- Russell Brand on MSNBC
July 1st is closing in fast, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it will be Feedly that replaces Google Reader for me. Hell, it pretty much already has. I’ve gotten into the habit over the past few years of setting my homepage on Safari to my Google Reader feed for all of the articles tagged “Mac.” I scan this list multiple times a day, and move to others, such as “Daily,” “Kids,” and “News.” It works for me. I set my homepage to the Mac channel of my Feedly account, so when I open Safari, that’s what I see.
What Once Was: Google Reader
Feedly looks so much like my Google Reader feed, except for the colors (green!), that it’s instantly comfortable. I know all of the same feeds from Reader are in there. It’s fast; it has a Safari extenstion, and it works in any browser I choose. Likewise, the iOS app is good, and Reeder is going to support the API.
What Will Be: Feedly
I’ve tried Feedbin (OK, but kinda slow and blocked at work), Newsblur, and CommaFeed. The only reason I’d jump in with one of the latter two (I already subscribed to Feedbin, but I’m going to cancel that any day now) is the relative security of using a paid service. Reader didn’t make Google any money, so it’s going away; I worry about the same thing with Feedly, although it was around prior to Google announcing the death of Reader, and it was pretty good, if kind of strange, then. Feedly has gotten so good that I think it’s the best replacement for Google Reader, so for now, that’s what I’m going with. Maybe they’ll do a paid version in the future, which would relieve my concerns about it disappearing, too.
I work for a public school district, and often get requests for a list of students who are considered “homeless” under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act. I have tried to circumvent staff reliance on me by working with our SIS administrator to make it easy for staff members to retrieve that information for themselves from PowerSchool.
Powerschool is a web-based student information system. The most typical and basic usage is to search on a student’s last name and then view that information about him. But the search box allows for all kinds of queries. For example, I can retrieve a list of all of the students whose last name is at my end of the case management alphabet, who are enrolled in special education, and are in 12th grade by typing:
This is obviously something I keep stashed in Yojimbo rather than type from memory. The point is, PowerSchool is very flexible if you harness the power of searching on fields and using operators.
Back to my homeless problem: it’s super-simple to search for student who are considered homeless under McKinney-Vento by using the query you see below.
Powerschool Search Box
Most of the district support staff seem to be able to retrieve this list. I think for some people it’s complicated when the list needs to comprise students from more than one school. PowerSchool can make lists and export to text files from query data; however, when pulling from demographics tables, all it will display is the school’s ID number, rather than its name. So code “50” is actually the high school.
That’s fine if you know the codes and can make the cognitive switch without much overhead, but I think it’s kludgy. Sed, of course, is the perfect solution.
This line of code will replace all of the specific numerical codes and replace them with initials for the schools that anyone would recognize:
sed -e 's/222222/test/' -e 's/111111/OOD/' -e 's/50/WHS/' -e 's/110/WMS/' -e 's/100/WH/' -e 's/95/RX/' -e 's/90/OK/' -e 's/75/HG/'
I can run this from the command line and specify an input document (and even >~/Desktop/homeless-list.csv or some other output), or open the input file in TextMate and use a command from a Bundle.
Sed Bundle in TextMate
I didn’t buy Vesper (yet); I’ll probably wait until summer before I grab a copy. I don’t think I’ll get much use out of it, because as so many people have already groused, it doesn’t support any kind of sync. I like to use the iPhone as both quick input when I’m out and about, and also a place to review lists of things to do or pick up while I’m out, often notes or lists I made while I was at my Mac and able to avail myself of a full keyboard. But I do want to play around with it.
I’ve already written about why I went back to using Notes on the iPhone and the Mac. In short, I like having any notes I take as reference or as quick input on all of my devices. Vesper is a data island. But I don’t suspect that that will be forever. Here’s my prediction.
Q Branch will release at least an iPad version, but I think they’ll also release a Mac version. The Mac app will cost at least $40 bucks, maybe more. We’re talking Bare Bones, OmniGroup customers they’re going for, not the freebie Evernote crew. The sync engine will be Microsoft’s Azure platform; Brent Simmons has written about it, and has appeared in a commerical for it. On the Talk Show, John Gruber has made positive comments about it.
Vesper is going to be the new Yojimbo. Bare Bones is stuck getting Core Data to sync using iCloud (key values and documents work pretty well, but it’s database sync that’s holding Bare Bones up). It’s no secret in the Mac software universe that Core Data database sync doesn’t work. Yojimbo competitors like SOHO Notes have the exact same problem.
I love Yojimbo. I remember Merlin Mann interviewing Patrick Woolsey from Bare Bones after the introduction of the iPhone, and Patrick saying that they would want to get Yojimbo on the iPhone. It’s on the iPad, of course, but there’s no way to input data from iOS, and sync is local wifi only. But unless Apple fixes Core Data database syncing, I don’t think anyone is going to retrofit their old MobileMe-syncing application with a new sync service. They’re just going to whither on the vine.
Which makes room, of course, for Vesper.
Out of the blue popped Byword 2 for both iOS and Mac OS X last week. The short review is: 1. Free update for previous owners! 2. $4.99 unlocks a publishing mode!
Byword 2 largely appears the same as its predecessors; there’s not a brand new ribbon interface to be seen, happily. It remains a simple tool with a focus on writing, with a minimal interface and feature set. The marquee feature for this update is the publishing mode, and it’s a good reason to update if you tend to prefer writing in Byword (or another app of its ilk) but have a kludgier means of posting.
My eyes lit up when I saw Tumblr support, because it has been a long road to get to a writing workflow I really liked. Tumblr, like most blogging platforms*, affords the user web entry as a means to post. You can paste in Markdown or HTML and submit from the page. Alternatively, you can use an application like Mars Edit.
My path to posting was to use Mark Wunsch’s tumblr command-line tool for Tumblr’s API (it was the tumblr-rb gem back in those days). It could be integrated into TextMate, if you were so inclined, or used at the Terminal to post a markdown file. It was exactly the way I wanted to work: using a text editor with syntax highlighting to create drafts in markdown, and then post when ready. You could even create a bundle with a hotkey to post right from TextMate.
TextMate Bundle for the tumblr gem
I had some handy TextExpander snippets to smooth the process. It worked a good portion of the time, but it often failed, such that it was a point of friction. I often had to save my .md file and then fire this snippet…
tumblr --credentials ~/.tumblrlogin
…from TextExpander at the command line, and then drag the file into the Terminal window at the end of the line. This worked, too, and I preferred it to pasting into a Tumblr window, but only sometimes; often enough, the command threw an error, which I believe was eventually due to version two of Tumblr’s API coming out.
I happened to install the new version of the tumblr gem the night before Byword 2 came out. I was working on understanding the syntax when I called it a night, and then today at work — boom — there was Byword 2. I was quick to purchase the publishing upgrade for both the iOS and Mac versions. I think I’ll still fiddle with the TextMate workflow, but Byword looks to make my life a bit simpler.
One of the things afforded me by using Markdown files in a text editor, and publishing using the tumblr gem, was the use of YAML front matter in my posts. YAML looks like this:
title: Witty Riposte state: published,draft,submission,queue format: markdown tags: tech slug: witt-riposte
I fire this off with a TextExander snippet so I don’t have to rely on file templates or long-term memory. Especially useful is the “state” field; you can tell Tumblr to publish your post right away, save it as a draft, put it in the queue, or do whatever it does with a submission. Designating a post as a “draft” makes searching for drafts a snap; I have a smart folder that reveals only files with “state: draft” in the body from my Tumblr posts folder, and another shell command that I fire off from TextExpander:
grep -r "state: draft" ~/Dropbox/Tumblr*
You don’t get that kind of flexibility switching to iCloud for file management, though.
But true to form, Byword 2’s publishing feature is drop-dead simple. You enter your platform’s login information into a preferences screen and you’re all set to publish. Specific to Tumblr, you can tag posts and create a slug.
I think the only thing I’ll miss about writing in TextMate is syntax highlighting; I always though that looked really good. Byword does a bit of this with html (in grey), titles (in bold), and of course with bold and italicized text. But it’s a world of grays in Byword.
* you can argue that tumblr isn’t a blogging platform or its more than that or whatever, but it works fine for many writers’ purposes.
!m Great article here on using Notes between your Mac and iOS devices. Two things I didn’t know:
- Notes on the Mac will accept images as input
Via Glen E. Friedman, a list of things that Alex Jones said would happen, but didn’t:
Worldwide shortage of rare earth metals – Didn’t happen
Food supply disruptions hit western nations – Didn’t happen
Deadly superbug mutation goes wild – Didn’t happen
New evidence links vaccines and neurological disorders – The opposite happened
U.S. power grid suffers catastrophic failure – Didn’t happen
Satellite breakdown – Didn’t happen
GM crop contamination leads to crisis – Didn’t happen
Honeybee population collapse spreads to other species – Didn’t happen
Weather patterns become increasingly radicalized – Debatable
Nuclear power sees global resurgence – The Fukushima incident discredited this
Nuclear weapons unleashed in the Middle East – Didn’t happen
New exotic superfood from South America emerges in western markets – Didn’t happen
A high-tech, portable vitamin D sensor device is invented – Didn’t happen
U.S. debt gets downgraded while world investors slash purchases of U.S. debt instruments – The debt was downgraded, but investors still flock to it
U.S. nearly comes to military conflict with China over natural resources – Didn’t happen
Huge new scandal implicates major pharmaceutical company in scientific fraud – Nothing out of the ordinary here
China unleashes armies of corporate espionage hackers onto western nations – Some debate on this is ongoing
Medical imaging scandal unfolds as older patients begin to show serious health damage from radiation via mammograms, CT scans and more – Didn’t happen
Another 9/11 false flag incident – Didn’t happen
The world won’t end on December 21, 2012 – Hey, a stopped clock is right twice a day!
EPA pressured to regulate pharmaceuticals in the water supply – Can’t even contemplate this one without the brain hurting
Nursing home drugging scandal exposed – Didn’t happen
The psychiatric industry will declare more normal behaviors to be “disorders” – Didn’t happen
Vaccine industry goes crazy with new vaccines for all sorts of “diseases” – Didn’t happen
War on health freedom ramps up, targeting raw milk, homeopathy, herbs and supplements – Didn’t happen
The world becomes a far more dangerous place for honest citizens – So open-ended you cannot even evaluate
New attempts are made to destroy internet freedom – SOPA and PIPA have been discussed for awhile, so not a real argument
China’s boom will bust, sending ripples through global economy – Didn’t happen
Central and South America will drop the U.S. dollar as a currency – Didn’t happen
Local currencies emerge following the collapse of the dollar – As the dollar didn’t collapse, this didn’t happen
TSA suspends full body scanners after celeb photo scandal – No, was suspended due to dangerous exposure to radiation
Cell phone brain tumors start to appear in younger users – Didn’t happen
Medical industry claims to find cause of autism – Didn’t happen, although some hope has been raised
Terrorist strike on the U.S. water supply – Didn’t happen
Sperm count drops, infertility rates rise – Fertility is increasing, not decreasing, across the United States
“Stealth personal recorders” go mainstream – We call them Cell Phones, although Alex Jones is quick to claim that they cause cancer
JP Mangalindan, writing for Fortune:
Given the popularity, convenience, and cost savings of free services, it seems inevitable text messaging should take a hit. That’s bad news for mobile carriers, who pad their bottom lines with the profits from unlimited text plans. According to a recent study by London-based research firm Ovum, the rise of messaging apps will cost them $32.6 billion of lost revenue in 2013 and as much as $86 billion come 2020.
I’m glad to hear it. Those vipers have been overcharging US customers for a service that costs them just about nothing.