Essential Mac Apps 2017

Oh dear: a few weeks ago Wess Daniels start­ed a Twit­ter dis­cus­sion about the new Mac app Card­hop. In the thread he asked me about oth­er apps which apps I find essen­tial. I thought I’d type up some­thing in ten min­utes but then the draft post kept grow­ing. I’m sure I still missed some. I guess I didn’t real­ize how par­tic­u­lar I am about my com­put­ing environment. 🙂

Bartender

Okay, maybe it’s a bit OCD but I hate clut­tered Mac menubars run­ning along the top of my screen. This app was just rebuilt for High Sier­ra and is an essen­tial tool. I have most every­thing hid­den and have set up a key­board short­cut (the little-used right “option” key) to tog­gle the full menubar icon set.

Fantastical

This is my favorite cal­en­dar app. It sits in the menubar, ready to give a beau­ti­ful agen­da view with just a sin­gle tap. It can open up to a full view. Man­age cal­en­dars is easy and the nat­ur­al lan­guage pro­cess­ing is suburb.

Cardhop

Just released, this is Fantastical’s newest cousin, an app for man­ag­ing con­tacts from Flex­ibits. It works with what­ev­er you have set up for con­tacts on your Mac (I use Google but iCloud is fine too). Giv­en Flexibit’s track record, and Cardhop’s resem­blance to the dis­con­tin­ued Cobook, this is like­ly to be a win­ner for me.

Favioconographer

I’ve been a Chrome user since the week it debuted but late­ly I’ve been try­ing to switch to Safari, want­i­ng its supe­ri­or bat­tery man­age­ment and sync­ing of book­marks and tabs with iOS. Many of Safari’s annoy­ances have lessoned as Apple itin­er­at­ed with each release. There are enough exten­sions now that I can get by. I am, though, one of those weird peo­ple whom John Gru­ber iden­ti­fied: wannabee Safari users who real­ly like Fav­i­cons in tabs. For­tu­nate­ly, Fav­i­cono­g­ra­ph­er has come along. There are occa­sion­al odd­i­ties (float­ing icons, icons that don’t match site) but over­all it improves the Safari expe­ri­ence enough to make it a win over Chrome.

1Blocker for Mac

Uses the built-in con­tent fil­ter­ing sys­tem built into Mac Safari. Good sync­ing with the iOS app. “Con­tent fil­ter­ing” (aka block­ing) has become an impor­tant secu­ri­ty con­cern and let’s face it: the web runs so much bet­ter with­out all the crap that some sites throw in along with their con­tent. You can whitelist sites that respect read­ers. Hon­or­able men­tion in Chrome or as an alter­na­tive for Safari is uBlock Ori­gin, a great block­er (and dis­tinct from stan­dard uBlock, which I don’t recommend).

Karabiner-Elements

Lets you remap the gen­er­al­ly use­less Caps Lock key. I have it mapped Brett-Terpstra style so that a sin­gle click opens Spot­light search and a hold and click acts as a hyper key (imag­ine a shift key that you can use for any keystroke).

BetterTouchTool

Remap keys and key com­bi­na­tions. With Kara­bin­er, I can use it to have Capslock-C open a par­tic­u­lar app, for instance.

Tunnelbear

I used to think VPNs were a lux­u­ry but with peo­ple hack­ing in on pub­lic Wi-Fi accounts and the loss of pri­va­cy, I’ve signed up for this easy-to-use VPN ser­vice. One account can pow­er mul­ti­ple devices so my lap­top and phone are secured.

Evernote

It’s been around for years. I cur­rent­ly have 13,000 notes stored in Ever­note, includ­ing every issue of the mag­a­zine I work for going back to the mid-1950s. There was a time a few years ago when I was wor­ried for Ever­note, as it kept chas­ing quirky side projects as its main app got bug­gi­er and bug­gi­er. But they’ve had a shake-up, ditched the dis­trac­tions and have built the ser­vice back up. Most of my projects are orga­nized with Evernote.

Ulysses

There are a gazil­lion writ­ing apps out there that com­bine Mark­down writ­ing syn­tax with min­i­mal­ist inter­faces (Bear, IaWriter, Byword) but Ulysses has edged its way to being my favorite, with quick sync­ing and abil­i­ty to post direct­ly to WordPress.

Todoist

There are also a gazil­lion task man­agers. Todoist does a good job of keep­ing projects that need due dates in order.

1Password

You should be using a pass­word man­ag­er. Repeat: you should be using a pass­word man­ag­er. 1Password is rock sol­id. They’ve recent­ly changed their eco­nom­ic mod­el and strong­ly favor sub­scrip­tion accounts. While I’ve tried to lim­it just how many auto-pulling sub­scrip­tions I have, I under­stand the ratio­nale and have switched.

Airmail

A great email app for Mac and iOS that can dis­play and sort your Gmail accounts (and oth­ers too). Almost too many options if you’re the kind to fid­dle with that sort of thing but easy to get start­ed and great with just the defaults.

 

Google and Apple and clouds

The Big-G should get a shoutout: it pow­ers the data­bas­es for my email, cal­en­dar, con­tacts, and pho­tos. All my hard­ware has migrat­ed over to Apple, helped in large part by the open­ing up of its ecosys­tem to third-party apps.

What’s also use­ful to note is that all of the data-storing ser­vices are cloud based. If my phone or lap­top dis­ap­peared, I could bor­row a new one and be up to speed almost imme­di­ate­ly. Since many of these apps run on data­bas­es run by Google, I can also switch apps or even have mul­ti­ple apps access­ing the same infor­ma­tion for dif­fer­ent pur­pos­es. There’s a real free­dom to the app ecosys­tem these days.

Fake News and Clickbait

There’s a lot of talk online right now about fake news pages on Face­book and how they influ­enced both the elec­tion and how we think about the elec­tion. It’s a prob­lem and I’m glad peo­ple are shar­ing links about it.

But when we share these links, let’s take that extra step and point to orig­i­nal sources.

Exam­ple: Some­one named Melis­sa Zim­dars has done a lot of work to com­pile a list of fake news sources, pub­lished as a Google Doc with a Cre­ative Com­mons license that allows any­one to repost it. It’s a great pub­lic ser­vice and she’s fre­quent­ly updat­ing it, reclas­si­fy­ing pub­li­ca­tions as feed­back comes in.

The prob­lem is that there are a lot of web pub­lish­ers whose sites exist most­ly to repack­age con­tent. They’ll find a fun­ny Red­dit list and will copy and paste it as an orig­i­nal post or they’ll rewrite a break­ing news source in their own words. The rea­son is obvi­ous: they get the ad dol­lars that oth­er­wise would go to the orig­i­nal con­tent cre­ators. They’re not engag­ing in fake news, per se, but they’re also not adding any­thing to the knowl­edge base of human­i­ty and they’re tak­ing the spot­light off the hard work of the orig­i­nal creators.

Back to our exam­ple, Zimdars’s updates on this click­bait sites don’t get updat­ed as she refines her list. In some cas­es, click­bait web­sites rewrite and repost one another’s ever-more extreme head­lines till they bear lit­tle real­i­ty to the orig­i­nal post (I fol­lowed the page view food chain a few years ago after read­ing a par­tic­u­lar­ly dopey piece about veg­ans launch­ing a boy­cott over a TV ad).

So here’s part two of avoid­ing fake news sites: before you share some­thing on Face­book, take the two min­utes to fol­low any link to the orig­i­nal source and share that instead. Sup­port orig­i­nal con­tent creation.

Can we count the ways that the McKinney video is messed up?

mckinney2When the McK­in­ney video start­ed trend­ing I wasn’t in a state to watch so I read the com­men­tary. Now that I have, the whole thing is com­plete­ly messed up but at least three parts espe­cial­ly unnerve me:

  • The com­plete­ly unnec­es­sary commando-style dive-and-roll that intro­duces Cor­po­ral Eric Case­bolt. Some reports describe it as a trip but to me it looks like he’s play­ing a Hol­ly­wood action hero stunt dou­ble. Has he just been watch­ing too many of the police videos he’s been col­lect­ing on YouTube?
  • That none of the oth­er offi­cers saw his derring-do and said “yo Eric, stand down.” Is this some­thing cops just don’t do? And if not, why not? We all know what it’s like to be hopped up on too much adren­a­line. I know peo­ple do weird stuff when their rep­til­ian brain fight-or-flight mech­a­nism cuts in. It seems that offi­cers should be on the look­out for just this sort of over­re­ac­tion and have some sort of safe word to tell one anoth­er to take a chill.
  • The video­g­ra­ph­er was a “invis­i­ble” white teenag­er. He walked near­by – and occa­sion­al­ly through – the action with­out being ques­tioned. At one point Case­bolt seems to pur­pose­ful­ly step around him to put down his dark-skinned friends. The video­g­ra­ph­er told news reporters that he felt his white­ness made him invis­i­ble to Casebolt.

I nev­er quite real­ized all the race pol­i­tics behind the switch from pub­lic pools vs pri­vate pool clubs. I grew up in a Philly sub­urb with two pub­lic pools and very much remem­ber the con­stant wor­ry that Philadel­phia kids might sneak in (“Philadel­phia” was of course code for “black”). The town­ship did have a his­tor­i­cal­ly African Amer­i­can neigh­bor­hood so the pools were racial­ly inte­grat­ed but I’m sure every dark-skinned town­ship res­i­dent was asked to show town ID a lot more than I was. And it’s hard to think it was entire­ly coin­ci­den­tal that both pub­lic pools were locat­ed on the oppo­site ends of the town­ship from the black neighborhood.

There are no pub­lic pools in the South Jer­sey town where I live. A satel­lite view picks out thir­teen pri­vate pools on my block alone. Thir­teen?!? There’s one pri­vate pool club across town. There’s a lot of casu­al racism around here, pri­mar­i­ly direct­ed at the mostly-Mexican farm­work­ers who dou­ble the town pop­u­la­tion every sum­mer. If there was a town pool that reflect­ed the demo­graph­ics of the local Wal­mart park­ing lot on a Fri­day night in July, we’d have mini-riots I’m sure — which is almost sure­ly why we don’t have a munic­i­pal pool and why wealthy fam­i­lies have poured mil­lions of dol­lars into backyards.

(My fam­i­ly has joined the Elmer Swim Club, a pool locat­ed about half an hour away. While the major­i­ty of mem­bers are super nice and I haven’t heard any dodgy racial code phras­es. The pool is diverse but is most­ly white, reflect­ing the near­by pop­u­la­tion. That said, I’ve read enough Ta-Nehisi Coates to know we can rarely take white towns for grant­ed. So.)

Have Friends lost their cultural memory?

In Amer­i­ca today our sense of spir­i­tu­al fel­low­ship in Lib­er­al meet­ings, the feel­ing of belong­ing to the same tribe, is dimin­ish­ing. We no longer live in the same com­mu­ni­ties, and we come from diverse faith tra­di­tions. Our cul­tur­al val­ues are no longer entwined at the roots, as were those of our founders. As a body we share less genet­ic and cul­tur­al mem­o­ry of what it means to be Quak­ers. Dif­fer­ent view­points often pre­vent us from look­ing in the same direc­tion to find a point of con­ver­gence. We hold beliefs rang­ing from Bud­dhism to non-theism to Chris­tian­i­ty, or we may sim­ply be eth­i­cal human­ists. Just imag­ine a mix­ture of wild seeds cast into a sin­gle plot of land, pro­duc­ing a pro­fu­sion of col­or. A wide vari­ety of plants all bloom­ing togeth­er sym­bol­ize our present con­di­tion in the Reli­gious Soci­ety of Friends. Dis­cern­ing which is a wild­flower and which is a weed is not easy. We are liv­ing a great exper­i­ment of reli­gious diversity.

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Another slice of lost Philadelphia profiled on HiddenCity, this time my grandmother’s…

Another slice of lost Philadelphia profiled on HiddenCity, this time my grandmother's childhood neighborhood.

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Flash of Discovery | Hidden City Philadelphia
The first English speaking Lutheran church in the world, located on Philadelphia's Franklin Square, was part of an entire neighborhood demolished to make way for the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

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