This Site is Open Source

I wanted to have this done a while ago. When I first made this site, I threw it together in haste and hesitated in putting it out there. I finally got around to cleaning up the site, properly putting it under version control and updating the deployment process.

There’s still not much to this website. It is a handful of text files and images, some HTML, CSS and a config file mashed together with Jekyll to produce what you see here.

Anyway, it’s done: The repository is on GitHub. If you find any typos or errors, feel free to open an issue or submit a pull request.

Last Light

Dark Trails

What do you do when you look for a niche app with a specific set of requirements but can’t find one that you like? You make a Workflow.

This workflow does one thing: It tells you when it’s going to be dark outside today. By dark I don’t mean sundown, I mean dark dark or Civil Dusk. I wanted this for when I plan my evening activities. Mostly it’s about finding a good running or walking route for the amount of daylight left.

Screenshot

The apps I tried missed the mark in several ways:

The workflow, on the other hand, does everything I need perfectly. It instantly replaced the app I previously used for this niche use case. Which really is a testament to the importance of Workflow for the iOS automation environment. Now that it’s acquired by Apple, I hope it sticks around for as long as possible.

The solar data is obtained from the Sunrise Sunset API. To speed up the result, I hard-coded the location in the workflow. Alternatively, you could let Workflow geolocate you dynamically on every request.

Get the Last Light workflow here.

Speeding up Your Menu Bar

I don’t use a lot of shortcuts. I know a core set I for my most used applications but that’s about it. My problems with shortcuts are:

The last point is key. I associate actions with names, not with symbols. Names can be remembered and searched. And the best thing is actions with names can be triggered with a search.

Searching the Menu Bar

Getting to the point: I don’t see too many people searching the menu bar on macOS. It’s a fantastic feature. Instead of either remembering shortcuts for items or digging through the various menus by hand, just search for it! It’s incredibly convenient and very fast.

Ideally, you’d set up a shortcut for this, for me it’s ⌥⌘?. This one shortcut is your gateway to all others. You can set up the shortcut in System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > App Shortcuts > All Applications > Show Help Menu.

Using Alfred

A great alternative is Alfred with the Menu Search workflow. It displays the menu items right within Alfred. This one is completely without shortcuts. Since I’m not a fan of unclear abbrevations either, I renamed the command from the default m to menu.

Actions

This is the preferred way of computing for me. Thinking in terms of actions and names. Just type what you want to do and do it. The barriers to entry are low, the intentions are clear and the results predictable. Granted, shortcuts are a lot faster when mastered. But the investment is high and results volatile when you switch between a lot of applications.

Man Page for Alfred

Alfred is the one most indispensable app on my system. In essence, it is a file launcher similar to Apple’s Spotlight but it allows you to do so much more. Its power comes from user-defined workflows with full scripting support that can do any number of things.

The problem is it’s easy to lose sight of all the workflows you have installed, what they do and how they are launched. Some are launched by shortcuts and others by keywords that need remembering. Alfred itself doesn’t provide much in terms of documentation for installed workflows.

Screenshot
The Help workflow in action.

I created this Help workflow for Alfred for that purpose. It lists all installed workflows and shows all their keywords and shortcuts and what they do when you execute them. To use it, use the help or helptitle commands. If you’re looking for a specific command, search by title or keyword. You can also execute it right there by hitting enter.

The best part about this workflow is that you can search and trigger workflows by their names instead of remembering arbitrary shortcuts or keywords.

Download the workflow here. The source code is available here.

Quiet Links

XKCD 214
Source: XKCD

Quiet Links is my answer to the Wikipedia Rabbit Hole. It is a stylesheet to quiet down links on pages to help you focus on reading.

Look at a typical Wikipedia article:

Screenshot
The stylesheet in action

There is too much noise to stay focused. Sometimes, I can’t even make it past the first paragraph before getting sucked into all those links. It’s fascinating information, yes, but it is not what I am after. After applying the stylesheet, the page feels markedly calmer and easier to read.

Admittedly, getting distracted by links sounds more like a me problem and not a Wikipedia problem. In either case, the stylesheet solves it. It started out as an experiment but I was surprised how much of an effect it had on my reading. I still use it regularly.

Installing and Using

The stylesheet is not designed to be used permanently across the web. On some pages, it may interfere with the native CSS and things can look weird. For reading individual long-form articles, especially on Wikipedia, it is perfect though. Enable and disable it on a per-site basis.

In case you do need to follow links, you still can. If you hover over the text, you’ll find that links are still discoverable and clickable. There’s also a hard mode which disables links completely.

Here is a userscript version which you can install with a userscript manager like Greasemonkey or Tampermonkey. Or you could throw it into a stylesheet browser extension.

Code

The following rules cover most link styles I stumbled upon:

a,
a:visited,
a:hover,
a * {
  color: inherit !important;
  text-decoration: none !important;

  border: none !important;
  background-color: inherit !important;
  background-image: none !important;
  box-shadow: none !important;

  /* Hard mode: */
  /* pointer-events: none !important;
  cursor: default !important; */
}

Show All Hacker News Comments

Update December 2016: This feature finally made it natively into Hacker News. This userscript is now obsolete.

screenshot

This userscript adds a button to a Hacker News comment site to bring you back to the full thread.

It’s a head scratcher how this is not an existing feature on the site. The comment detail pages include no context as to which thread they belong to. Not even a title is included. When you land on a single comment from a Google Search, you’re pretty much stranded.

The only thing way out is to repeatedly click the little parent button until you reach the root of the thread. The first iteration of the script did exactly that: It repeatedly scraped the preceding comment’s page for the next URL. Later I learned about the Hacker News API but the API is limited so the process pretty much remained the same.

You can find the userscript here.

Instant Catloaf

catloaf

For a quick pick-me-up, I sometimes browse the catloaf forum. At catloaf is a cat that looks like…a loaf. There is just something special about those goofy cats.

The problem is the catloaf forum’s post volume is rather low which means I’ve most likely seen the most recent posts. Also, there’s just the general hassle of opening the website and navigating the forum. Too slow. I wanted to speed up my catloaf delivery for when I need it the most.

Solution

My solution was to set up an instant catloaf delivery system. It comes in two parts:

In the end, I just open the workflow and boom, a random bunch of loaves. It’s silly but it works.

screenshot
Catloaf delivery in action.

Improvements

Currently, only the images without any context are saved to Dropbox. It would be nice if I could see the title and maybe a link back to the forum thread.

To reduce the volume, you could also modify the recipe to only add new hot or top posts instead of all new posts.

Download

Download the IFTTT recipe here and the workflow here.