June 8, 2019

Recycled truck as rucksack


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.

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.


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.


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.

May 30, 2019

iPad, Audio and MIDI

iPad Audio Setup

Lately I’ve been having fun playing around with audio apps on the iPad. There has been a lot of development in this area, so there are plenty of synths, sequencers and audio effects available to play around with, and for a fraction of the price of hardware equipment, and also cheaper that software available for the Mac.

Up to now connectivity has been an issue. I have an external audio interface and a couple of MIDI keyboards, and wanted to hook them up to the iPad. First I thought I would need a new dedicated audio/MIDI interface since my iPad only has a single Lightning port, but then I started thinking.

By using the Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter I get a USB port for the iPad (as well as a pass-through Lightning port for charging).

It is possible to connect a USB Hub to the USB port. In my shelf I already had a powered USB hub that I could use. I could then connect my audio interface to this hub.

I tried this, and lo and behold, the iPad recognized it immediately. Some of the MIDI keyboards could be connected directly to the hub with USB cables, which would work, but I also had a RK-005 USB Host laying about. This is a nifty piece of gear that is able to merge signals from multiple connected USB controllers. This makes the signals easier to handle on the iPad side, as the MIDI appears to come from a single connected device instead of from various different sources. By connecting a second USB-hub to the RK-005, I could connect all my devices to it.

Granted, there are a few wires to keep track of, but it is nice to have everything connected to, and working with, the iPad, especially since I already had all the gear I needed to get it running in the first place.

If you are starting from scratch, a solution like the iRig Pro I/O from IK Multimedia seems to be a nice option as well. It also provides audio, MIDI, and with the optional power supply also charges the iPad while in use. This was the solution I had planned to purchase before realising I already had everything I needed to set up the system.

May 30, 2019

The Raytracer Challenge

Green Sphere

I am having a lot of fun working through the book The Raytracer Challenge. Basically it is a course on Test Driven Development made fun. Armed with a series of tests, we eventually end up with a ray tracing renderer of 3D scenes.

The book is language agnostic, and I am currently developing solutions using C++ and Kotlin. Like I said, it’s a lot of fun, and the book is highly recommended.

The green sphere in the image above was the first rendering from my code after implementing Lights and material effects.

May 27, 2019

DIY Chair

Enzo Mari - Sedia

In June I will attend a workshop to build a chair designed by the italian designer Enzo Mari. In 1974 he published the first edition of Autoprogettazione, a manual which includes a number of furniture projects that can be made by anyone with access to hammer, nails and wooden boards.

I downloaded a PDF-version of the book a long time ago, but never got round to realize any of the projects. I am looking forward to trying it out.

To know more about Enzo Mari and his thoughts you can watch this interview.

The workshop will be held at the Oficina Criativa in Lisbon on June 29 2019.