A Farewell to Kings

1952-2020

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Thank You 2020

Some say, "Hindsight is 2020," is a misunderstood message from the future, which very well could be true. Despite the obvious troubles and shocking lack of leadership, on a personal level, 2020 was full of opportunities and revelations.

Whether we liked it or not, 2020 was a giant reset on behaviors and trends. We were given the chance, quite forcibly, to take a step back and reexamine our priorities and values. It became a time to see what really mattered in our lives. It was a chance to really use technology to bring people together. It was a time to look inward and redefine who we are and who we want to be. It was a time to adapt and overcome.

Some rose to the challenge.

While tucked away, I changed dozens of things in my life.

  • Instead of being stuck in traffic and rushing to work, I used the time to organize my day to be better prepared for the days events.
  • Made dozens of changes to the way I work to be more organized and efficient. There was no more, "I'll get to it." I acted on those ideas then and there, putting them into practice.
  • Added new software tools like TaskPaper to make working remotely easier.
  • Created templates and workflows within DevonThink Office Pro to keep work organized.
  • Created multiple macros using Keyboard Maestro.
  • Set up dozens of shortcuts in Alfred.
  • Spent more time exercising and taking care of myself than I've ever been able to do before. At the end of the day, I was riding the bike or on the rowing machine within 15 minutes.
  • Rediscovered hobbies I put to the side because I was, "too busy."
  • Realized that "too busy" is just another way of saying, "I don't want to."
  • Spent more time outside at the property I own than I've done in years.
  • Spent more time away from the computer than I've done in years. Watching movies, listening to music, reading a book became a pleasing escape. YouTube has nothing on Jules Verne.
  • Completely revamped what it means to go shopping and what I really need to have to get by. It was a confusing exercise, but in the end, it has been truly educational.
  • Reevaluated my career goals and where I want to be in the years to come.
  • Took a long hard look at the work I do, who I do it for, and how it's meaningful to me. I've come to realize several things are lacking. I believe I will soon be embarking on a new journey.

I hate we have to live through a crisis, but at the same time:
"Every great change is preceded by chaos"

  • Deepak Chopra

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Always Buy More Machine Than You Need Today

With the new Apple Silicon currently available, and more varieties on the horizon, I see one recommendation after another on what machine to buy. If you do X task, you "should be fine" with Y.

Whatever you are looking to get, no matter when you plan to get it, always buy more than you need.

Unless you are buying a machine you plan to throw away in 6 months, or buying a budget machine you fully expect to drop on the floor, you always need to get a larger, more powerful machine than the one you need today. A machine that is "just fine" today, won't be good enough in a year from now. You need to anticipate future software releases. You need to anticipate your broadened horizons.

Unless you can say for 100% certainty the machine you buy today fulfills all your needs and you can't possibly hope for it to take on bigger tasks next year, you are throwing money away.

Regardless of the machine and what it's doing, 16GB is always better than 8GB. 32GB is always better than 16GB. More drive space is always better. More cores is always better.

Cutting a corner here, skimping there, is going to cost you. It will cost you when you outgrow the machine far sooner than anticipated. It will cost you when the next "big update" comes. It will cost you in money and satisfaction.

The computer is a tool. A tool you will use every day, several hours a day. It should be a tool that will get the job done for years to come, not something from the bargain bin. A machine from the bargain bin is just that. It'll work for a couple months, but it's basically a throwaway device. In essence, by skimping today you are setting yourself up for failure.

The best machine for you, is the best machine for you. Give yourself room to work. Give yourself room to breathe. It may cost a few dollars more today, but in the long run you are saving money. Saving money on upgrades. Saving money by not wasting time waiting for a task to complete.

Regardless of machine, you will be better off with 8 cores, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage than 7 cores, 8GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage.

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How I use Alfred

As first glance, Alfred is a program launcher. That's entirely true, but doesn't speak to the productivity and efficiency Alfred brings. There is a lot more to the story.

Further, when reading what Alfred can do there are references to Keyboard Maestro. While similar, and overlap in functionality, they are quite distinct in how they work. I have both, use them both daily, and do different tasks with each.

From the start, Alfred has a lot shortcut functionality built in. This comes in the form of hotkeys and trigger words. When the Workflow feature is unlocked, Alfred can be extended in all sorts of ways.

Keyboard Maestro has some of this function built in functionality where it can launch apps, control system settings and perform actions based on hotkeys and trigger words. It closely resembles the built in Automator tool and has the same building blocks to build your own solutions.

But, back to the original point. Alfred is fantastic as a program launcher. Press the hotkey, enter the name of the app and it will start. This is efficient and time saving. Not to mention there are dozens of apps that live in the menubar to perform this same task.

Just as easily, Alfred can close apps using the "quit" command. Further you can empty the trash, mute the volume, put the machine to sleep, lock the system and launch targeted searches without taking your hands off the keyboard.

My most common shortcut is launching and closing apps. Next, is target searches. There are built in query shortcuts for Amazon, Google, eBay, IMDB, Wikipedia, YouTube and a dozen others. Type in "ebay Mac Pro 128gb 1tb" and Alfred opens a new browser tab, goes to eBay, enters the criteria and starts the search all in one action.

You can create your own query links. I have searches set up for Katalon Studio, StackOverflow, the Keyboard Maestro forum, and several others. Again, this saves time.

I use that same ability to search within Jira on a daily, even hourly basis. I have a keyword set up for the prefix of the project. The ticket number is then appended and that is sent to Jira in the correct format to open the ticket. When I type "abc 1234" that ticket is opened in Jira within a new tab. I have this for the two projects I work on daily. I don't have to search, I don't have to find the link, I don't get derailed. The ticket is right there and I keep working.

Alfred also provides and extremely convenient way to search for files. Type "find" followed by some part of the file you want, and it will search it's index to locate matching results. Very similar to Spotlight, but this sticks to files in locations you specify, which I feel is more convenient. I can locate files across the 4 drives in my system very easily.

One of the biggest uses for me is the Workflow feature, which is unlocked with the paid version. From this I create "workspaces." This is a way to launch multiple apps together so I have related tools open at the same time. For example, when I start Katalon Studio, Alfred opens SnippetLab, CodeRunner, TextSoap, the GitHub client and opens the project folder on the drive.

The same is true for Valentina Studio. SnippetsLab is opened, TextSoap, my working folder, and my other SQL tools.

I don't have to go looking for a tool, it's open and ready when I need it. When done, they all close down together. I have found this to be extremely convenient. I get a consistent workspace that saves me dozens of steps each time. I don't have to stop and open a folder. I don't have to stop to start another tools. All that has been done. Each step saved is more time saved.

I use this to close all my apps for screen sharing either through Slack or Zoom. This keeps all the dings, notifications, and other interruptions to an absolute minimum. This also prevents bringing a side conversation, document or email to the fore.

Workflows can be written using some of the built in tools, AppleScript, as well as Javascript. But, along with writing your own, there are dozens of Workflow applets available for download. There is an entire site dedicated to just that.

Alfred can integrate into tools like DevonThink Office Pro and SnippetsLab, so results are displayed inline within Alfred without having to open the other application and perform the search. Again, this saves time.

Along with Workflows, Alfred has both a Clipboard and Snippet manager. Just like TypeIt4Me, Alfred can be used to expand text as you type. Snippets can be organized into collections so SQL code is separate from Java which is separate from Emojis. That alone is a massive time saving as I discussed before.

The Clipboard manager works in a similar way. Use the hotkey to copy text, then when you need it, Alfred has a list of items you can paste from.

Workflows, Snippets and Clipboard are in the paid version, but the free version offers plenty of efficiency gain. The launcher is a great time saver. The web search and file search are excellent tools and will be used dozens of times.

I will admit, it takes a bit of time to get yourself into the habit of using Alfred. Not because it's hard to use, but because there is the habit to click LaunchPad to start an app, or to grab the mouse and find Quit from the menu. However, in just a few uses it becomes second nature. If you switch to Mac a without it, you'll wonder what's wrong.

Alfred is a fantastic app, and I use it on my home and work Macs dozens of times per day. Workspaces are a part of my daily routine. I rely on Alfred to get apps up and running together. I use it almost exclusively for Google, Wikipedia and Amazon searches.

Using Alfred becomes a time saver and makes so many shortcuts possible. It took just a couple of days use to see the benefit of the full version. I had no qualms on the Lifetime Upgrades package.

I will also say, it's not a matter of choosing Alfred over Keyboard Maestro or vice versa. It's a big yes to both.

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TypeIt4Me version 6.3 available and 30% discount

Here's a good start to 2021. TypeIt4Me comes with a new update and 30% discount sale.

If you don't already have a text expansion tool, then you should invest in TypeIt4Me. It's been a staple tool of mine for a couple years now, 3 actually, and has saved days in typing efficiency.

Text expansion is perfect for code fragments, product names, company names, email addresses, postal address, SQL code, software names, boilerplate text, and anything else you need to type more than once.

TypeIt4Me already has a very reasonable price, but now it's even better. Get your typing productivity in top shape for 2021.

TypeIt4Me Discount

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