A Little Less Mac: These Files Help Me Keep My Sanity

I bought a Macbook Pro last year for my business.  I did it because a lot of people in my industry use them.

Out of the box, the thing drives me nuts, though.  After decades of Windows and Linux, the Apple way of doing things seems at best strange, and at worst just plain stupid.

So, in order to keep my sanity and get productive use from this expensive piece of hardware, I add the following packages to the system.


https://get.adobe.com/reader/  No, Preview.app isn’t good enough.  Adobe Reader has markup tools that I use on a regular basis.


http://brackets.io/  Brackets is my choice of replacement for Bluefish in Linux.


https://github.com/cdrummond/cantata  I hate iTunes.  Did I say that strongly enough?  Probably not.  At any rate, I run MPD (Music Player Daemon), a lightweight music server that runs in the background to act on calls for music.  Cantata is one of a few different clients for MPD.  I downloaded a .dmg file from somewhere, but it seems the developer is making some sort of transition and I can’t find where to download a pre-compiled package for OS X.  Sorry.


https://www.dropbox.com/downloading  If you don’t already know what Dropbox is, you need to.  Check it out.  If you do know what it is, then you know why I installed it.


http://www.msec.it/blog/?page_id=11  AirDrop is great, but it only works on Apple products.  Dukto is an easy file transfer tool designed to transfer files from one PC (or other device) to another on the local network (LAN), without worrying about users, permissions, operating systems, protocols, clients, servers and so on. Just start Dukto on the two devices and transfer files and folders by dragging onto its window. That’s all.  Works between iOS devices, Windows, Linux, and Android.


https://filezilla-project.org/download.php?type=client  Filezilla is a long-time friend that makes it easy to keep track of my stuff across multiple computers.  I use Google Drive and Dropbox, but I also keep a copy of my most important archived stuff on a server of my own at home.  Filezilla is my sFTP client of choice.


https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/new/  Firefox the web browser.  One of my favorites.


https://handbrake.fr/downloads.php  Handbrake is a video transcoder.  I use it to get my DVD’s off the disk and onto my media server hard drive.  It does not decrypt the contents.  You need LIBDVDCSS (see further down) for that.


https://pqrs.org/osx/karabiner/  Karabiner lets you remap keys to do what you want them to do.  For instance, getting the Home and End keys to behave like they do on every other system on the planet is very helpful.


https://www.keepassx.org/releases/KeePassX-0.4.3.dmg  KeePassX is a password manager I’ve used on all my different OSs for years.  It’s open source and it works.  I use Dropbox to make the encrypted .key file available to my devices so I always have my passwords at my fingertips.  There are clients for every major OS.


https://www.libreoffice.org/download/libreoffice-fresh/  With the free availability of LibreOffice, I don’t why anyone needs Pages or Microsoft Office at all.  This software suite does everything I need plus.  And it’s free.  Open source.


http://www.ragingmenace.com/software/menumeters/#download  I like to see what’s going on (or isn’t) with my computer.  This Mac has no indicators at all for drive activity or for network activity.  You just have to wait and hope something is happening.  That’s stupid.  MenuMeters allows me to select one or more indicators to show activity and places them on the menu bar at the top of the screen.  I chose a CPU bargraph, Network throughput, and disk read/write indicator.  It makes me feel good.


https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads  I run Windows 8.1 in Virtualbox to use AutoCAD.  It works great.


https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads  The Extension Pack is a needed part of the whole package, but is provided separately.  Download it after Virtuabox is installed, and it’ll add it in automatically for you.  (Look for that option after you press ‘Download’.)


https://github.com/osxfuse/sshfs/releases/download/osxfuse-sshfs-2.5.0/sshfs-2.5.0.pkg  This package extends OSXFUSE to facilitate logging into remote drives using SSH.


http://www.sketchup.com/download  Fun with 3D CAD.


http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/41285/tagger/download  I use this to add album art and such to the ID3 tags on my ALAC (.m4a) files.  Works for .mp3 too.


http://download.xnview.com/XnViewMP-mac.tgz  I searched long and hard to find a replacement for the new (and incredibly stupid) Photos app. XNViewMP (MP stands for Multi-Platform) is a great cross-platform photo manager.  The most important thing about it is it lets me decide where my pictures are going to live.  Open source.


https://www.trankynam.com/xtrafinder/  This neat little app extends Apple’s Finder.app to do more useful things.  The one thing that seals the deal is it lets you sort folders with any sub-folders at the top of the list.  To me, this behavior is a huge DUH factor for any operating system.


http://www.gimp.org/downloads/  I’ve been using The Gimp for years to do graphics work.  Open source, and works great.  Very full-featured and as such, can be quite complicated.  But you can do nearly anything with a picture using Gimp.  Think Photoshop without the pricetag.


https://www.google.com/chrome/browser/desktop/index.html  Another great web browser.


http://www.ibrowseapp.com/  This app allows you to browse your iPhone like a thumb drive via a USB cable.


https://www.google.com/drive/download/  Like Dropbox, but you get more free storage.  I use both.


http://mac.softpedia.com/get/Development/Libraries/libdvdcss.shtml#download  You have to have this library installed to decrypt encrypted DVD content.


http://www.makemkv.com/download/  MakeMKV helps me get movies off of BluRay disks and onto my media server’s hard drive.  This gets them off the disk, then Handbrake re-encodes them to a useful (.m4v) format that saves some space.  This is, to the best of my knowledge, the only way to get BluRay movies off the disk.


https://osxfuse.github.io/  The FUSE system for supporting the mounting of disks formatted in foreign formats has been around quite a while.  Read more about it here.


http://www.overlooksoft.com/download  If you want to get information about the network your computer is connected to, Fing is a great tool to help you do that.


http://synergy-project.org/  I love Synergy.  It lets me use one keyboard and one mouse to control multiple computers at once.  Multi-platform and quasi-open source.  I use it every day.


http://www.videolan.org/vlc/index.html  VLC is the go-to media player for everyone I know.

That’s the bulk of the extra software I load on this Macbook Pro to make it useful to me.

Good luck.  Your mileage may vary.  Batteries not included.

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Return Feels Great

Loading out after the first long day in a year.This is what satisfaction looks like.

It’s 9:20 PM and I’m loading out after a day of punch list items in Northern Colorado.  There’s nothing terribly unusual about any of this.  I have plenty of experience hauling gear and tools in and out of buildings.

What makes this special to me is the fact that I’ve been sitting on my butt for the past year. 

This is where I do my daily work.

Surviving the cancer, surgery and recovery is all good, but sitting in a chair all day every day is not.

I had been able to do a few things other than Design/CAD, but getting to do an entire ‘job’ from start to finish was a treat. 

Load in, set up, work, tear down and load out all by myself, it was a refreshing experience.

And my body is reminding me about it still. 

I love what I do, don’t get me wrong, but I love working with my hands even more.  I know at some point I will no longer be capable of the ‘up and down, on the knees, on the ladder’ stuff, but I hope to postpone that day as long as possible.

I had a blast digging into the guts of these three rolling video suite cases.  Making the final tweaks that make our clients happy is a good way to spend a day.

Replacing a plate.

Today I’m headed back to my desk.  I am satisfied that when the chance comes to head out into the field again, I will be capable and ready to roll.

That’s satisfaction.

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