recommended: 8GB of RAM or greater)
  • 4GB of available disk space (minimum)
  • Powerpoint Import requires PowerPoint 2016, 2019 for Mac
  • Playback using the Smart Player is supported on Internet Explorer 11+, Microsoft Edge (Windows 10 Anniversary Update or later), latest version for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, iOS 11+, Android 5+ (Latest Chrome required)

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Daring Fireball