Desk Reorganization With Snapshots

I did a little reorganization in my office today and took some snapshots. I’ve been trying to find a more ergonomic place to put my keyboard and mouse since my desk is a bit high for my chair, and doesn’t have a keyboard tray. Instead of trying to install one, I got a “Dave” laptop table from IKEA for $20 and am using that instead. I actually like this better since the table is adjustable, and while I’m planning to phase out the desk soon, the table will still be useful around the house. I’m also pretty stoked on how much desk space I freed up.

DeskDesk and ChairDesk 2

The CueCat

Brent Simmons — “Each Generation is Doomed to Reinvent the CueCat”:

Here’s the thing about the CueCat: it wasn’t that the hardware sucked, it’s that people aren’t going to scan things to go to a web page.

I’ve never heard of the Cue Cat, but the Wikipedia article is fascinating to me in that I’m pretty sure you could actually replace every instance of “Cue Cat” with “QR Code”, and it would still be pretty accurate. I’m yet to see any person in real life scanning a QR code even though I see them everywhere.

Putting Duck Duck Go in the Safari Search Bar

Ever since Google started prioritizing Google+ in search results, I’ve been courting new search engines. I tried Bing, which was fine, but the aesthetics of it really weren’t pleasing to me. More recently I’ve been using Duck Duck Go, and I like it pretty well. It has a more minimal look that I prefer, and the search results have so far been pretty good. I can access Duck Duck Go easily from within Alfred1, but I also use the search box in Safari a lot, which only has options for Google, Yahoo! and Bing. The suggestion I heard the most was to edit your hosts file in order to replace Yahoo! with Duck Duck Go, but that wasn’t super appealing to me.

The solution I liked a lot more was to install an app called Glims, which adds all sorts of functionality to your search bar as well as add other search engines. I’m running the latest version of Safari and it works great. I actually found out about it on Duck Duck Go’s Safari support page, so I was surprised I hadn’t seen it mentioned elsewhere.


  1. I made my Alfred shortcut ddg since it’s easier to type than duck

Got My Tactile Pro

UPS just dropped off the Matias Tactile Pro I ordered from OWC. I’m going to write a full post about it in a couple of days, but my initial impressions are:

  • Bigger and feels more solid than I thought imagined.
  • Not nearly as reminiscent of the Apple Pro Keyboard as I was afraid it would be.
  • It’s going to take a day or two to get used to the different layout after using the Apple Wireless Keyboard for so long.
  • Even louder than I thought it would be.

If nothing else — it seems fun. It really is kind of satisfying to get some tactile feedback when you hit a key.

Dyson DC35 Digital Slim Review

I’m terrible at cleaning my house, especially vacuuming. I came to a realization that the only way for me to stay on top of this is to lower the friction as much as possible. Up until now I’ve had a a big bulky thing that I bought a while back. It has a filter that must be replaced and re-purchased every so often, is heavy enough to make me not want to bring it up or down stairs, loud enough I don’t want to run it at night (I have attached neighbors) and dirty to clean. So the friction has been pretty high. My solution yesterday afternoon was to purchase a Dyson DC35 Digital Slim. I like it so much I decided to do something I normally wouldn’t: write a review of a vacuum cleaner.

Dyson DC35 Digital Slim

The Digital Slim is a lightweight cordless vacuum by Dyson that can be held in one hand and can be used either as a handheld or floor vacuum (by removing or using the included aluminum tube) It doesn’t seem to pick up any less (more, actually) than my old vacuum, and being cordless is means I can use it for the car as well. I also enjoy that it sort of looks like something from Doctor Who.

The battery lasts for about 15 minutes (which is a lot longer than it sounds), and can be recharged in about three hours. One of the things I really wanted in a new vacuum was for it to not have a filter that had to be re-purchased occasionally; the filter in the DC35 pulls out easily, only needs to be rinsed once every four weeks, and never needs to be replaced. I was able to vacuum my entire house (about 1200 ft²) in that amount of time. I was also able to get into places I never could before, due to its size, the floor attachment being able to turn 90˚ and because it’s easy bend down and extend the tube under things (e.g., the bed or couch).

It might seem a bit expensive at $329, but I was tired of friction, dirt and things that didn’t work well. I consider my time to valuable to waste on cheap appliances. It’s light and easy enough to move around, so I feel no obstacle to taking 5 minutes to clean up, and my floors are cleaner for it. If you live in an apartment or moderate sized house it can definitely be used as your only vacuum and I recommend it for that. Buy it using one of the links in this article and I’ll get a small referral fee from Amazon.

Mechanical Keyboard Decision Making

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been obsessing over getting a mechanical keyboard. Mechanical keyboards are “clickier,” provide more tactile feedback and don’t need to be fully pressed down to register a key. Most modern keyboards use rubber domes instead of mechanical key switches, which are cheaper and quieter, but pretty much worse in every other way. Because you don’t need to depress the keys as far to register a press, mechanical keyboards should theoretically cause less hand strain, and since most of what I do all day is type, anything that could make for a more enjoyable, less RSI inducing experience is worth looking into.

Although I’ve been aware of mechanical keyboards for about four years, I never bought one because I’m not really old enough to have fond memories of the best mechanical keyboards from the past, like the Apple Extended and IBM Model M. Also they’re not cheap.

The two mechanical keyboards I’ve been considering are the Matias Tactile Pro, and the new Das Keyboard model with a Mac layout. I’ve considered the Tactile Pro before, but the second version didn’t get the greatest reviews and had a really ugly sticker across the top of it. Version three has been out for a while, gotten good reviews, and did away with the branding on the keyboard. The Das Keyboard model I’m looking at is just now becoming available with a Mac layout, but has gotten good reviews in the past.

The primary difference I’ve looked at between these two is the use of different key switches. The Matias uses a version of Alps simple white key switches (similar to the Apple Extended), where the Das uses MX Cherry Blue key switches (common in mechanical keyboards on the market today). Both types work differently, and so they give each keyboard a different feel when pressing keys.

If you want to get a sense for what the Das Keyboard might be like, you can maybe find another keyboard that uses the same key switches at your local Best Buy, or other big box electronics retailer, branded as a gaming keyboard. The one that I found was the ridiculously named “Razer BlackWidow Ultimate,” which wasn’t on display but had a cut out where the arrow keys are to let you tap on. If you’ve never used a mechanical keyboard, it’s worth doing just to get a feel for how much different they really are.

In the end, I decided to order the Tactile Pro mostly because it was hard to find a keyboard I could try that used the same Alps key switches, so if I got the Das I’d still wonder about it and end up ordering both1). I’ve also heard good things about the Apple Extended keyboards, and it was on sale at OWC. I should get it soon, so I’ll post my impressions once I’ve spent some time getting used to it.


  1. I’ll still end up ordering both. 

Take Control of BBEdit

The people at TidBITS have released the latest in their Take Control series of books — “Take Control of BBEdit,” and it’s only $5. I haven’t gotten into the content yet, but I skimmed over the chapter list and it looks good. BBEdit has become an essential part of my development and writing workflows. BBEdit is my primary writing environment, what I mostly used for creating this sites theme (and the Albina Development site), how I manage project documents, write scripts and probably some other stuff I’m forgetting. If you don’t have BBEdit, I recommend grabbing the demo, and then getting this book.

Photos Edited Using iPhoto for iPad

I edited a few pictures from the last few days using iPhoto for iPad and posted them to my Flickr. I took them using a Panasonic GF2, with a 20mm Panasonic lens. All of them looked slightly underexposed, especially the one of my guinea pig, and needed the white balance adjusted. The auto white balance feature using skin tones, or white points works great. This is one of the most impressive, and genuinely useful apps I’ve seen on the iPad yet.

photo Mooby in Her Cage Coffee Cup

Immodest Predictions

Gruber asks, “What would it take for the iPad 3 to be deemed an immodest update?”:

But if a faster processor, more RAM, a double-the-resolution retina display, a better camera, and maybe even LTE networking make for a “modest” update, then what would it take for the iPad 3 to be deemed an immodest update? A fusion energy source? Teleportation? A camera that sees into the future?

So with that, in mind my predictions are as follows:

  • Double as a multi-dimensional gateway, ala Sliders. I expect this feature to be released in beta, so like Sliders, it will lack the ability to choose your destination.
  • In the maybe category, a quantum leap accelerator. The part of Ziggy will be played by Siri.

Ownership

Over the past week I’ve moved away completely from the template-based hosting service I was using, to creating by hand both a new site for my company, and a custom WordPress theme for this blog. I created both in Coda and BBEdit using nothing but HTML and CSS1, which I needed to learn a lot more about to do what I wanted2. Neither site is the most sophisticated example of web site creation imaginable, but I’m very pleased with how far I’ve gotten in the amount of time I’ve spent.

Previously I’d been using Squarespace for both sites. I would recommend Squarespace for anyone looking for that kind of template based system and isn’t very comfortable mucking around in a text editor. I thought I might be that way when it comes to web sites for a while, but I’m really not. I love the opportunity to feel unencumbered in my creativity, and to learn new things, to much. The only technical problems I really had is that I wanted it to work better with MarsEdit and Markdown than it did.

The real reason I switched was to own more of my sites, create them using the tools I want and understand what went into them.

I think there’s value in owning the things you make and not being afraid to get your hands dirty with something you’re not yet comfortable with. You’ll probably find out it’s less intimidating than you imagined once you scratch the surface — creating a WordPress theme, for example, was much easier than I thought it would be.

I don’t mean that everyone needs to literally create from scratch every part of what they make. When I say own, I mean taking responsibility for the things you put into the world and making them the best they can be. Every person should pick the level of dirty they need to get to feel ownership.

I thought I wanted to be as hands off as possible when it came to my websites — and I was wrong — but for a lot of people using something like a Squarespace or WordPress.com site is perfect and empowers them in a different way. I also could have rolled my own static blogging engine3, but didn’t feel a strong enough desire to take things that direction. The thing that no one should be is afraid to challenge themselves or settle for a level of ownership below what makes them satisfied. After all, learning and creating new things is a lot of fun.


  1. I edited some PHP too, which was mostly just tweaking what was there already. 

  2. I wasn’t starting from zero, but I did have to really grow my understanding of CSS. 

  3. Played a bit with creating a blog system using Python — and I still might go that direction eventually — but felt that WordPress had some desirable benefits, and also allowed me to get off the ground quicker.