Don Pedro

Blocking annoying websites (news) with AdGuard

During this time of political stupidity, Covid running rampant, and more doom and gloom articles than you can shake a stick at, I have made the choice to start blocking sites, especially news outlets, using AdGuard.

Sites can easily be blocked using a browser plugin, but since I use multiple browsers, and have several apps that are Internet aware, I want them blocked at the OS level.

AdGuard makes this easy using one of two command styles. These are entered under Preferences – Filters – User Rules.

||foxnews.com^$empty
||foxnews.com^$document

In the first example, the page won't be loaded and you will get a blank screen. No text, no links, no images.

In the second example, you will be prompted that the site matches a filter for blocked sites and given the choice to continue.

I prefer the first. It's a sledgehammer approach to throwing rotten news in the garbage. And it works.

Within a day I was already turning a blind eye to news stories because I knew they wouldn't load. This saves me time, keeps me focused, and keep me from getting mired in political nonsense.

AdGuard has an article on how to make your own filters.

Other articles of interest:

The Beauty and Fun of FlowScape

FlowScape is a design tool you can download from Steam that allows you to create a world of your own imagining. It can be a lush jungle, a medieval city, frozen mountain ranges, or a desert plain.

It starts with picking the landscape. Will it be flat? Will it be mountainous? Will there there be a volcano? Is there a lake or steam?

Then comes the act of “painting” the world into existence. There are hundreds of objects to choose from such as trees, plants, shrubs, cactus, buildings, carts, lamps and animals. If that’s not enough, import more. Then select some colorful flowers and watch them grow into existence. Click to place a tree, and watch it spring to life and sway in the breeze. Create a town square. Draw a cobblestone street. Create a fishpond. Set it to bright sunny day. Dim the sky to sunset. Have the dark clouds of a storm rolling in. All of it is possible.

FlowScape is a deeply satisfying experience. You can add as much or as little to the landscape as you want. Or, you can have the computer generate one for you as inspiration. And when you’re done, you can drop into your world and literally walk around it. The voice of Bob Ross will truly be whispering in your ear as you bring things to life.

I adore this program and have barely scratched the surface of what it has to offer. But, everytime I sit down with it, several hours go by and I’m just amazed at what appears on the screen.

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Set up Triple Click Mouse Button Action with Keyboard Maestro

While in Keyboard Maestro for setting up the VPN, I was reminded to set up a trigger for a triple click mouse button action on the Razer mouse I have. There are two “trigger” buttons located next to the standard left click button. There are normally used as additional fire buttons within games. I want to use them as a triple click action. It’s very since Keyboard Maestro recognizes the buttons as Razer Naga Button 4 and 5.

keyboard-maestro-triple-click

Hello triple click, welcome back.

Other articles of interest:

Controlling and Selecting VPN Connections with Keyboard Maestro

From time to time I need to connect to one of our work VPN connection. When doing so, I want to Launch and Quit several applications related to the task of that connection. To make things easy, I want to use Keyboard Maestro to orchestrate the process.

Unlike some other solutions, my connection type isn’t changing. I’m not switching from wired to wireless, or changing network names or locations.

I’m initiating the connecting in both cases, but one uses a VPN client, while the other uses the built-in Network configuration. In either case, I want to shut down apps that might be downloading or making connections. I also want a visual cue denoting that I’m on a VPN now. A small menu bar applet called IPBar serves that purpose very nicely.

One connection is needed for access to the databases. So, when connecting to that I want to start my SnippetsLab tool and open Valentina Studio.

For the second, I need to open Network, select the VPN connection name, then click Connect. Once that’s done, I need to launch Katalon Studio to run automation scripts against Production.

The first connection is easy to handle. The macro within Keyboard Maestro is Triggered when this Application Launches. The application is OpenVPN Connect. As soon as the client UI starts, Keyboard Maestro closes down several applications and starts my SQL tools.

The second connection becomes a little more tricky. The Network section within System Preferences isn’t triggered the same way as the OpenVPN Client. It’s not an application in that sense.

I thought about checking the status of the connection using a terminal command I found:

- ifconfig -lu
- lo0 en0 en1 en2 fw0 p2p0 utun0
- lo0 en0 en1 en2 fw0 p2p0 utun0 ppp0 <- VPN Connection

That looks promising, but it’s not really what I’m looking for. I don’t want to poll the connection. I’m triggering the event, but it’s not recognized within Keyboard Maestro.

Except that it is when you take a slightly different approach. Within Keyboard Maestro there is an action for Open a System Preferences Pane.

This can bring up the Network Preferences Pane, which is a great visual cue on it’s own, but there is more. With a tiny piece of AppleScript listed in an older Macworld article, the VPN connection can be established.

tell application "System Events"
tell current location of network preferences
connect service "Your-VPN-Service"
# disconnect service "Your-VPN-Service" #
end tell
end tell

Now I have four scripts. A script to open each connection and configure the apps. A second to close the connection and configure the apps again. These are triggered using the Trigger Macro by Name macro within Keyboard Maestro.

This gives me exactly what I’m looking for. Connection to the VPN is a known event, so triggering it with a keyword is perfect for me. Now I have the right apps starting up, and bandwidth using apps shutting down. When I’m done, everything switches and the apps restart to their previous state.

Once again, Keyboard Maestro For the Win!

Configure the OpenVPN Connect client with the Launch Application trigger. There is one for Launch and Quit.

keyboard-maestro-application-launches

Use the following to open the Network Preferences Pane and select your VPN connection. There is a macro for Connect and Disconnect.

applescript-network

Other articles of interest:

Glorious scene and city builders in a non-traditional sense

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve stumbled across some fantastic builder games in the guise of TownScaper, Islanders, Cloud Gardens and FlowScape. They are “games” that forgo the typical tropes of achieving a high score, slaying some overpowered, ridiculous looking boss, looting some rare resource that drops once every one hundred tries, or going for the headshot from a thousand yards away. Instead, the goal is to install a feeling in you and create an experience with you. When there is no wrong way to play, you simply enjoy the ambience.

All of these “games” create the same enjoyment as snapping Lego together. When you click to place a house in TownScaper, or start a new land section, there is the satisfying splash of the water, the burst of color from the house, the amusements as the birds come to roost, and the excitement and anticipation of placing the next block in the sequence.

Even if you have no artistic flair, you are still creating something beautiful and entertaining to look at. It will be unique, colorful, and artistic no matter what you do. You are in the hands of a great teacher who won’t let you fail. There is a true sense of accomplishment with creating something of your own, not just following a map or exploring caves someone else put together.

And these are the types of game you can play for a few minutes or a few hours. You won’t be penalized for not having twitch reflexes. You don’t have to worry about high score. You don’t have to grind for days, or weeks to reach the “end game.” Technically, there is no end game. The world can go on forever, or be restarted as many times as you want.

I love the fact these games exist. Not only are they a pleasure to play, but they introduce news twists for gameplay. The offer fun changes and allow people to experiment with ideas without investing hundreds of dollars in a game and thousands of dollars in computer hardware.

I bought FlowScape this weekend and jumped in with both feet to try it out. I watched a couple of tutorials, watched what some others put together, then clicked through the selection of objects available and started dropping trees, rocks and water into place. Before I realized it, two hours had gone by. I was so engrossed with the action on the screen, and so riveted with trying “the next thing” that I lost all track of time.

It was so incredibly satisfying and that’s exactly how games should be.

A bit of fun with plants in FlowScape

20200919120700_1

Dressing up an overpass sign in Cloud Gardens

cloud-gardens

Other articles of interest:

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