Thoughts When Shifting To A New Mac

So at the moment I’m shifting on to a new Mac. I’ve previously been using two, a pretty good MacBook Pro and a terribly slow iMac. Now I have a top of the line MacBook Pro, 16Gb of RAM, 1Tb SSD and an i7 processor. It’s pretty schmick.

Of course there’s a downside to a new Mac. You need to set it up just right and that can take some time. It is considerably easier and less painful in this era of cloud computing.

Apple’s iCloud is the first revelation. You log in to iCloud and down come your internet accounts, the passwords saved in your KeyChain, Safari’s bookmarks (and history it seems) and the Desktop and Downloads folder.

Then we get to installing applications. Almost all the apps I use now come from the Mac App Store so getting them installed is just a matter of opening the App Store and reviewing my list of purchased apps. There are another set of apps I have courtesy of SetApp and those are just as easy to install. Ones required for work are installed via JAMF. That leaves a few quirks; 1Password, Chrome, BBEdit, iTerm, and some others not terribly important. OK, Karabiner Elements is pretty important, we may talk about that later.

Now we have setting up. Safari and Chrome are easy. Most of the apps I install I use the default preferences. The hard ones are iTerm, BBEdit and bash.

Even these are easier in this day of cloud resources. All the dot files and my personal bin directory are stored on github so I can pull them down on to a new Mac in seconds. Even better, inside my personal bin are my favourite font, Input, the Solarized colour schemes for BBEdit, and a shell script brewer that runs a brew install for each line of a text file, brew_me.txt, also in the directory. Yes, I know it’s a trivial script but is saves me remembering and typing:

while read b; do
   brew $b
done <brew_me.txt

I have a number of similar “trivial” scripts. One day I’ll clean them all up and make them public. So what absolutely makes the grade and gets included in brew_me.txt.


I might add one or two later but they are the essentials.

The final useful thing that hides in that folder is the file com.googlecode.iterm2.plist, yes, iTerm2 is capable of reading it’s preferences from any directory you like. It’s set at the bottom of the General preference pane. Makes setting iTerm up easier, store the preference file somewhere that’s part of your git repo and you are done.

Karabiner Elements, my favourite keyboard hacking tool has a new feature, it can import complex modifications from the net via your web browser and they have a web page full of them. The other nice thing about it is the preference file is saved in the .config folder in your home and is easily understood JSON. Much nicer than the XML in a plist and also easily stored in your git repo. I cannot recommend Karabiner Elements too much, it is the perfect tool for such things as changing the caps lock key to something more useful and less dangerous. I have my keyboards set so caps lock on it’s own does nothing, shift-caps lock does a caps lock and if you hold it down and hit another key it becomes a modifier equivalent to holding down Shift-Ctrl-Option-Command. It’s one of the complex mods you can download from the mods page.

Thinking about how iTerm2 and Karabiner Elements handle their preferences you can tell a piece of software that’s been written by a real hacker. They have nice, tiny, touches like these. The same can be seen in the way pandoc looks after it’s own bash completion, you just add eval "$(pandoc --bash-completion)" as a line in your bash profile and there you have it. Now if BBEdit had a similar scheme I’d be in paradise. By the way, if you’re interested in bash completion then running pandoc --bash-completion gets you a damn fine example of how to write one, though you can always go bbedit /usr/local/etc/bash_completion.d and have a look at the complete list.


Just Another Bloke



Today’s Daily Prompt: “Often, our blogs have taglines. But what if humans did, too? What would your tagline be?”

The tag for my blog is “Just another blog” and that goes with the self-deprecating humour typical in Australia. Of course I don’t really think this is just another blog, I hope that the writing you find here is better than average and that the content pleases and often makes you think.

So what would my personal tagline be? How about “Just Another Bloke”? No, I think not.

On my business card I have the title “The Macintosh Guy”. Over the years I’ve worked at large organisations where most of the computers run Windows and I’ve been supporting or administering a smaller Mac fleet so I’ve often been known as the Macintosh guy, the Mac expert. Seven or eight years ago when I was working support at Sydney University it was a compliment by my fellow workers and I grew to love it. When I was at Newcastle University most of the people I shared an office with tried to make it an insult (yes, they were those sort of people) but by then I owned it so strongly that it never worked.

So that might be a possible tagline. It doesn’t feel right for the Tony Williams that writes here on this blog though. As well as my passion for computers I also have a passion for reading and writing and that’s what this place is for.

Since I learnt to read while on a beach holiday when I was almost four I’ve loved books. My parents and older brother spent a lot of time on that holiday reading and my Mum bought my brother a great magazine called “Look & Learn” and me one called “Treasure” that was mostly pictures with captions. She insists that a the beginning of the fortnight I couldn’t read and at the end I was reading the magazine without help and the hard part was getting me to stop.

Continue reading

A Cluttered Mind

English: Black and white photograph of a shelf...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Daily Prompt, entitled ‘Clean Slate’ asks:

Explore the room you’re in as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Pretend you know nothing. What do you see? Who is the person who lives there?

I sit in a lounge room with cluttered bookshelves DVDs and books spilling out of them. At one end if a large TV and sound system with large central speakers. The shelves contain more than books, there are Lego models, papercraft models (some of these are strange and geometric) and small tech toys. On top of one speaker is a cardboard giraffe model with a wire crank handle, next to the TV is a teddy bear wearing a Santa hat.

This is an eclectic and cluttered room, the person who lives here would seem to have a wide range of interests.

The bookshelves and the books on them attract my interest. At the bottom of one I spy a shelf that holds three dictionaries (one with a magnifying glass sitting on top of it), two atlases and two copies of Shakespeare’s Complete Works. In the same bookshelf are books on Macintosh computers, Unix and various programming languages. Further up I see Science Fiction, Penguin classics and a wide range of non-fiction. Philosophy, politics, language and the theatre seem common topics. This person is a reader, even the coffee table has several books on it with odd bits of paper and cardboard sticking out of them marking a place.

Computers obviously hold a central place in their life. As well as all the IT books I can see a MacBook Air on the coffee table plugged into a charger alongside an iPad and there is an iPhone charging on the arm of the lounge. An external hard drive and a Bluetooth keyboard are among the objects on the coffee table. Is that a Mac Mini sitting next to the TV?

Animation might be an interest; I can see toys from Toy Story, Cars and the classic Warner Brothers cartoons in various spots around the room. A look at the DVDs and Blu-Rays show the same, all the Pixar movies, some WB cartoon collections are there. A strange mix of movies and TV with a lot of BBC natural history – a David Attenborough fan.

This is a man’s room. I can imagine him as an interesting person to talk to with a wide range of thoughts and opinions and a strong interest in listening to others, those philosophy and political books. I can imagine a desire to learn, all those dictionaries. He likes to build things, the Lego and papercraft. While he’s obsessed by things, all that Lego and toys, he’s obviously not obsessed with tidiness though there is a sort of organisation to the room with different things in different areas, apart from the two bookshelves full of books where you can find a book on PHP next to a book on Shakespeare and “The Exegesis of Philip K Dick” next to Clancy’s “Patriot Games”. I think he has a cluttered but interesting mind.

Do you think you’d like him?