My Freshly Packed Toolbox

I just got a new MacBook Pro and while setting it up, starting from scratch as I usually do, I thought I’d make a list of the things I’ve decided to install this time around:

  • 1Password: For all of the passwords.
  • CreativeCloud: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Acrobat, Camera RAW.
  • Air Video Server HD: Great for streaming videos from a Mac to an iOS or tvOS device. Handles all the transcoding for you, so deals with most formats transparently.
  • Atom: Current code editor. Been using this for a while. Switched from Coda to TextMate to MacVim to Sublime Text to Atom… been considering giving Brackets a try…
  • Backblaze: Backup! Have had too many external HDDs fail, and considering their price point, Backblaze makes a lot more sense.
  • Bartender 2: Gotta tame that toolbar so I can still read menus and also still access all the things in the toolbar. Pops them back in if they need attention though, which is nice.
  • Battle.net: I’m a sucker for Blizzard games.
  • Caffeine: So small and simple… just to stop my Mac falling asleep when I don’t want it to, but letting it do its thing the rest of the time.
  • DaisyDisk: I love a simple, visual way to dig through all the shite that builds up on my hard drive so I can see where space is being used and free it up.
  • Deliveries: Where my parcels at?
  • Docker: Would love to make all my development environments Docker-based. Not quite there yet, but one day. Would sure make resource management for local dev a bit nicer.
  • Dropbox: Because the cloud is just… a safer place to put my stuff than keeping it on this lump of aluminium I’m carrying around and potentially spilling coffee on.
  • Endurance: Notices when your machine is unplugged and drops below a battery usage threshold, and starts minimising unfocussed apps, dimming the screen, letting you know about resource hogs you might want to terminate to squeeze some more time out.
  • Fantastical 2: Great calendar app! Syncs with Google Apps / G Suite and lets you type appointments and reminder in almost natural language. Also pulls in other accounts like Facebook, etc. (Goodbye, Sunrise. I miss you.)
  • Firefox: Mostly for those times when Google Chrome’s DNS caching is too aggressive. Or if I need to test something on a different account.
  • F.lux: I was skeptical about this light temperature affecting sleep patterns stuff at first, but I’ve found it really does help me. Maybe it’s placebo, but it’s still helping, so I don’t care.
  • GitHub Desktop: Sometimes there are things that are just easier to do from the app than from the web UI.
  • Google Chrome: decent developer tools that I’m comfortable with and support for all the modern things I want to be able to use. Also fully in the Google Apps / G Suite ecosystem, so playing it safe there.
  • Google Drive: Handy for syncing files I use regularly for work and may like to have when I’m mobile, in particular.
  • iA Writer: current favourite app for writing in which supports Markdown, simultaneous preview pane, and syncing.
  • iTerm2: A number of features that make it nicer to use than the built-in Terminal app for macOS.
  • Just Press Record: A nice way to sync dictated notes and also does automatic transcription. The transcription isn’t especially accurate, but it’s a good starting point and I find it easier to verbalise my thoughts initially than writing them down, and then come back and edit.
  • Keka: Does a much better job of dealing with the various archive formats I throw at it than macOS on its own.
  • Keybase: This is one of those apps where on first use, you feel like it’s a solution looking for a problem. However, I love it for transferring sensitive information in a nice encrypted way to colleagues. Also has a new desktop client that’s getting better and better!
  • Kitematic: GUI for managing local Docker containers with DockerHub integration.
  • Loading: Sometimes I can’t work out what’s currently using my network connection, and this little toolbar app shows me. It’s spinning basically all the time, but at least I can see what’s making it spin.
  • MacID: Hooray! Using your iPhone, Apple Watch, and TouchID for all the things. Auto- locking/unlocking is very handy when in a co-working space.
  • Magnet: Throw those windows around wherever you like, super quickly. Left, right, up, down, fullscreen… just nice.
  • Microsoft Office: Still dealing with Office files from all over the place, and Keynote just doesn’t match up to PowerPoint for dealing with display of data… yet.
  • Monity: Making use of the sidebar widgets on macOS to peek at my machine’s resource usage. Helps work out what might be making the machine run slowly at any given time.
  • Newton: Email clients… pffft. At the moment, I quite like this one. It used to be called CloudMagic.
  • Paw: It really is “the most advanced API tool for Mac”. If you work with REST APIs, or similar, often then you need to get yourself a copy of this app.
  • PiPifier: macOS apparently has picture-in-picture mode now… but not everything supports it by default. This Safari Extension adds it to places it isn’t yet. Like Netflix.
  • RescueTime: Keeping track of my productivity, living the quantified life.
  • ScreenFlow: Favourite screencast app so far. Lots of features without being over-the-top. Even for just general basic video editing.
  • Screens: Control your Macs. Either from another Mac or from an iOS device. On your local network, or across the internet (maybe don’t do that unless you have a VPN setup). Saves me running up and down the stairs a lot!
  • Sequel Pro: Nice solid app for poking around in your MySQL servers, doing exports, or seeing what’s what.
  • Simplenote: I used to use this a lot, and so I have a lot of data in there. But iA Writer has basically taken over from this.
  • Sketch: One day maybe we won’t need Adobe products at all! I get more and more files sent to me for Sketch instead.
  • Skitch: Great little app for marking up screenshots or photos or whatever. Resigned myself to the fact that it may disappear soon, as it used to be on all platforms, and if I’m honest I wouldn’t be surprised if all of Evernote disappeared sometime.
  • Skype: For Skype calls! Actually haven’t used it all that much lately as other tools have really taken over from Skype for the most part. FaceTime, Zoom, and now Slack has just added video to its calling feature.
  • Slack: For joining all of the teams to talk about all of the things! This is basically my work office, but with multiple teams… kind of like a large co-working space with different floors.
  • Softorino YouTube Converter: Want to watch a YouTube clip offline? Problem solved!
  • Sophos: Free anti-virus. Because Macs aren’t immune to getting viruses, they’ve just been a smaller (and maybe a little harder?) target historically.
  • Steam: Sometimes I play games. But not often, tbh.
  • Things: Much like email clients, I’ve struggled to find a GTD / TODO app I’ve been happy with. Have been using Things for a while though, and it’s pretty decent.
  • Transmit: I don’t always FTP, but when I do, I use Transmit. Great support for FTP, SFTP, Amazon S3, etc.
  • TripMode: I just got this on a recommendation, so I’m yet to try it, but I’m glad to have it. So annoying having to quit and relaunch apps that use data heavily when you tether on mobile data or something. TripMode notices when you swap networks and lets you create a whitelist of apps that can use that network, per network.
  • Tweetbot: Twitter client of choice.
  • VirtualBox: Virtual machines for development.
  • VLC: For the watching of the videos when iTunes doesn’t like the codec.
  • Wallcat: Beautiful desktop wallpapers that change daily.
  • Waltr 2: Provides a drag-n-drop interface for loading videos and other media from your desktop to your iOS device, and converts on-the-fly for any formats not natively supported.
  • Zoom: Fantastic video calling for group calls. Have had almost 40 people on a single call, and it handled it completely fine, unlike some other group calling platforms coughGoogle Hangoutscough.

So there that’s my list of the 50+ apps that made it onto the new machine. Would love to know if there are any glaring omissions where I don’t have an app that you can’t live without! Let me know ūüôā

Streaming WordPress Activity to Papertrail

Hopefully you’re already aware of the wondrous WordPress plugin, Stream, for tracking changes to your site. Stream has been through a number of iterations: v1.0 logged activity to your self-hosted WordPress site’s database, v2.0 logged activity to a cloud-hosted service, and now v3.0 logs to your self-hosted WordPress site’s database again.

Why is it a problem?

For me personally, logging to the WordPress database isn’t ideal for two main reasons:

  1. Keeping your audit trail inside the system you’re auditing doesn’t make sense. If your WordPress site is compromised, it would be more advantageous for activity to be logged elsewhere.
  2. If your WordPress site whitescreens, and you can’t get access to it, it would be useful to be able to access your Stream activity. Keeping it somewhere separate may help you troubleshoot what happened.

There are probably other reasons too, but these are the main ones.

Papertrail as a solution

I decided to create a plugin that would hook into Stream and also send logged activity elsewhere. I had a few criteria for this:

  1. Cloud-hosted
  2. Searchable
  3. Long-term storage

This would also have a the effect of allowing me to disable the “Keep Records Indefinitely” option on Stream, and keep all that extra data out of my WordPress database.

I looked at a number of hosted logging services. Loggly and Papertrail came out on top as my preferences. Both are built to handle high volumes of logging traffic, and handle archiving to Amazon S3 for you.

For my personal site I can live with 7 days of searchable history, so Papertrail’s plans worked better for me than Loggly’s in this case.

So I developed Stream to Papertrail.

How I set it up

On my personal site, I have installed Stream and Stream to Papertrail. I’ve also set Papertrail to archive to a bucket on Amazon S3 (which it does nightly).

Stream to Papertrail - Screenshot 1

The logs are JSON, so I’ve turned on the colourisation option to make tailing them in Papertrail a little easier on the eyes. Keep in mind though that this does add ANSII escape code data into your logs, which means you need to be a aware of that when searching.

Stream to Papertrail - Screenshot 2

Hopefully you find this useful! Especially if you already use Papertrail for logging on your web servers, you can now include WordPress activity in those logs!

If you have any other suggestions for how I could improve this setup, I’d love to hear them. Please feel free to leave a comment here, or @Japh on Twitter.

“It is impossible to stand and drink whisky. It is the act of a barbarian. A man who stands up to drink a noble alcohol like whisky, in all but a toast to some noble thing or purpose, is a beast.”

Didier, Shantaram

Results of My Soylent Experiment

You may have heard that recently, I began an experiment with soylent. So I wanted to come back and update on how it it went (a few people have been asking, and I’ve been hesitant about how much to “share” in this post).

On the second day, I decided to switch the oil I was using in the mixture to coconut oil, rather than macadamia. I wondered if it might improve the flavour a little. I had been concerned that because coconut oil is solid when bought, that it would solidify in the fridge overnight. It was easy enough to turn into a liquid by sitting it in hot water (coconut oil’s melting point is 24 ¬įC / 76 ¬įF), but interestingly it didn’t re-solidify in the fridge after being blended with the soylent mixture.

Soylent with Coconut Oil

Quite a number of people asked me during the experiment, something to the effect of “are you hungry yet?”. I was actually surprised that I found I wasn’t hungry enough! I only got through about 3/4 of the daily amount most days. I actually felt full most of the time, until suddenly I didn’t, and then I’d get my next serving. I did feel a bit like I was just drinking the stuff all the time though.

On day three, I actually woke up feeling really light-headed and nauseated, and I figured it must be because I’d skipped the last 1/4 and actually gone to bed feeling a tiny bit hungry. But after having a few mouthfuls of soylent, I was fine again.

I tried using warm water when mixing up the batch for day three, to try and help reduce the grittiness, and it seemed to work. Still a little gritty, but definitely better.

At this point, I started to feel like soylent isn’t actually that much simpler than food. I felt like I was thinking about it too much. Almost constantly. I’m basically “eating” all day. I also wish it was a little sweeter…

Day four was pretty uneventful, but I did work out that there didn’t seem to be much difference between sipping soylent for hours, or just chugging it fairly quickly. So that helped reduce the focus on it during the day.

After consuming nothing but soylent and water for four whole days, I was thoroughly bored of it. It’s definitely worth mentioning that I chose a challenging variation of soylent. The creator of this particular recipe says this:

Schmoylent Plain is my unsweetened gluten-free take on the official Soylent 1.0 formula, without the pandering to taste and texture. No stevia and no xanthan gum.

They also have a vanilla, chocolate, and cinnamon flavoured version, which are probably better. The official stuff is also probably better (from reports I’ve heard, it definitely is).

Day five, my wife was making scrambled eggs for breakfast and having a coffee… I decided I learned enough from my experiment, and so that’s where it ended. We ended up adding some amazing wood smoked bacon to the mix too.

Now it’s been about four days since returning to normal food, and I’ve already noticed how soylent actually is a lot more convenient for work day breakfasts and lunches generally (I even miss it a bit).

I definitely plan to get more, and continue to use it as my breakfast and lunch on work days. I don’t think it’s a viable replacement for 100% of your food. Food is good, and fun, and the only reason I went 100% soylent for the experiment was to have a clearer experience of it before integrating it into a more sensible regime that includes normal food too.

I’d definitely recommend it as a replacement for meals that you often find yourself skipping, or eating junk for. Also for people who have specific dietary requirements, there are some great recipes already to address most needs.

(more…)

The First Day of My Soylent Experiment

I prepared my first batch of Soylent last night! I had originally planned to only replace breakfast and lunch, but decided there were too many variables in a mixed experiment, so I’ll be eating 100% soylent for these 7 days. After that, if I’m happy with it, I’ll order more and then switch to breakfast and lunch only.

Oil waiting to be mixed into Schmoylent Clean

So, to get everything prepared, I followed the included directions, which were basically: add 1.6L of water, one bag of Schmoylent Clean mixture, and 3.5 tablespoons of oil into a blender, then pour into a jug and stick it in the fridge.

The instructions didn’t really specify what kind of oil to use. I had been planning on using coconut oil, when I realised there could be a problem with refrigeration causing a solid layer of coconut oil on the top. So for this batch, I used macadamia oil.

The end result was a full 2L jug of gloop.

This morning I discovered that the macadamia oil had separated out, so I shook it up well before pouring into a pint glass.

Schmoylent Clean and Separated Macadamia Oil

Using a pint glass (~568ml) meant I would have about 4 portions. So I spaced them throughout the day. I would start feeling a little hungry toward the end of the time I allocated for each.

By the end of the day, I started to get a bit of a headache, and realised I hadn’t drunk anything else and maybe there wasn’t enough water in the soylent mixture. So I had a glass of water, and started to feel better fairly quickly. Won’t make that mistake tomorrow!

The soylent itself was quite gritty. Actually made me cough a little after swallowing. For tomorrow’s batch, I’ve switched to coconut oil and really given it a thorough blend. I’m hoping the combination will make it smoother, while also making the coconut oil less likely to solidify.

I survived day one! We’ll see how tomorrow goes. I’ll probably only post again at the end of the 7 days, or if something particularly interesting happens during the week. I might also post again once I return to normal food if anything interesting happens there too.

Would love to hear your thoughts or comments on this experiment in the comments below!

Giving Soylent a try

If you’ve not come across it,¬†Soylent is the name of a fairly recently created potential food replacement. (I say “potential”, because it’s still very experimental.)

The premise is that you’re trying to get your body’s daily nutritional requirements through¬†a simple delivery mechanism.¬†You also want to¬†take the effort out of meeting those nutritional needs on a daily basis.

I enjoy eating food as much as the next person, especially trying new and weird things ( if you’re ever in Iceland, give the h√°karl a try, it’s not so bad ūüėČ ). But what I don’t like is the daily annoyance of deciding on, and preparing, breakfast and lunch while keeping relatively good nutrition.

This “movement” that Soylent has kicked off with vigour has also gotten a lot of people creating their own variations too.¬†I decided to try one of those,¬†because the¬†waiting period for the official stuff was too long. I’ve picked one called Schmoylent Clean (it’s vegan, soy free, and gluten free too).

Looks like my soylent adventure will be starting very soon! #futurefood #soylentgreenispeople

A post shared by Japh (@japh) on

It’s finally arrived, and I plan to kick off this personal experiment next week. I have enough for 3 meals a day for 7 days, to begin¬†with. However, because I still enjoy food and this is about practicality, dinner time and weekends will be normal food with the rest of the family.¬†So I’ll only be replacing breakfast and lunch on week days, which should last me about 2 weeks of work days (~21 meals).

Soylent isn’t a complete food replacement for me, it’s about making life simpler and healthier, while also keeping “food as fun” to social meals.

Hopefully there’ll be another post on Monday to let you know how the first day was! I’m expecting a couple of hiccups on the first couple of days while I get it right (judging by my reading of others’ experiences).

Have you tried Soylent, or something similar? Even if you haven’t, I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions, so please leave a comment.

Ways Men in Tech Are Unintentionally Sexist

If you’re a person in tech, please have a read of this: Ways Men in Tech Are Unintentionally Sexist

Before you do, there’s something I’d like you to keep in the back of your mind:

If you find yourself thinking “that point is a little over-sensitive”, remember the context. If gender equality were not an issue, you might be right. But it is, and so we have to be a little more sensitive than we might otherwise be in a perfect world. It’s part of being generally more aware of the issue, so we can make things right.

As an example, in this post Kat says at one point:

Rule of thumb: Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to a man! It’s disrespectful to focus on someone’s appearance instead of their accomplishments.

If your immediate response is, “but I would say that to a man so there’s no problem,” you’re missing the context. (Also, perhaps you shouldn’t say it to a man either?!)

Thanks for reading!

[ Comments aren’t enabled on this post.¬†You can comment on the original post linked above. ]

Joining Human Made

I’m really excited to announce that, as Noel has posted about already, today¬†is¬†my first day in my new job¬†at¬†Human Made!

I’m looking forward to being¬†a part of¬†the Human Made team and working¬†on the products they¬†create, such as Happytables and WP Remote, as well as¬†their client services offerings.

This is a fantastic fit for me. I’ve known the guys at Human Made for a number of years, and the opportunity to¬†work¬†alongside them is a very welcome one.

Changing roles at Stream

I will continue to have a role on the Stream team in an advisory capacity. Frankie, Luke, and the rest of the team working on Stream are incredible. I’m looking forward to seeing where Stream goes from here.

You should absolutely go and sign up for the Stream Insider newsletter to stay in the loop!

Upcoming travel

I’m fortunate enough to be joining the Human Made team at WordCamp Europe in Sofia, Bulgaria this year. I hope to see some of you there!

I’ve never been to Bulgaria, and I don’t speak any Bulgarian. It’s been a while since I’ve been in a country where English isn’t the official language, so I’m very much looking forward to that¬†adventure.

I’ll also be at WordCamp San Francisco, so if I don’t see you in Bulgaria, perhaps I’ll see you there! Looking forward to another visit to Blue Bottle.

More info

Got questions about any of the above? Feel free to leave a comment below, send me a tweet, or email me. I’d love to hear from you!

An Ending and a Beginning

After almost four years in varying capacities at Envato, I’m moving on to join the good people at X-Team.

When I first joined Envato I worked on the Support Team as my family and I were travelling. It was a great job to have when on the move and wanting to also see the sights. At the time I was getting more and more active as a member of the WordPress community, and as I got to know Envato I noticed there was a large discrepancy between the company I knew and the impression the WordPress community had of them.

Envato’s passions are very much in line with my own. To educate people and enable them to support their families while having freedom of lifestyle. It’s Envato’s mission: “To Help People Learn and Earn Online.”

I’ve spent a lot of the last few years helping Envato and the WordPress community communicate with each other, and I feel like things are in a much better place than they were when I started.

‚ÄúThe opposite of the happy ending is not actually the sad ending–the sad ending is sometimes the happy ending. The opposite of the happy ending is actually the unsatisfying ending.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Orson Scott Card

It’s sad to be leaving a company and people that I love, but I leave satisfied, and am very excited about what’s next…

I’m joining an incredible team of talented people and getting back to another of my passions: building things!

At the beginning of April I will join X-Team to work on Stream.

A talented team and an exciting project, what more could I ask for?

I can already tell that 2014 is going to be an incredible year!

Photo credit: Josh Janssen