Using Alfred to manage tasks

Recent updates to Alfred (my earlier post here) have greatly enhanced its capabilities to run local scripts and extensions. I’ve long used the Journal Tasks TextMate bundle in conjunction with geektool to manage and display a small to-do list in one corner of my OS X desktop, and now with Alfred I can instantly add items to that list. Quite slick.

Here’s the task list viewed in TextMate: Simple and no frills.

quick list textmate

And geektool displays it on the desktop using a bit of awk:

awk '!/@done/' ~/DropBox/SimpleText/Quick\ List.taskpaper

quick list desktop

I’ve set up an Alfred extension to add to the list using the “do” command:

alfred quicklist

The command in Alfred looks like this:

perl -p -i -e 's/^Quick List:\n/Quick List:\n\n- {query}/' ~/Dropbox/SimpleText/Quick\ List.taskpaper; growlnotify -m "Added item to quicklist"

It finds the header for the appropriate part of the list, and inserts the query passed to it at the top of the list. (Update paths as appropriate; I keep my quick list file in my DropBox folder.)

Growl provides a nice visual confirmation that the item has been added. I still have to open the file in TextMate to mark items as @done and periodically expunge completed items, but it’s great to be able to effortlessly add to the list.

The entire Alfred extension is at github.

MacHeist 3

The MacHeist 3 bundle is only available through April 7th, so if you’ve thought about it and haven’t made up your mind — or are just now hearing about it for the first time — well it’s time to decide.

This year’s MacHeist currently includes, for the low-low-edge-of-your-seat price of $39, OS X applications like Acorn (lightweight complement to PhotoShop, scriptable with Python, cool) and World of Goo. Total bundle value according to MacHeist is over $600.

So amble on over and check it out.

Good Apps: 1Password

1Password is a password manager for OSX that performs smart form completion in your web browser. In the not-quite-a-year since I bought it, I’ve used it, in one way or another, just about every day. To make a long story short, it’s made simple, easy work of everything I do that involves a web password, login, or account information. And in that year, the software has only become more capable, adding increasingly simple syncing and great support for iPod/iPhone.

In a nutshell, here’s what 1Password does: It pays attention to the web forms you fill out — the login at the power company, for example — and, if you give the word, saves the information you enter into that form to a password-protected keychain (it knows when you’re filling out a new form, and prompts you for the okay to save it). Later, when you return to that form, logging in is as simple as a quick tap of a keyboard command: hit cmd-\ and 1Password fills in and submits the form, and boom there you are looking at your power bill, without any looking up your account number or anything.

I’m not using the power bill example for nothing. Paying bills is where, for me, the huge payoff of this app is: By removing all the overhead of looking up logins (finding the last bill for the account number or something), 1Password has massively reduced the overhead of managing my bills. See, it doesn’t just save your logins, it keeps a list that helps you to manage them. From that list it’s two clicks to select and log in to any given form, so checking all my statements, bills, and accounts is a simple matter of scrolling through the list and opening up any accounts that I think I might need to check. To check my credit card, for example, I used to have to pull out the card and type in the number, which inevitably took place on a sunday morning in the wintertime when I’m wearing my slippers and it’s snowing. The mental process was something like, “where’s my wallet? Oh, the briefcase. Wait, it’s still in the car. And the car is in the driveway with six inches of snow on it. I’ll do that later.”

And now? I skim the list in 1Password, click the name and then click the web form login to check my balance, make a payment — for every single bill or account I have. It’s too easy, so I just check in that Verizon bill any time I wonder how I’m doing. And about every three weeks I just run down the list and check all the accounts that involve money. Honestly, it’s awesome.

And of course it handles all those logins for social networking, webmail, my usermin control panel, mailing lists, and so forth. In fact, I let 1Password store just about every single login I have; when it’s so easy to save with the app, why take up any mental space with keeping a login that might be a one-off, after all? And beyond passwords, it keeps all kinds of other information, making it able to smartly fill in things like credit card payment forms. Further, it saves other “wallet” items (like passport numbers) and “smart notes” (ssh passwords).

With the mobile 1Password app for iPhone/iPod Touch, all of this information is accessible on the go. Agile built a web browser that’s highly — but not perfectly — functional for most uses, and it lives inside the app where it accesses your login information directly. Previously, Agile had built a wonky workaround to make that information accessible via a Mobile Safari bookmarklet that synced via Safari bookmarks to the iPod/iPhone. I have to admit that I’m still pretty fond of this approach, and although 1Password doesn’t update the bookmarklet any longer (removed for security reasons?), they can pry that bookmarklet from my cold dead hands. For one thing, Wells Fargo doesn’t like their browser one bit, recommending that I install Safari for Panther instead.

Multiple Macs? 1Password can deal. Just sync your 1Password keychain (either the OSX keychain or the new “Agile Keychain” format) and you’re good to go. For the past ten months, I used Unison to handle this syncing, but just recently switched to Dropbox, and it works like a charm to keep everything updated on both my current machines.

Finally (I know, I know), the single time I’ve needed to contact the folks at Agile for some tech support, they were on the issue promptly and responded personally. Nice.

What doesn’t 1Password do? It’s a short list. Logins for some sites — for my account with ING, and my mortgage account, for example — just elude its ability to detect and autocomplete. So it’s not perfect on that score, but it’s awfully good. Update Oct 25: Thanks to Carl at Agile Web Solutions, I have an answer to at least one of those tricky sites. Thanks, Carl! And I would love if it were capable of filling in items in Terminal, like those ssh passwords, but I think the devs have wisely focused on making it speak smartly to web browsers instead of a longer list of apps.

So. 1Password is really, really good stuff. Check it out.

Good Apps: Instapaper

It only took a few minutes with the free version of Instapaper on the iPod to make it quite clear that this is one app worth paying for.

Marco Arment sums up the app better than I can:

Instapaper facilitates easy reading of long text content.

We discover web content throughout the day, and sometimes, we donít have time to read long articles right when we find them.

Instapaper allows you to easily save them for later, when you do have time, so you donít just forget about them or skim through them.

Simply and straightforwardly, Instapaper works in conjunction with a simple web interface to download articles or blog posts — or anything else that the handy bookmarklet can save — to your iPhone/iPod Touch, making them available offline for reading whenever the time and mood strikes.

Unlike altogether too many App Store applications, Marco offers a free version of Instapaper along-side the “Pro” version, which means that it’s easy to test out the app without making a commitment. Before a trip to Dallas a few weeks ago, I downloaded the full-featured free version and loaded it up with maybe a dozen long-ish blog posts and some other things I have been meaning to read. This process is about as simple as it gets: Click the “Read Later” bookmarklet to save any article to your Instapaper account, and then sync the Instapaper app to that account. The app will download both web- and text-only versions of the article and save them to the iPod. Later, on the plane or between meetings at that wifi-unfriendly hotel lounge, just open up Instapaper and there you find the articles:

instapaper screenshot

Open one up and read away. (Instapaper Pro even saves your position so you can come and go from long articles easily)

instapaper screenshot

Since it’s a bookmarklet, you can sync Mobile Safari on your Pod/Phone and flag things for later reading while you’re on the go, as well. And since the backend of Instapaper provides a web service, you can also read and manage all those articles from any web browser.

The Pro version does have some nice added features that are worth the $10 purchase price. But what makes Instapaper truly worth the money is that the developer has, in my mind, made precisely the kind of app that’s worth supporting.

Photography: Hitchhiker's Guide to Lightroom

I spend a lot of time in Lightroom 2 these days. I’m nobody’s pro, but I shoot a lot of photos, and after having used Lightroom (and now Lightroom 2) for a while now, I think I have a pretty good, simple, enthusiast-style workflow sorted out. I’ll summarize the workflow itself (importing through working up images) in follow-up post. Here are a few general tips that seem to work well for me:

Essentials, or Stuff I use constantly: I use Picks and keywords extensively. Reviewing newly-imported photos, I mark anything that I like right off the bat as a Pick by simply hitting shift-P as I scan through the gallery (and shift-X to immediately mark others as rejects; the shift modifier will mark the current photo and move on to the next shot). As I revisit a set of shots later, I find myself repeating this process; while those subsequent passes primarily identify further Rejects, I do occasionally find more Picks after starting to work up other photos. After each pass through a gallery, I use cmd-DELETE to remove (and delete) all the Rejects.

This has been a nice insight for my process: It means that I am fairly conservative when it comes to Rejects. That is, I don’t mark as Rejected 1) unless a photo is obviously bad (bad focus, blur, composition I really dislike, etc.) OR 2) until I’ve spent some time on photos in a set that I do like right from the get-go. This frequently helps give me a sense for appealing qualities of photos that I might not have noticed or thought of initially.

With a gallery through at least a first pass of identifying Picks and Rejects, I apply keywords. As with many aspects of processing photos, Lightroom has lots of ways to do this. There’s a jobber called Keyword Painting that I don’t use, because it’s always been much faster to simply select sets of photos and then apply keywords to the selection. In Lightroom 2, cmd-K focuses on the keyword entry box, which will auto-complete as you type. Lightroom 2 also has “recommended keywords” functionality, so that as keywords are assigned to a photo or set of photos, a new set of co-occurring keywords is identified and displayed for easy additional assignment.

Although I like to use a large-ish image preview (hit = to increase the size of preview images in the gallery grid) for screening for Picks and Rejects, for keywords I like to shrink the grid size (keyboard shortcut -). This fits more images into the grid and allows me to select larger sets for group assignment of keywords.

Lightroom allows for keywords to be nested, and there’s a great shortcut for accomplishing this: When entering keywords, separate child from parent keywords with a > sign: flickers > birds, for example, or burgers > food.

Simplifying, or Things I don’t use in Lightroom: Beyond keywording, Lightroom has at least a trio of way to identify and categorize photos: You can flag photos as Picks, label them with colors, and rate them with zero through five stars. I don’t use colors or stars at all. They may be highly useful for some situations, but they just clutter the cognitive space where I think about my photos: “Is this a three-star green photo, or a four-star blue one?” So except in the rarest circumstances, I haven’t yet found a use for ratings and color labels.

Indispensable keyboard shortcuts: There are grundles of these, but the shortcuts I use all the time are:

  • G, E, D: Gallery, Editor, and Develop modes
  • P: Mark as Pick (modify with shift)
  • X: Mark as Reject (modify with shift)
  • cmd-delete: Remove Rejects (optionally delete from disk)
  • cmd-K: Assign keywords
  • W: Jump to White Balance selector in Develop mode
  • R: Crop tool in Develop mode
  • J: Show clipped darks and highlights (Developer only; in gallery, changes display of thumbnails)
  • L: Cycle the lights (view on black)
  • tab/shift-tab: reveal/hide menu panels

Next time: The library filter, file organization, workflow, and Lightroom+Flickr?

Text editors have more fun

When was the last time Microsoft Office gave you a holiday treat? TextMate gets all dressed up for Halloween.

textmate's halloween icon

More photos at flickr.

Steel cage

On the matter of Mac wifi security, John Gruber throws down.

Kip/Yep PDF library

This is a pretty cool tool: Kip is basically a nice, iPhoto-like interface to a library of PDFs. It includes a tagging system and supports a scanner for adding all those bits of paper that you think you might want to keep but don’t want to put in a file box—So it could act like a sort of Delicious Library for receipts, correspondence, etc. Well, if I had a scanner. As an added bonus, it syncs with .Mac, too. That’s pretty cool. If it did BibTex—for instance, could read my BibDesk library—then it would be way cool.

(zooooomr)—You get a little preview window, with tags, when you mouseover a PDF.

Update: Kip is now called Yep, and will cost $50 when September rolls around.

Quicksilver's a gem

Did you know that any files you pull up in a Quicksilver window can be grabbed with the mouse and whipped into another window? Slick, and frequently quite a bit faster than either using the finder or tabbing through deeper Quicksilver windows to attach a file to email or move it around in the filesystem.


Also, I linked this a few days back, but I continue to be more happy than I probably ought to be with the ability to make my Quicksilver bezel a nice blue color. So I thought I’d mention it again.

My mostly-good MacBook

There is good news about the MacBook, and there is bad news about the MacBook. The good news is that in ten days of use I haven’t seen any of the extreme heat or moo-noise issues that are making the rounds on the complain-a-rama forums. Instead, I have had a solid week+ of perfect performance: It’s fast (I put 2GB of RAM in it), quiet, not unreasonably hot (no more so on the lap than the Toshiba it is replacing), has a keyboard that takes a bit of getting used to but is quite nice to work with, and the screen is slick: A nice wide aspect ratio, clear and sharp. It’s light enough to carry around for a twenty-minute walk from one’s hotel to a coffee shop or campus.

And until the last few days, I would have noted that the build quality is excellent. I was going to say that the laptop has a bit of heft, but it’s a solid, comfortable-feeling piece of equipment. And so we come to the bad news: It’s still largely solid, but the bezels around the keyboard and the screen have some warp—whether it was there when I received the MacBook or developed over the past week of (relatively light) use, I’m not sure. But it’s certainly there now. I’ve posted a few photos.

Manufacturing defect? Purely cosmetic? Something that represents a heat-related issue? Something that will get worse? I don’t know. On one hand, it strikes me as a mostly but not entirely cosmetic issue, and I hate to be That Guy who gets all cranky when his laptop gets a scrape. But I’m concerned that this represents a defect that could come back and cost me more time/money/effort in the future. And the nice people on the phone at Apple did indicate that it’s something that they can remedy, so as much as I don’t want to give up my otherwise-perfectly-functioning LovelyBook, I’m going to ship it on home for a checkup.

If it comes back mooing, I’m gonna be pissed.


Update: Apple has a pretty slick mail-in repair program, with just two potential issues: 1) They seem to have forgotten to put my pickup order in the system the first time around, and 2) They should probably put the number to notify DHL that you’re ready for them to pickup the box, on something other than the invoice that you seal up inside of the box. Just sayin’. Folks need that number, and it’s all taped up inside the box.

Collective action and the MacZOT

MacZOT offers discounts on various Mac applications to limited numbers of purchsers, sometimes via bundles of secret applications for a reduced price. In doing so, they apparently generate enough buzz for themselves and the applications to make some money. Today, MacZOT is running their second BlogZOT—BlogZOT 2.0, as they like to call it. It’s kind of an interesting exercise in collective action. When a sufficient number of bloggers post about today’s offering—the mac editor SubEthaEdit from CodingMonkeys—then MacZOT drops the price from its discounted price to zero. Yes, zero. They’ll give away a limited number of licenses for nothing. Each blog entry drops the price by a nickel, until the price reaches zero, at which point MacZOT and TheCodingMonkeys will award $105,000 in software; that’s 3,000 free licenses to SubEthaEdit.

It’s kind of a neat gig, for a neat editor: I’ve tooled around with SubEthaEdit, and its neatest feature is its collaborative editing, which allows multiple users to simultaneously edit the same document, to compose meeting or conference notes, code in parallel, etc. If you’re looking for a neat text editor or are interested in how this kind of giveaway works, consider giving BLOGZOT 2.0 on a try.

Jumping Ship: Moving from emacs to TextMate

Update: Not quite ready to give up all the nice authoring features of emacs, I built, with some tinkering, a reftex-style citation command for the TextMate/LaTeX bundle. It has since been incorporated into the main LaTeX bundle.

Update: The Sweave bundle is updated as of Oct 5 2006. Thanks to Haris for the contributions and improvements.

Yesterday I linked to a screencast that shows off some the neat things that one can do with the math bundle in TextMate. TextMate continues to get better, and it has become my primary editor on OSX. Kieran posted a comment about TextMate’s relative lack of functionality with regard to LaTeX and R:

I was looking into TextMate but its latex and R support is still fairly basic — there’s no real equivalent to auctex/reftex’s functionality, and the R bundle is rudimentary. This is a pity, as it seems like a really powerful environment, and for some time I’ve been looking for a way to escape from Emacs and use an OS X native, modern editor/IDE. Maybe soon.

Kieran is right in part: Auctex and Reftex are excellent additions to emacs and TextMate can’t yet match them. But it does offer some nice advantages over emacs, so I thought I’d write up a few thoughts on my transition to TextMate and the ways I’ve found to compensate for no longer having access to my beloved C-c C-c RET.

Why switch

OS X is a pleasant working environment, and even builds of emacs that are meant to fit nicely in that environment still don’t feel native. Aquamacs is one such attempt. For brand new users of emacs, Aquamacs may be a good tool, but for those of us with pre-existing byzantine .emacs files, Aquamcs adds a whole additional level of confusion by changing keybindings and introducing a whole new set of configuration options. Despite all the attempts to make it more modern, setting one’s typeface in the editor remains a frustrating exercise. My machine is relatively modern and speedy, and emacs still takes a good long time to load fully, even after pruning unnecessary cruft from my config file. And once loaded, there are just enough interface differences to be jarring: scroll bars, for example, are something that most emacs builds have never really sorted out. It’s 2006; can I please get a scroll bar that works the same way as every other scroll bar on my machine?

It’s not about bling, however. As projects such as my dissertation grew in size — multiple data, LaTeX, R, and Sweave files spread around the place — the organization of all that material started to occupy an increasing chunk of my cognitive space. “Where’s file goober, and how is it related to file data?” Although emacs handles lots of files just brilliantly, and switching between them is a snap if you’ve loaded the right iswitch-b package, it doesn’t help much with the organization end of things. That was my real original incentive to switch: I wanted my software to take a little of the load off of my brain, and perhaps to do it a little more quickly.

Finally, switching is a nice opportunity to review the way I get work done and think conscientiously about how to improve. On the flip side, it’s also a nice way to structurally procrastinate.

Why not switch?

Emacs is powerful. It can read email, browse the web, make a fully-functional wiki right on your desktop, and, on those occasions when appropriate, it can edit text files with championship ability. It is a mature working environment with brilliant integration with LaTeX, BibTeX, and R. Just using it can make one feel like a ninja, albeit a meek, deskbound one with rapidly deteriorating vision and nascent repetetive stress disorder in the wrists. As Kieran commented, nothing quite approaches the combination of AucTeX and RefTeX. I’m still reaching for those key-bindings that, alas, don’t work in TextMate no matter how many times I C-c [ them.

Built-in magic

TextMate immediately addressed my core reason to switch with its handling of projects. It has a project drawer into which you can simply drag files and folders, create separators, and arbitrarily organize them all. It seems like a small thing, but the ability to see all the files that comprise a project, and then navigate them easily, is something that’s a) really important in order to have a clear sense of what I’m working on, and b) remarkably difficult in emacs.




Navigating those files is easy, as well: You can find and click in the project list, switch tabs with the keyboard, or hit cmd-T to bring up a file browser that finds files as you type: “cmt-T cl” narrows the list to those files that match the pattern “cl.” It pretty nicely approximates the autocompletion of switching buffers in emacs.


Many pieces loosely joined

TextMate is, like emacs, extensible almost to the point of absurdity. The architect of this extensibility built TextMate to hook into virtually any programming language, shell command, and external application. TextMate comes with built-in support for LaTeX and BibTeX compilation, as well as completing citations and labels within LaTeX documents. The latter function isn’t nearly as slick as using RefTeX, but it works fairly well. There are a few useful screencast demonstrations of those features. Haris, the author of those screencasts, has contributed tremendously to cite key and label completion — they work pretty well, thanks much to him.

I’ve made what I think are a few improvements to existing bundles in order to faciliate my own work: I’ve modified the LaTeX compile command to switch to xelatex if necessary, for example.

More in depth, but still fairly simple, is my rudimentary Sweave bundle for TextMate.1 TextMate allows one to set environment variables at the global or project level, so, for instance, I can assign a “master document” variable to my dissertation. This allows me to generate LaTeX output from a single in-process Sweave file, or, with an alternate command, to re-run the entire Sweave project through R and then begin LaTeX compilation. With the bundle TextMate (mostly; it’s still a work in progress) correctly parses Sweave files, allowing for context-sensitive actions depending on the position of the caret in a file: Within a Sweave document, I can generate LaTeX, compile that associated LaTeX file, send selected code to R, or build the entire master document. It works pretty slick now that it’s set up. Whereas in Emacs, the ties between various files was frequently opaque, I’ve found that keeping track of those relationships and compiling documents is more transparent and much easier.

Is it worth it?

For me, it has been worth it. The tinker to work ratio starts out pretty high, but that’s not unusual. Breaking emacs habits is tougher, even after four months, and I’d love a citation mode that works more akin to that found in RefTeX — the ability to invoke the command and then choose citation types, for example — and I still miss some of the enhancements from AucTeX; it trained me too well to C-c C-s to insert a section, for example. The ease with which one can build bundles and interface with external applications suggests that it won’t be long before someone may start building equivalent tools, and that will be a happy day.

In the meantime, TextMate is fast, allows me to visualize my projects, and works well enough with the other applications I use, as well as within my workflow, to justify the switch. It’s a good app, and it has improved my work.

Revise and extend (ie, updated)

I forgot to mention another issue about switching. Up until now, my tools have been almost entirely cross-platform for the past five or six years. TextMate is OS X-specific, so I can’t smoothly use the same set of tools on the Windows laptop like I could with emacs. This gives me some pause: It’s nice to have a mostly universal workflow, in which I could sit down at a PC, Mac, or linux machine, sync some files, and work. But over the past year with the iMac, I’ve picked up a few other non cross-platform tools: BibDesk is a great BibTeX manager, and I’ve been doing a ton of stuff using OmniOutliner Pro in the past handful of months, so switching away from emacs on one platform isn’t as much of a transition on that front as it might have been a year ago. Besides, the Mac is a nice platform to work on. And, hey, one of these days I’ll be able to trade up the Toshiba for a shiny new *Book of some kind.

1 The SWeave bundle is now distributed as a regular TextMate Bundle via the subversion bundle repository. [ return to text ]

Covert stylings

This post by Lago is ostensibly a rant about Griffin being unacceptably behind the times. But I can read between the lines. “I got one!” he’s saying. “Badger me for my impressions of the lovely new dual-core Intel iMac!”

Life in Mac years

The next few weeks might be a super time to pick up pre-Intel Macs at bargain prices, though if you have the cash, who would really want to? The new MacBook looks slick (though like Tom, I’m not sure about the name change); I wonder if its stock 512 MB of ram will be more sensible with the new Intel chips than it was with previous processors? Likewise, the new iMac with its dual Intel chips looks smokin’—but I’ll hold onto my G5 iMac as long as I can. Rent, and all. It was just months ago that Apple was unveiled the second, then third, generation of its iMac line; today the line wholly jumped the track and grew wings. Just another year with three generations of product.

New-to-me Spotlight feature

I’ve spent the last several days digging information out of a set of files, essentially coding variables from a large group of archives. Previously, I’d only used Spotlight occasionally, but for this kind of data digging, Spotlight really, well, shines. Calling up Spotlight and telling it what I’m looking for brings up a short list of relevant files. That’s not new, but what was new to me is what Spotlight does next: When the file is opened, simply hitting CMD-G (for Find Again; works great in text files, Safari, Firefox, Mail) takes me right to the correct section within the file. This won’t work so well if the search string appears lots of times in the file, but if the file is a long list of mostly-unique records, it works great. I’ve used Spotlight’s similar ability to navigate directly to a reference in a PDF, but this was new to me, and slick. Even when the right document is already open, it often is far easier to invoke Spotlight and enter the search terms than to switch to the right application (which often means find in a long list of apps) from where I’m entering variables. All day long, it’s like Spotlight is reading my mind.

Switched, one month later

About a month ago, as part of my plan to set up a new, work-focused home office here at Schussman North, I got myself a new computer, a lovely iMac. That’s right, I Switched—well, partly: I still use our trusty old Satellite laptop when I travel or go into town to the coffeeshop for an afternoon. But for the most part, I’m using the Mac these days, and I’m loving it.

With the introduction of the new model iMacs, the prior version of the machine was discounted quite a bit, especially at academic stores, so I was able to get the 20-inch model and spring for a fat memory upgrade. So far the machine really hums along: It’s quiet, mostly spendidly fast (emacs, strangely enough, seems to lag a bit when compared to the laptop), and the display is gorgeous, wide enough for multiple windows or displaying lots of data, with crisp text. One month later, a few more thoughts.


Things I’m enjoying

  • Bibdesk: Bibdesk is an application for working with BibTeX files. It has powerful sorting and editing features and integrates well with writing documents in Emacs: Just copy and paste a citation to generate a \cite statement—for more \cite options, BibDesk includes a drawer full of alternative cite commands that can be dragged to documents to build citations. With BibDesk, I’m able to combine my half-dozen or more different BibTeX files into a single master file that’s easily sorted by author, keywords, or any other query. BibDesk also handles local copies of papers nicely: Drag any PDF (or other file format) to a BibDesk entry and it will be automatically associated with that entry, copied to a central repository, and renamed according to your favorite naming convention for easy later identification. It’s really slick. And because the underlying BibTeX file is preserved, the database can always be opened and manipulated with Emacs or your favorite text editor. BibDesk is extensible through scripts that let you add, remove, or edit fields in any number of entries at a time. Scripts also facilitate downloading entries from various citation databases, and BibDesk has a great set of import tools for dealing with plain text or other bibliographic database formats.
  • Unixy and open source power: All my open source applications have been ported, so the cost of switching was minimal. I’ll probably end up buying a copy of the educational version of Office, but substitutions like NeoOffice/J offer as many alternatives to commercial software as are found on Windows and Linux (note that they’re not always perfect substitutions, but they’ll usually do the trick). And I’ve got a fully-powered up shell underneath it all, so even version control was a seamless switch.
  • Speed: The iMac sure is snappy most of the time—thanks, I’m sure, in part to the 2 GB of RAM I put in. But even before that upgrade, it was nice and speedy.
  • Quicksilver: What everybody else has said: Wow, it’s neat. Still, I’m sure that I’m underutilizing it, as habituated as I am to reaching for the mouse when I need to open or find something. (Same goes for spotlight.)

Things I’m still puzzling away with

  • Digital Camera: OS X won’t recognize my old Pentax EI-200 digital camera. The camera shows up in the USB device list, but I can’t mount it or get iPhoto to find it. Come on Apple, how hard is it to detect a USB mass storage device and just load it up? I shouldn’t need a new camera to work with this thing. So for the time being, photos still load up on the laptop with Picasa.
  • The keyboard is just different enough that I still stumble over hotkeys, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why end and home don’t do anything. Am I just missing something? The different meanings of control, alt, and command aren’t always apparent.
  • Every once in a while, the machine doesn’t cleanly shut down. I get a message that it must be restarted, either via the restart key (which, um, I don’t have, as far as I know) or by holding down the power button. Something to do with the Tiger upgrade? I’ve never had problems with stability while using the machine—it’s rock solid in that regard—but I do wonder about this quirk.

About, the short version

I’m a sociologist-errant. This site is powered by Textpattern, Pair Networks and the sociological imagination. For more about me and this site, see the long version.

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