July 9, 2019

My favourite rucksack

My favourite rucksack is from an American company called Goruck. I bought my first rucksack from them around 8 years ago, and it has been my daily carry ever since. It goes with me to work, and when I travel for work purposes.

Goruck GR1

After 8 years of close to daily use, the rucksack was finally starting to show a bit of wear, and a hole was developing near the base of the rucksack.

GR1 with a hole

Goruck claim lifetime guarantee on their products, so I decided to send the rucksack to them for repair. I honestly was a bit skeptical, but this is what they have to say about their guarantee:

All GORUCK built gear, apparel, and footwear — everything we manufacture — comes with our Scars Lifetime Guarantee. If there is a defect in workmanship or materials or if you actually manage to wear our stuff out, GORUCK will fix or replace (at our discretion) your item, free of charge. No receipt necessary — we can recognize our own stuff — and your date of purchase does not matter. Hence lifetime.”

After they received my rucksack, I received a reply from them that started like this:

We have determined that we cannot repair your gear given the allotted time and materials needed to do so. There are additional signs of wear and tear around the base of the ruck and the top handle (the Cordura is fraying more than anticipated and there are other weak points on the side panels).”

At this point my heart was sinking, and I thought the worst. Then the next sentence blew my mind:

We would like to send you a new one!”

As I write this, the new rucksack has left the states and has reached the FedEx station in Roissy (France) on its way to Lisbon. I am thrilled to bits to get a new rucksack, and in awe of the way that Goruck stand behind their products. The stuff they sell is not cheap, but when you buy gear from them, you literally get gear that will last you a lifetime, so you get what you pay for.

My hat is off to them!

Gear
June 24, 2019

Reading

Over the last few years I have cut down on social media consumption/participation, and increased the time I spend reading books. They say correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation, but I attribute increased calm and improved quality of life at least partly to this change.

I now average around a book a week, with a ratio of non-fiction to fiction of about 70/30.

Books
June 13, 2019

Emacs and org-mode

Over the years I have tried different applications for task management, time management, note taking etc. I find myself always coming back to the combination of Emacs and org-mode.

I am not going to write a post on the specifics of Emacs, or the wonders of org-mode, there are plenty of resources available on the details of how they work, but I will touch on the reasons of why I keep using them, and returning to them.

In its bare form, an org-mode file is a plain text file that adhers to an outline structure. There are headings and subheadings (as deep as you want to go). The headings kan have keywords attached to them, which can turn them into action items, agenda items etc.

Org-mode supplies ways to search the files, present the search results in different views, and allows you to act upon the items.

Over the years org-mode has been extended to a veritable swiss army knife of functionality. Within a text file I can have tables and calculations, I can embed code (and execute it), export parts of the documents as nicely formatted PDF files (or any other format for that matter).

Tables with calculations can serve as input to other applications, which in turn can present the results of their processing within emacs. For instance I keep track of my weight in a table in org-mode, calculate trends and averages, and send this data to gnuplot which creates a nice SVG plot which Emacs and org-mode then can present inline.

I can write articles and notes, easily restructure the documents, and export them as a beautifully typeset document using LaTeX and pandoc.

The great thing is that all of these tools are free. Emacs has been around since the early nineties, and org-mode since 2003.

While other applications look more spiffy, and have beautiful bells and whistles, none of them come close to what I can achieve with Emacs and a text file.

I can also have the same setup on my Mac at work and my PC at home.

The one area where the functionality is lacking, is on the mobile side. There are apps to view and edit org-mode files on phones and tablets, but not offering the native experience. Since I spend most of my days in front of the computer, I am willing to take the less-than-stellar mobile experience in return for the functionality I get on the computer.

Text
June 11, 2019

Window management with Keyboard Maestro

Left Half Macro

Earlier I have written about using Keyboard Maestro for starting groups of applications. Another way I use it is to control the placement and size of application windows on the screen.

My usage of window managers is quite basic, I usually want to move a window to one of the sides of the screen, or to have the application fill the screen.

I have created three macros for this that grab the active window, and moves/resizes it to either the left or right half of the screen, or to fill the screen. The image at the top of this post shows the macro that moves a window to the left half of the screen.

I have assigned the same keyboard trigger for these macros, so when I type it, up pops a pallette where I can choose between Left, Right or Full to quickly move the window to the desired position.

Screen Pallette

In a multi-display setup, Keybaord Maestro knows which display the windows is placed on, and will will keep the application on the screen where it is displaying.

I used to use separate applications for window management, but since Keyboard Maestro is highly capable also in this area, I have stopped using other apps for this.

Mac
June 8, 2019

Recycled truck as rucksack

Freitag

A few weeks ago I was listening to the Cool Tools podcast with Mark Frauenfelder and Kevin Kelly. Their guest was the swiss designer Tina Roth Eisenberg (aka swissmiss).

I recommend the Cool Tools podcast highly, as well as the Cool Tools website, which reviews cool tools. In the podcast they interview guests and ask about tools that they use and enjoy.

One of the tool picks of Tina Roth Eisenberg picqued my interest. She chose a travelling bag by a swiss company called Freitag.

That specific bag is not currently something I need, but looking at their site, I saw a couple of items that looked really cool. I currently work for a company that produces trucks, and Freitag uses recycled truck tarps as the raw materials for their bags, and recycled seatbelts for straps.

A short time after the podcast had been aired, I was going on a work trip to Munich, where I knew that Freitag has a store. During my visit I went to the shop to have a look, and came out of there with a few less euros, but with a new rucksack and a new wallet.

I’m very happy with both. My existing wallet was falling apart, and this one seems like it will last me for the foreseeable future. The rucksack is also practical as a day pack when I cycle to work. It has room for the laptop, and small pockets for phones and essentials, and the main compartment opens up completely from the front and allows for easy packing of whatever I need to bring, or for food shopping on the way home.

The fact that I work for a truck company and that the backpack is made from recycled trucks is also a cool touch.

Gear
June 1, 2019

Workspaces with Keyboard Maestro

Keyboard Maestro is a tremendously useful utility for macOs with a myriad of different use cases. In this post I will describe one of them. There are many times I need to open a set of applications. At work we have a daily meeting every morning, so I need to open the website with the issue tracker, and open Slack with the team channel where we do the online meeting. Other times I want to open a specific programming project with the corresponding issue tracker and documentation.

For a while I used an app called Workspaces for this, until it dawned on me that I could probably use Keyboard Maestro for something similar. I have nothing against the Workspaces app, but there is no need to use two applications when one will suffice.

So I sat down and thought about how this could be done in Keyboard Maestro, and a few minutes later I had a working solution. It is very simple, and it might be useful for other people as well, so here goes.

Workflow

The workflow is really simple. I define a trigger hot key, in this case SHIFT+CMD+W. When I press it, a series of actions will be performed. First the workflow opens a browser window the issue tracker for the given project, then a shell script executes a command that opens my IDE with the project.

This simple set of instructions saves me a little bit of time every time I use it. I don’t have to find an icon to click, or open the IDE and then navigate to the project to open it. Everything happens at the click of a hot key.

Now, I have defined several of these workspace macros, and they all have the same hot key. So what happens when I press the hot key now? Keyboard Maestro opens a little pallette showing the names of all the matching macros, and by pressing a key, allows me to choose which one to open.

Pallette

So as I work on different projects, I can add and remove workspace macros, and still only have to remember a single hotkey.

This is just one of the ways with which Keyboard Maestro can help simplify day-to-day work on the Mac. I will add more posts with other neat use cases.

Mac