Mac Software I Love

These are the apps I use and depend on every day.

Google Chrome has been my web browser of choice for a few years now, it’s fast and robust, and has many excellent extensions you can get from the Chrome Web Store. For web developers it offers some  great inspector and debugging tools. And its support for writing your own extensions is outstanding (tho they could organize the documentation better).

Sublime Text 3  is so much more than a text editor, but doesn’t have all the baggage or heavy footprint of an IDE. It makes it easy to edit source code and manage even large projects with hundreds of files. It has fast global searches (with regex support), instantaneous “find function definition”. It handles multiple insertion points so you can make similar edits to a number of lines at the same time. One of things I use it for is to extract specific lines from large log files, say lines that contain ” 404 “: I find and select one occurance of that string, hit Command-F to find, hit Control-Command-g to select all occurances, hit Command-l to expand those selections to include the entire line, Command-C to copy, then I can paste just those lines into a new file… voila. Amazing program, saves me a bunch of time and I’m sure I’m only using a fraction of its features.

The Transmit FTP client makes file transfer to and from web servers as fast and simple as it could be. It’s also a beautiful app that’s a pleasure to use.

1Password remembers all my internet passwords for me, and integrates right into Chrome (and Firefox, and Safari). When I get to a site that asks for my login, I hit Command-\ and 1Password logs in for me.

I use Sketch to create new app and web graphics, mockups and illustrations. It’s powerful, intuitive, and way easier to use than Photoshop or Illustrator. It creates png graphics, pdfs and even resolution independant svg files. Heart.

I’ve been using Pixelmator more and more instead of Photoshop to touch up and resize photos. It’s wicked fast and way more lightweight than Photoshop. About the only thing I use Photoshop for these days is to open and edit existing psd files; if I’m creating something from scratch I reach for either Sketch or Pixelmator.




Yet Another Move, Yet Another Host

When JustHost took days to respond to a ticket, and then replied with a generic form letter that didn’t even apply to the issues I raised, I figured it was time to try a new host. Hello, WebFaction!

Update 3/21: I’m really impressed with WebFaction. They’re speedy, the control panel is simple and straightforward, and it’s been a piece of cake to move my ten domains and sites over. Setting up the two WordPress sites was a breeze, and they even provide a simple installer for mercurial. Really, the only way this could be easier would be to have a lovely and talented assistant who would take care of it for me.

WordPress 3.01

Upgrading WordPress this time meant reinstalling it from scratch, unfortunately, since last week’s auto-update somehow deleted all my posts. But this is why we back up.

So the blog is back up and running again, with a shiny new 3.01 version of WordPress. And hopefully going forward auto-updates will even work.

A Fun Little Swing-Along

Update May 2011: Sadly SoundCloud took down a few of these due to copyright violations. Spoilsports.

I’ve been having way too much fun with the new python scripts released by the Echo Nest Remix Project. These are a bunch of geeky little command line scripts that let you treat music as data, figuring out where the beats and measures are in a song, then letting you go wild from there.

Their hello world script pulls out the first beat of each measure of a song to make a weird sounding chopped up version. Other scripts play a song backwards by playing the beats in reverse order, starting with the last beat and ending on the first. My favorite script by far, tho, is the swinger script which adds, well, swing to songs. Technically it stretches the first half of each beat and shortens the second half, giving songs a swing beat. Like this:

Born To Be Wild (swing version) by davermont

Short Skirt, Long Jacket (swing version) by davermont

Even Calvin’s music wasn’t safe; here’s the swing version of Hey:

Hey (swing version) by davermont

Or Robin’s favorite:

Seattle (swing version) by davermont

And some others:

With Or Without You (swing version) by davermont

Every Breath You Take (swing version) by TeeJay

Snow Leopard Chaos Subsides

Like a damn fool true fanboy I installed Apple’s Snow Leopard the day it came out. Sure, it was faster, and I liked the polishes they made to the user experience. But it broke a lot of things that made it possible for me to develop web sites on my laptop: MySQL, all my Perl modules, and the Ruby apps I use to track my To Do list (Tracks), and my projects (Redmine). I also lost the ability to print to my Canon laser printer, which I like cuz it does 2-sided printing. Also broken: Saft, iStatMenus, and Parallels, but I could get by without them (but did miss them).

Usually Google is my friend, but since it takes a few days for Google to catch up with people’s blog updates this time I turned to Twitter, and got up-to-the-second reports on people’s reactions to and fixes for Snow Leopard. MySQL turned out to be a quick fix, since it was just a broken symlink. After that my PHP scripts could once again connect to their databases, as could the Navicat app. But for the life of me I couldn’t get Perl’s DBI and DBD::mysql modules to work right, which meant a bunch of my older scripts weren’t working, and it made working on some of my older sites challenging in that I couldn’t test changes locally, I had to make them to the (gulp!) live site, which is hardly ever a good idea.

Every few days I’d search Twitter and Google for advice, and would try different things, but nothing would get Perl talking to the database 🙁

In the meantime I upgraded to Parallels 4.0 ($), which let me view my sites again under Internet Explorer. Since WinXP could still talk to the Canon printer I could print now if I saved to a PDF file, moved it over to Parallels and printed it there (ya, tedious, but at least it was possible). And new versions of iStatMenus (free!) and Saft ($) came out, so things were slowly returning to what we laughingly call normal here.

Labor Day (yesterday) was a down day that I used to finish digging the hole for the cob oven project (another post for another day), and I returned once again to my Perl/mySQL problem. Not a lot of people are using Perl anymore, or at least they’re not posting about their fixes for Snow Leopard, but all those hotshot Ruby kids kept saying they had to recompile the 64bit version of MySQL. Not wanting to break what was already working, I decided to try doing that on the family iMac and see if I could get Perl and MySQL working on it. Stock 64bit MySQL installed just fine, and I could talk to it over the command line. Good so far. I then installed the latest DBI and DBD::mysql modules using CPAN, which took a while but both installed with no problems (woohoo!). I created a small test table on the command line, then wrote a small Perl script to display all the records in it… and it worked!

Emboldened and embiggened, I then went over to the laptop, backed up all the mySQL databases, and removed all traces of mySQL from the computer. I then went thru the same steps as on the iMac; mySQL installed just fine, as did the DBI module, but DBD::mysql still refused to install. Desperate, I decided to copy the installed DBI and DBD::mysql modules from the iMac to the laptop, and after restarting Apache my perl scripts connected to mySQL just fine! Yes, it was a good day.

This morning for the heck of it I uninstalled all my Ruby Gems and reinstalled their 64bit versions, along with an updated passenger. After restarting Apache, Redmine once again started working! This is a very good thing, since I use it primarily as a GUI to the various Mercurial repositories I have for each of my web sites.

And a Google search for printer driver updates turned up a new driver which got my printer working again!

Jeezum, it’s like the morning of Aug 28, before I installed Snow Leopard! 🙂

Sailing on Schooner J&E Riggin

The last week of September 22 was a great time to sail on the historic schooner J&E Riggin out of Rockland, Maine. Captains John and Annie and their wonderful crew made sure we were safe, well-fed, and entertained.

This was the first time I’d gone sailing where Julie was on the crew, and it was a pleasure seeing her in her element, crawling along bow sprits, raising sails and hauling anchor with crewmates Moxie and Erica.

The crew encouraged us to help out if we wanted to, and patiently answered our questions. This trip I got to help raise the various sails, and to bring in the jib and staysail a couple times when we tacked. Lots of great fun.

Meals on the Riggin were hearty and delicious, cooked by Erica and Annie on the wood stove in the galley. Everything was homemade and “from scratch”, from the breads and soups and even the incredible chicken pot pies we had for one of the lunches! On Thursday we dropped anchor at the Eggemoggin Reach and had a lobster bake right on the beach. Amazingly enough with all that great food I only gained 3 pounds on the six-day sail.

This was my third sail on a schooner, and I’m already looking forward to the next time. If you’re considering a sail, I would highly recommend it!

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Echochrome Arrives Today

It’s not often that a totally different new game appears that just knocks my socks off. Back in the late 80s it was Tetris, a game that totally justified buying a GameBoy. A decade later it was Space Channel Five on the DreamCast. And a couple years ago it was Lumines on the PSP. And today a strange and wonderful little game called Echochrome will be released for the PSP.

Echochrome is a 3D game in a world with rules designed by M.C. Escher, where the laws of physics and perspective twist your brain in different directions, and perception is reality. In this world, if there’s a point of view where two unconnected things look like they line up, then they really do line up. For example, in the drawing below the stairs lead up to a beam that extends to the left, the end of which is obviously not connected to the L-shaped beam at the bottom of the stairs:


BUT! If you shifted your point of view up and to the right a bit, you could look down on the model, where the top and bottom beams look like they’re closer together:


Move just a wee bit more and you can get the two ends to line up exactly, and at that point magic happens in the game: they actually do connect, and one could easily walk from one beam to the other. From that point of view the model would be a continuous loop, where you could climb the stairs and walk back around to the stairs and climb them again, forever and ever.


These games of perspective and point of view are at the heart of may of Escher’s drawings and woodcuts, but to turn them into a playable game is shear genius. The game involves changing your point of view so that beams line up, gaps in beams are hidden behind other beams (if you can’t see a gap it doesn’t exist, and the little guy can walk right over it), and a guy falling thru a hole in a beam lands safely on a beam below it. The levels get complicated as you learn the rules of this world, pretty soon the levels start looking like this:


A demo of the game has been out for a while now, but it only offers a half dozen levels, but rumor has it the released game will have 56 levels. The game isn’t available yet, but then it’s not even 9am yet. Must… be… patient…

Watch the Echochrome trailer