Cam McVey: Web, Electronics, Music, Stuff

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Category: Daily Life

Daily Life

Useful tools and apps

Picture of toolsI thought I’d write a quick post to talk about some of the wee tools and apps that I use pretty much every day to make life a little easier. Some were particularly useful in my transition from Windows to OS X. Hope you find this useful!

Alfred 2

Website: http://www.alfredapp.com/

This is a nice launcher app that you can quickly pop up, type anything, and it sort of knows what you’re getting at and gives you a quick list of files, apps, web seach, etc. to get the info you’re looking for. Saves a couple of keypresses when doing a new Google search.

Asepsis

Website: http://asepsis.binaryage.com/

When I first moved over to a Mac from Windows, I couldn’t believe OS X splatted these .DS_Store files in EVERY folder. What a pain! It took me about half a day to get sick of that, so I found Asepsis which cleverly deals with these files. Yay.

Caffeine

Website: http://lightheadsw.com/caffeine/

I hated the fact that the screensaver would kick in while watching videos (but appreciated it at other times). If you want to keep your screensaver but want more temporary control, Caffeine is for you.

CheatSheet

Website: http://www.cheatsheetapp.com/CheatSheet/

When moving from Windows to OS X, I struggled to get my head around the differences and conventions of keyboard shortcuts. CheatSheet is nice in that, when you’re in an app, holding down the CMD key will pop up a ‘cheat sheet’ of all available Keyboard Shortcuts available in that app.

ClipMenu

Website: http://www.clipmenu.com/

I’m a big user of clipboard apps — they are a time saver (and, occasionally a life saver) — so finding a good one was a priority. This was the best of the several I tried.

ColorSnapper

Website: http://colorsnapper.com/

Nice wee app that sits in your menu bar and can grab a colour from anywhere on the screen. When you click to select the colour, it sticks it in your clipboard ready to be pasted into whatever you’re working on.

Dotfiles

Website: https://github.com/cowboy/dotfiles

Cowboy, aka Ben Alman (of Grunt and others fame), created this as his personal bash environment setup, so it’s a nice way of setting up your prompt in Terminal and gives you some nice defaults, some useful aliases, and good integration with Git through a nifty prompt.

Eve

Website: http://www.hotkey-eve.com/

Eve is great for new OS X users that want to learn keyboard shortcuts because any time you use your mouse to select a menu item, Eve pops up to show you the shortcut you could have used. Forced myself to use it for two weeks before feeling like I could legitimately turn it off.

f.lux

Website: http://justgetflux.com/

Useful app that changes the tone of the colour of your screen after sunset. Warms up the colour tone to rest your eyes. Nice wee feature to temporarily disable which is useful when dealing with graphics/video production/manipulation.

KeyRemap4MacBook

Website: https://pqrs.org/macosx/keyremap4macbook/

Great app to help anyone transitioning from Windows (or anyone looking to customise their keyboad). Lets you reassign what a key does. Very stable and very configurable.

PCKeyboardHack

Website: https://pqrs.org/macosx/keyremap4macbook/pckeyboardhack.html.en

Sister app to KeyRemap4MacBook, I use this to remap my Caps Lock key to something more useful. I wrote about this.

Sequel Pro

Website: http://www.sequelpro.com/

Brilliant app used to manage a local (or remote) MySQL server. Really nice interface, powerful helper features to manipulate the data, including a nice query window with exporting of results.

Slate

Website: https://github.com/jigish/slate

If you need total control over your app windows including size, shape and location, and you have the time and drive to learn it, there’s nothing better out there.

SizeUp

Website: https://www.irradiatedsoftware.com/sizeup/

SizeUp is a nifty app that allows you to move and resize your app windows. Quick to learn and quite configurable. Great for overcoming the insanity that is OS X full size vs full screen. Full size doesn’t mean all–of–the–screen, and full screen means you–may–not–work–on–anything–else. Nonsense. SizeUp sorts this out.

TotalTerminal

Website: http://totalterminal.binaryage.com/

I use the terminal a lot (one of the reasons for moving to a Mac was to get a ‘real’ command line). TotalTerminal gives some nice configuration options and makes a terminal a shortcut away. Used many multiple times a day.

Doing something useful with your Caps Lock key (on a mac)

Ever not used your Caps Lock key? Yeah, me too — all the time. So, that’s a waste, right? Let’s do something about it.

Picture of a part of a mac keyboard, focussed on the CapsLock key

Mac Keyboard, CapsLock Key

My frustrations with Mac keyboards was something I wrote about in a previous blog post. I mentioned that I had remapped the Caps Lock key, so I thought I would expand on it a bit, in case it would be useful to you.

You’ll need to download two small (very useful) programs and configure some settings, but it’s easy and this will take maybe 10 minutes tops.

First download PCKeyboardHack and follow Steps 1, 2, and 3 detailed on that page. In step two, in the “Setting” tab, look for the entry for Caps Lock, click the little arrow to the left to open it up, and enter “110” in the keycode column. Close PCKeyboardHack.

Now download KeyRemap4MacBook and follow Steps 1, 2, and 3 on that page. After Step 3, in the “Change Key” tab, scroll down until you see the entry “For PC Users”. Open that entry up (click on the little arrow again) then open out the entry for “Change PC Application Key”. Now you can change the behaviour of the Caps Lock Key to any of these entries. I set mine to “Forward Delete” as I missed that functionality when moving from a PC keyboard. Once you’ve selected your chosen remapping, close KeyRemap4MacBook.

Well done, you just made that key more useful!

 

 

On Mac keyboards and frustration

[Caveat: the following is an opinionated piece that you may or may not agree with. Also, my context is as a web developer: some of the following offenders are, of course, useful in other professions.]

Credit: berrytokyo

Credit: berrytokyo

I got a MacBook Pro recently, primarily because all the cool kids are creating the latest, greatest web tools on Mac systems and, frankly, the Windows guys are lagging behind. I found myself increasingly finding awesome tips/tricks/tools that came with the mac-only caveat which finishes with “I don’t know how you do this on a Windows machine, sorry.” I also got it because they’re so brilliantly designed to be both beautiful and powerful, and I dig that.

However, nobody mentioned the gaping hole of productivity that the non-standard (?) weird (UK) keyboard mapping! Argh!

  • The @ and ” symbols are swapped. Ever write an email? Yeah, me too. So I’ve had to re-learn where the @ symbols is. Annoying!
  • Page Up and Page Down are missing. This is really important to me as I use those keys A LOT to move around documents I’m editing.
  • The # symbol is completely missing! Any time you want to add colo(u)r to a webpage, you need that bad boy. Now it’s gone. This the worst change because, as an added annoyance, it’s been replaced with the never-ever-used-in-my-entire-life § (Section) symbol. What? Not to mention the equally useless ± as its shift+ partner.

Suffice to say, my first few weeks of Mac-ownership were filled with never-ending Google searches starting, “mac os x keyboard shortcut for …”. Now, I do know that all of these things can be overcome with judicious use of modifiers (e.g., Page Up is ?+? [cmd + up-arrow]), but even so, it’s a pain.

Then I stumbled on a superb bit of software called KeyRemap4MacBook. It is free and it is brilliant. I have now re-mapped several keys on this laptop to be more useful to me and I am very grateful to the genius Takayama Fumihiko for it. Though I haven’t gone as far a re-mapping the @ and ” symbols, I’ve made the this machine work better for me, and that’s pretty cool.

Right now, here’s how I have it set up:

  • When I hit the ‘§’, I get a lovely ‘#’.
  • Along with PCKeyboardHack, I’ve remapped the Caps Lock key to be “forward delete”
  • The Eject key now shows the desktop
  • The right-hand ? key is now Home (“Go to start of line”)
  • The right-hand ? key is now End (“Go to end of line”)
  • Also really handy: “Press ?+Q twice to Quit Application”

So, I’ve tamed the beast, somewhat. And I’ve forced myself to use the @ key in the wrong place. And I’m now pretty much up-to-speed with my Mac, and am enjoying playing with all the clever toys the cool kids are creating.

Change Changes Things

Buses, they say, take an age to arrive and then all appear in a bunch together. And so it seems with Change in my life. Of course, we all deal with change as a matter of day-to-day living. There’s nothing unusual about that. The Change that I’m referring to here is the big changes in life and, more specifically, when those changes come along together. About four years ago, I had to deal with the arrival of my first-born child, the purchase of my first house, the death of my father, being made redundant, and starting my first business — all in the space of a few months. It was tough, but in a way that you only fully realise after the fact. I got through it, mostly with the aid of faith, friends, prayer and time.

In one way, common sense says spread out the unheaval. Don’t rock the family boat too much at one time. Take the hits one at a time to disperse the pain. I’m not so sure though — I feel all at once is perhaps the best way. Just throw it all at me in a one’r and, “setting my face like flint”, I’ll get through it. Being in a constant state of big change would be a hard way to live. Seasons of constance and short storms of massive change perhaps suit me better.

That’s just theory, of course. I have no way of really knowing as I’ve never really had big changes spread out and, to bring us up to date, it looks like another storm is brewing. Changes in housing, church, job, income and spiritual climate has me wide-eyed. I’m faced with the prospect of all this change like one sitting at the front of a rollercoaster at the initial ratching up. Infact, I’m at the top, faced with the reality of what this all means, and the immediacy of it makes for a big inhale and the gulp and tightened grip before the big fall at the start of the ride.

But I’m learning to lean; I’m learning to trust. I’m getting better at seeing this stuff for what it is. I’m learning to marry up my understanding with my own circumstances. I feel more confident that everything will be alright. In fact, if I navigate in step with Him and remain in Him, I can come out of this much the richer. The opportunity for learning and growth is compelling.

So I say bring it on! All the trouble I see brewing, when viewed from this perspective, just become bigger examples of the “change is good” way-of-life I so espouse. It’s just that there’s more on the line now. But, surely, that means the reward is that much greater.

Help us keep on truckin’!

Since the beginning of August this year, my family and I have been — to use a well-worn phrase — “living by faith” which means, basically, trusting God to meet our every need. Of course, barring creative miracles involving crisp new bank notes, this means He uses the members of His kingdom, asking them to be willing to be “releasers of finance”! Which brings us directly to the purpose of this post which is to draw your attention to the fact that we can now be directly supported (by you, even!) via the good folks over at Stewardship, using the forms available on our “Support Us” page.

Please do consider it. We feel we’re doing what we’re called to do, and that it is very relevant and important work. If you fell led, please pray and see what your Dad has on His heart for you to do.

Thank you!

Creating Begets Creativity

So, I had great fun being on the radio last night. The lovely Lorna Farrell invited James Renwick, the Healing Rooms intern, and myself onto her evening show on Revival FM to talk about Healing Rooms and healing in general. A touch nervous as I set off for the station, but armed with a raft of website print outs, I met with James at Starbucks to plan out who was going to cover what.

Of course, as soon as we got settled in the studio, Lorna immediately put us both at ease and the conversation flowed from there. Plenty of laughs, a lot of good talk about healing and what God is doing in Scotland in this day, and some prayer for listeners who got in contact made for a quick two hours which went pretty well!

It got me thinking though — how great it is that three people talking about something they’re into can be entertaining for others. That coming together and talking is a very simple form of creation. Lorna created entertainment just by asking us interesting questions and others benefited from that act of creation. It also, for me, highlights one of the most important aspects of creativity: that it causes new things to exist simple through a natural, built-in, aspect of our humanity. That’s just crazy to me. But it makes perfect sense. If we are children of the God that defines creativity — all creation is His work — and we are made in His image and likeness, that means we too are creative in the same manner. My pastor, Jake Chadney, writes more eloquently and convincingly about this in an article called “Creative Growth”.

We as a church have had a couple of weekends together exploring creativity for creativity’s sake. We called them Creative Discovery Weekends and there was a good selection of different things to try. The point was to engage in the creative process, not to do ‘good art’. I feel the distinction between arty and creative can be summed up like this: that art is there to be judged and therefore, to some extent, can be good or bad. The creative process, however, is just that — a process. It is neither good nor bad, attractive or ugly. It is the exercise of taking a base substance — clay, paint, ideas, blank film, a musical instrument — and producing something. And that act of birthing something new is exciting!

There is an intriguing article that I read the other day that states this:

The labor one performs transforms something in the environment, which in turn transforms you. The act of creation shapes you as a man, refines your sensibilities, improves your strengths, hones your concentration, and builds your character. Passive consumption leaves you untouched and unchanged. Consumptions breeds indifference; creation begets empowerment.

Wow! The act of creativity can expand your whole character? Now you have my attention!

And that, I suppose, is a great manifesto for the existence of this blog. I hope that the act of occasionally sitting down and forming a thought or making an observation or a connection between things will, in turn, open up more creativity in me. I want to grow in this area. I want to be creative in my thinking because I believe we’re coming into an age where the old arguments and wisdom will no longer cut it. That we will need to have a creative capacity to make the connections between what God is doing and what man is struggling with.

So, although this entry has meandered a bit, it has awakened in me just a touch more creativity, and that’s good enough for me!

Good Friends

I’ve been blessed with good friends my whole life. I’m the kind of person that doesn’t tend to have loads of friends at one time, but one or two very good friends, comrades, compadres to share the journey with.

So for me to have three good buddies at one time is unusual, and that we all shared a common interest just made our time together cool. Ben, Dan and Allan and I have been in a band together for the last 9 months or so, but it’s all come to an amicable end.

We were never entirely sure how long term the band was going to be or what it would look like. I was personally just enjoying regularly hooking up with these fine men, hanging out and joking around, and sometimes playing music together. It took us a few months to see it for what it was: loads of fun together.

With Dan’s decision to move back to the USA, and with the knowledge that there is a full-time worship leading call on Ben & Allan’s lives, and me knowing that music is not my focus for now, we are all done as a band. We played our last gig at Dan’s recent CD launch night which was fitting as the CD was the only tangible output of the band, it being the main focus for the whole time we’ve been together.

So, this post is a wee tribute to three awesome men of God — legends, even — who have been great fun to walk with.

Dan: thank you for all your encouragement in the area of music, my ability, and the opportunity to take part in the creation of the CD was awesome. I pray your journey is just beginning, that everthing so far is the warmup lap, and now you are heading off for the real thing. Wherever you end up will be a blessed place indeed. You are a very very good man; be everything you can be. Do it!

Ben: you are such a brilliant, brilliant musician. I think you greatly underestimate your skills, but you are so inventive, so precise, so passionate! Thank you for always being the first to pray, the first to encourage and the one who always knows the funny thing to say, even if it is just over the line! Pursue your dreams, mate!

Allan: you are SO gifted, and you are so humble with it. I’m so glad you have known from an early stage what your gifting is and how you’ve been faithful to pursue it. You have me in stitches, especially when you and Ben are messing around, and you are so encouraging. You too need to go for it in a big way and watch how God blesses it.

All three of you are very talented, gifted and annointed musicians, humble and funny, loyal and encouraging. I am blessed, and my life is enriched, by knowing you.

The band is dead, but our friendships live on. Amen!