Setting Up a Mac

Fixing mouse scroll direction, key bindings, setting up Exposé spaces, etc.

Installing Keynote, Numbers, and Pages plus any software previously purchased from the App Store.

Installing replacement browsers: Chrome, Firefox, and Brave, along with Xee and iTerm2 and Skim.

Installing MacPorts, then software starting with ImageMagick. Imagemagick because it’s a good test of everything working properly.

$ sudo port install imagemagick +graphviz -x11

Then adding some of my favorite utilities

$ sudo port install antiword bat colordiff exiftool jhead lame sox tree xz

$ sudo port install ffmpeg -x11

$ sudo port install nnn ranger

Then install software development languages: go, rust, and ruby. Follow them with some CLI utilities written in those languages:

$ cargo install broot cw du-dust dutree exa fd hexyl \
just lsd pastel ripgrep sd

$ go get -u github.com/gokcehan/lf

I wouldn’t take it gift-wrapped

Office 2016 for Mac now available as stand-alone software. I’ve been exposed to Office 2013/Windows, and to get anything done, I have to use Office 2011 on my Mac.

I wouldn’t even install Office 2016 on my Mac for $100 even if it left the old version intact. More likely, though, it clobbers the previous version. In that case, I’d only do it for the cost of a new computer—so I could throw out the old computer with Office 2016 on it.

Windows PC Start-up List

Download a copy of PC-Decrapifier (or Decrap) and Should I Remove It. (You’ll need to get other things from Ninite (below) but start by getting Revo Uninstaller in case you’re having trouble decrapifying something.)

Product Key Finder by Magical Jellybean.

From Ninite.com create installers for:

  • Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. You can’t have too many alternatives to Exploder.
  • Dropbox and Google Drive.
  • Notepad++, Python, WinSCP, Putty, and WinMerge
  • LibreOffice

vim and gow (Gnu on Windows) and maybe Cygwin.

Ruby Windows Installer.

pdftk

Telegram Desktop

MarkdownPad (or pay $15 and get Pro)

Be not slow to consult Alternative To.

And when you’re ready, make a backup image using Clonezilla. Or at least a system restore point.

Podcast Publication Date

A couple of weeks (months?) ago, my podcast feed quit including a publication date, and I couldn’t figure it until just the other day. The problem was that my publication tags looked like this:

<pubDate>Sun, 05 Apr 2015 19:18:25 AKDT</pubDate>

but that won’t validate. It never has, but something must have changed in Apple land (either on their servers, or in iTunes) to make the times quit working.

The problem is that AKDT isn’t a RFC-822 compliant time zone. (It assumes that time zones in North America have names that are 3-character strings.) Instead you have to use ‘-0800’. (AKST isn’t compliant either, so you have to use ‘-0900’.)

<pubDate>Fri, 10 Apr 2015 10:24:15 -0800</pubDate>

Tech Links

LinuxUser (UK): Create a NAS box from spare parts.

Ars: Intel’s Broadwell mini-PC. I love the form factor. But then, I’ve owned three Mac Minis.

I keep thinking I should learn the R language. Of course, I used to think that about GnuPlot.

HowToForge: Installing Git and Using GitHub on Ubuntu.

GSoC: SciRuby. There’s a program I’d love to rewrite 20 years later using a high-level language to do the Fast Fourier Transforms. I’m not sure what I’d use for the GUI.

Web UpD8: Install the official Telegram client for Linux.

 

 

 

 

Problems with ObamaCare

Quite apart from the wisdom of interfering with great swaths of the economy to create new entitlements, there is the practical matter of making it work. And that’s proving to be a problem for people working on the Obamacare web site at HealthCare.gov:

The better way to do things is a school of software development called Agile — it’s been around since the 1950s, was basically codified in the early 2000s, now has a whole non-profit devoted to it, and is the dominant form of software design in teams. Rather than moving from one static stage to the next, it emphasizes constant iteration and testing, with prototypes building on prototypes so the endpoint is something that works. The only problem, from a government perspective, is that you need to be comfortable with not knowing exactly that they will look like.

Yes. Just because a type of software development got us to the moon (back when 1K of RAM was a lot) doesn’t mean it’s the right approach to use in the 1990s. Or especially the 2010’s.

That’s one lesson from software development. Here are some others:

1) avoid building centralized systems. The mainframe has given way to minicomputers and PCs then a client-server world and now a web of devices, browsers, and various types of service providers. Web 2.0, baby.

Where does a centralized “Five Year Plan” approach to governing fit in a world of decentralized independent actors?

2) have the right type of abstraction. A spinning metal disk has nothing in common with a USB stick nor with an internet connection, but I can save a file on any one of them with the same program. That’s because there is an abstraction called a file system, and my word processor doesn’t really care what the hardware looks like: it can be silicon, magnetic disks, or something in the cloud. Software drivers for each type of hardware present a common interface that makes them all look the same to the word processor.

A centralized approach to governing doesn’t permit there to be appropriate abstractions. A mix of federal, state, and local governments, with large and small commercial and nonprofit organizations, allows you to have abstraction. Each one does what it needs to do and only that.

Software Update

In the mid-1990’s I worked for a telecommunications firm that was trying to make a set top box for interactive television. (This was even as the internet was exploding. Read Michael Lewis’ The Next Next Thing to find out what the “B Team” was working on.) One of the things I spent a lot of time on was “software update.” We needed a way to securely update the operating software in the device, and we wanted to do it while connected to our network, because the cost to roll a truck and have a technician do it was prohibitive.

A few years later, I was working for a different company trying to innovate in the electrical power industry. (I know, it was hopeless. But I was young and naive.) Anyway, we had the exact same problem: securely updating the software in a networked device. It’s a problem that’s fraught with difficulties.

As it happens, both of those ventures flamed out, so I never got to be part of solving that problem. But this morning, as I was eating my oatmeal, I saw that someone else seems to be doing it:

iphone-software-update

Not only solved, but untethered. Yay Apple.

Audio Editors

One of the things I do every week is turn a recording of my sermon for the week into a podcast. (Find them here and in these archives.) That’s a pretty complicated process, so some people just upload the audio file to a hosting service that does the rest.

But getting the audio file is the part I wanted to talk about, because I just bought a new waveform editor, and I wanted to post my impressions and some very subjective reviews of the alternatives I considered.

For years, I’ve used Amadeus by HairerSoft. I like it and it has all the features I need. It has a great many more features than I need, for that matter. One of its many features is the ability to check for upgrades. That’s great as long as they’re free minor upgrades. Sometime about six (?) months ago, however, it came out with a non-free major upgrade, and the upgrade-check software gives me an obnoxious dialog that says “Cancel” where it ought to say “Not now” or “Maybe later.” So that’s been bugging me.

Unfortunately, they wanted $40 to upgrade. Now, that’s a fair price to pay even if there aren’t any new features. I’d be happy paying $40 every two or three years, just to keep them in business issuing the minor fixes for new OS compatibility or whatever.

So why “unfortunately?” I say “unfortunately” because they also sell a non-upgrade version on the Apple App store, and that’s the one I wanted. I really like the App store, not least because it means I can install the software on either of my Macs, because App store apps work on up to five (?) machines.

But there’s no way to get the upgrade pricing on the App store. Sigh. That meant I had to think about what I was doing. I hate when that happens.

There are three or maybe five competitors to Amadeus:

Garageband. This actually might do the trick. I just don’t want to go to the trouble of figuring out how to use it for a podcast.

Logic Pro. Like Garageband but more so, and with a $200 price tag.

Audacity. A great price plus the joy that comes of using an open source app. The problem is, the user experience on a Mac isn’t what I would like. (To be fair, I can’t even remember what it is that I didn’t like. Maybe they wanted you to use X11. Not happening.)

WavePad by NCH. This is an interesting piece of software: beside the Mac, it’s available not only for Windows but for iOS (iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch). What I liked: explicit support for 24-bit sound files. What I didn’t like: it’s not as quick as Amadeus. That matters when you’re working with 800 MB .wav files.

Fission by Rogue Amoeba. Like: the name, especially for a company with “Amoeba” in its name. The feature set seemed pretty slimmed down compared to WavePad and Amadeus, but enough to do my work. Interestingly, it offered an envelope feature.

Ultimately, it came down to price. WavePad has a free version, but the paid version was more than my budget. I went with the upgrade to Amadeus, since it was the same price as Fission.

P.S. While I’m writing this, I should mention Levelator. It is why I don’t know all the cool features in Amadeus or need them in Fission/WavePad/what-have-you. You drop an audio file into it, and it levels out the sound a lot better than I could.

P.P.S. One of the things I should look for is the ability set the ID3 tags. I didn’t even think to look when I was comparing the editing features, but once I got done and purchased the upgrade, I wanted (for the 100th time) to set iTunes-recognized ID3 tags for the podcast. You can do that within iTunes but you have to round-trip it through there to do so. I’d like something that I don’t have to add to my iTunes library. All my favorite preacherssermon podcasts have nice ID3 tags, but I’m too lazy to do it right.

Useful Tools

Since I’ve been setting up a new computer, I’ve had the opportunity to think about the apps I use. I don’t have time or energy to put together a comprehensive list, but here are a few of my “can’t-live-with-them” apps.

Mac Mini at Work

Chrome (and the iReader extension), Safari, and Opera. Chrome is my main browser, but sometimes I need to work in two Google accounts at the same time. Then I fire up Safari. On very rare occasions I need a third online personality; when I do, I break out Opera. I also have Firefox, of course, but I hardly ever use it.

Xee and Skim. Macs come with Preview.app, which is fine, so far as it goes. It will let you open pretty much any type of image file. But it won’t let you go through a folder full of them in a hurry. That’s where Xee comes in. A side benefit of Xee is that it won’t screw up the EXIF data in your image files. Preview.app is fine for reading (and minor editing of) PDF files, too. But the user interface gets more bizarre with each release of Mac OS X. With Lion, I officially declare it a mess, and use Skim unless there’s a compelling reason to use Preview.app.

MacVim. Some people prefer Emacs or TextMate or BareBones BBEdit or TextEdit or whatever, but they’re wrong. Vi is right. MacVim is the best Mac implementation of VIM. Having said that, TextWrangler is a pretty awesome free-as-in-beer editor from BareBones software. It almost makes me want to try out BareBones’ BBEdit. I find TextWrangler especially helpful in converting text from one format to another.

NodeBox (and its derivatives, Nodebox 2 and Nodebox for OpenGL) are “generative design” applications. I’m not sure what that means, but whatever it is, it includes being able to write small programs to draw pictures. (Think of this as the modern equivalent of the venerable pic(1) and grap(1) programming languages. See also Graphviz.)

Handbrake and VLC. Handbrake is how I make backups of my DVDs. VLC is like the DVD Player application that comes with a Mac, except VLC works and it doesn’t crash all the time. How it does captioning isn’t the prettiest, I admit. On the other hand, it not only permits you to take screen captures, it provides a feature of its own to do it. I wish VLC remembered where you quit watching a DVD, but you can’t have everything.

MacPorts. Can’t live with them. Can’t imagine life without them. Therein lies the relevant conundrum. The HomeBrew project might ultimately supplant MacPorts, but I’m nervous about its install location. I’ve tried Fink, but not lately.