Safari to Link Post Shortcut

12th February 2022

Since getting my new Mac a few days ago, I’ve been trying to move my iOS writing automations over. However, one of the main shortcuts just wasn’t possible on the Mac. It’s the “Link Post” shortcut that I’ve been using for quite some time on my iPad.

It doesn’t exactly do much, but it saves a lot of time and effort. It essentially uses the share menu in Safari to pass the article and the highlighted text to a shortcut. From there, it extracts the title, author, and url of the article, along with formatting the selected text as a markdown blockquote (using my app, Text Case), formats it nicely, and creates a new sheet in Ulysses. Leaving me to add some comments to the sheet, before publishing it to my blog.

Turns out the Mac’s a bit more complicated, as while there’s a share menu, you can’t use it to launch a shortcut. So, my existing solution was out the window.

I tried a few other options that sounded promising, such as the “Get Article from Safari Reader” action that seemed to be precisely what I wanted. I’d be able to detect the URL somehow, and then be able to extract any information manually. Unfortunately, this action doesn’t work, and I’ve been told it hasn’t been working for some time.

After some experimenting, I realised that as long as I could have the URL and highlighted text, then I would be able to come up with something sufficient. Because from the URL, I can make a quick GET request, and get the page title. I haven’t worked out how to get the author using this method, but it wasn’t exactly reliable on iOS anyway.

My last option was to try to use macOS Services. I discovered that if I used a service from Safari, then it received the selected text as the input. And to top it off there was also a way to receive the “onscreen content” inside a shortcut, which in the case of Safari, returns the URL of the current page.

That meant I was able to combine the selected text from the input, and the URL from the onscreen content, and put together a link post generator.

After fetching the page title and url, the only thing it needs to do is to format the selected text as a Markdown blockquote using Text Case, and put it together into a nice format.

It’s definitely not the quickest shortcut, with it taking around 5 seconds to create the Ulysses sheet, but it’s definitely better than doing all of this manually. I also added a notification after the sheet is created, so you can be sure it’s done. And you also get an option to open the sheet straight away.

Here’s a quick video of the shortcut in action:

Download the “Safari to Link Post” shortcut.

The Ultimate Minimalist Phone

12th February 2022

Greg Morris, on what he thinks is the best minimalist phone:

After experimenting with older devices, I felt unfulfilled and sometimes caused more hassle than they are worth. Recently, I tried a ‘dumb phone’ in the Punkt MP02, which left a lot to be desired considering its £300 price tag. Couple this with the realisation that I need to be able to access some apps occasionally (How on earth do you do banking nowadays when the branches are hardly open?) – I was stuck. That was until I realised I had the best minimal device to replace my phone the whole time – my Apple Watch.

I’ve been in love with the Apple Watch, particularly a cellular version, for as long as I can remember. It allows me to leave my phone at home when I don’t need it but still be contactable, yet I couldn’t see its real usefulness until I took a step back. I truly think this could be the best minimalist approach to a world that seems to demand a smartphone.

It’s an interesting idea to have the Apple Watch be your “phone”, and after reading Greg’s piece, it sounds like a very viable option.

I’m not an Apple Watch wearer anymore having switched to a “real” mechanical watch recently. However, this idea of a more discreet device which performs the fundamental functions of a phone without most of the distractions is very attractive to me. I guess it’s somewhere in the middle of being cut off from the world, and being wired-in to the internet.

Text Case 2022.1

7th February 2022

It’s the first update to Text Case this year, and to be honest the first one in quite some time. I’ll get on to that in a bit, but first I’ll go over what’s in this update.

Two fixes. Firstly to address the Guardian title case that wasn’t correctly following the rules where certain words are always lowercase. And secondly, to address the bug when searching the formats list and the empty section headers would still be present.

Refreshed dark mode . The previous dark mode took inspiration from other iOS apps when it was first designed, where it used a lot of jet black, and everything was very dark. But it’s always been a thing that I’ve not 100% been a fan of, so I took some time to soften the colours a bit, and I think it looks a lot better.

New accent colours. Text Case has always had a red-ish accent colour throughout the app. This colour was taken from the original app icon. However, the default icon changed back at the start of 2021 when 12 new variants were added. The new default icon featured a slightly different red, and a new blue colour. So for this update I’ve decided to adjust the accent colours to match this icon, which means in light mode the accent will be red, and the blue will be used for dark mode (which works well with the new dark mode I must say).

Support for Shortcuts on Mac. Definitely a finally. This has been long deserved, and I’m to be honest I’m surprised more people haven’t ben reaching out and asking for it. But it’s finally here, and I think it makes Text Case a much better option now for people who want their automations to work on all of their machines.

1 new format. This update wasn’t planned to be filled with new formats, but there was one that I was getting a few requests for, and that was to be able to remove line breaks from a piece of text. It’s relatively simple, so I thought I may as well add it now. There are a few more I have lined up that will be in a future release, I just wanted to get this update out sooner rather than later.

Download

This update is available now for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS!


So why has it been so long since the last update?

Okay, so it mainly comes down to one event. Which was pretty much self-inflicted, and probably shouldn’t have happened.

So, a few months ago I was playing around with Linux, and installing various distros on a partition on my Mac. This time I was testing out Pop!_OS, which is a relatively beginner-friendly distro, and seemed Mac friendly.

I created all the necessary partitions, making note of the macOS partitions to keep away from them, and I installed the OS. It went fine, and I was able to play with it, and spend some time installing a bunch of packages and desktop environments. And once I was a bit more comfortable, I decided to clear the partitions and reinstall the OS, and then use what I learned to make a cleaner configuration.

However, on the second install, the OS was written to the wrong partition. Somehow the macOS partition had been used instead. I’m 99.9% sure it wasn’t me, although if this was someone else doing it, I’d be 99.9% sure it was user error.

My Mac had essentially been wiped. Although, at this point I was relatively calm as I have my important documents in iCloud Drive, photos in iCloud Photos, and my development work hosted in GitHub repositories.

Except that last one wasn’t entirely true. For some reason, the work I did for the 2021.6 release of Text Case hadn’t been pushed. So the App Store version was actually ahead of the code.

This meant that before I could work on any new features, I’d have to rewrite the last update. The update contained 15 new formats, various adjustments, and a few bug fixes. On top of that, there was a slight issue I was having with Xcode where I had one framework causing me issues, because it was being linked in the Mac Catalyst app target, and also the macOS bundle which powers the macOS services support.

If you add in my laziness, and some irritation that I’d have to spend time on things I’d already finished, this work took longer than it did originally.

Eventually I had everything how it was in the 2021.6 release, and I got working on the new functionality that I mentioned above. Part of me was thinking that I should add more to the update to make it a bigger release, but with the big gap in time since the last update, I thought it was best to just get it out now. It’s not like I can’t update again in a few weeks.

So that’s the story. I’m certainly glad it’s over, and I’m sure some of you will find it funny. I’ve taken a few steps to make sure it won’t happen again, such as buying a NAS and setting up Time Machine, and also buying a second-hand ThinkPad to handle my Linux experiments. Hopefully that means Text Case can go back to being regularly updated with new formats and functionality.

Blizzard Are Working on a New Survival Game

25th January 2022

In some very much unexpected news, Blizzard have announced that they’re developing a new survival game, for both PC and console (which, I assume, will now be Xbox).

Blizzard:

Blizzard is embarking on our next quest. We are going on a journey to a whole new universe, home to a brand-new survival game for PC and console. A place full of heroes we have yet to meet, stories yet to be told, and adventures yet to be lived. A vast realm of possibility, waiting to be explored.

Every story needs a teller. And every world needs builders. What if that could be you?

For thirty years, Blizzard has been creating universes for millions of players around the globe. This requires a diverse team of developers willing to lend their voices, to listen and to be heard. That is our mission.

As much as World of Warcraft has had more downsides than good for the past few years, and so has the company (and parent company) as a whole. I used to regard Blizzard as being my favourite game developers. They always seemed to be the ones that would arrive late, with a few delays, but always ended up making a great game.

I’ve been a theoretical fan of survival games since Day-Z came out, and I’ve tried a few of them, but they’ve all felt a bit boring to me. I’ve never found one with any real depth. Maybe that’s because I haven’t tried the right one, but I would assume that a Blizzard one would probably be my best bet, as I’ve enjoyed all of their games so far.

The artwork definitely looks interesting, and looks like it matches the style of World of Warcraft and Hearthstone, which I very much like.

I like the idea of this survival game being set in the Warcraft universe, but I can also accept that it might be time for some new worlds and characters. I guess I would be fine with it either way.

One thought in my mind is that I hope this doesn’t take away anything from World of Warcraft. There’s been a few recent leaks regarding a potential ‘Dragon Isles’ expansion for WoW, and they all sound good to me. So if they are true, and WoW does seem to be on the right path again, I hope it can continue that way.

Improving Your Life Without Really Trying

8th January 2022

The Guardian have published a great article listing 100 different ways that you can improve your life without really trying. It’s both insightful and funny, so I’d recommend giving it a once-over.

My favourites would have to be these:

  • Keep a bird feeder by a window, ideally the kitchen. It’ll pass the time when you’re washing up.
  • Sharpen your knives.
  • Laugh shamelessly at your own jokes.
  • Eat salted butter (life’s too short for unsalted).
  • Don’t save things for “best”. Wear them – enjoy them.
  • Always be willing to miss the next train.
  • Listen to the albums you loved as a teenager.

Focus in a Distracted World

7th January 2022

I wrote recently about my feelings on using older products, and how they can still function many years on. And with good timing, Joshua Blais, one of my current favourite YouTubers, made a great video about the products he uses.

As mentioned in the video’s title, he uses a 10 year old Thinkpad laptop currently. But he also goes over the other products he uses, and how he splits his use cases across his devices to keep contexts clearly defined and separated.

Keeping Up with the Joneses on Social Media

6th January 2022

Jas Hothi, wrote a rather interesting piece on why he’s quitting social media, and I tend to agree with some of the points he made. Especially this observation:

As Richard Layard explains in his book, just a couple of decades ago pre-digital age, the comparisons we made were with those who lived on our street, or were otherwise in our social circles – i.e. colleagues, extended family, and so forth.

These days, our ‘circles’ have been expanded – thanks to the internet – to thousands of others all over the world. So the Keeping up with the Joneses effect is increased, we compare ourselves more, and we feel unhappier.

The massive scope and scale of social media is where I feel most problems stem from. That can certainly be a benefit in some use cases, but as for the “social” part of a social network, I don’t think it helps.

For whatever reason, we tend to compare ourselves to others. However, comparing yourself to people in the real world is one thing. Comparing yourself to the endless amounts of people on the internet is another, especially given how manipulated and glamorised they tend to be.

One thing’s for sure, I’m very glad my childhood was largely free from social media.

I definitely used sites like Bebo and MySpace when they were around. But I was a teenager by then, and they seemed more like fun ways to talk to your friends than a way to keep yourself “plugged in”.

Using Older Products

5th January 2022

I’ve had enough thoughts on this idea to span a short book, but I had a moment today where I was just occupied with my thoughts, and I started contemplating using an iPhone 5 again.

A quick bit of a context: the iPhone 5 is my favourite phone to have existed, and I’m also a fan (nostalgically) of older technology.

Whenever I think about an older product like the iPhone 5, or whatever old product or service that I used in the past, I always end up watching YouTube videos like “Does X work in 2022?”.

After going through a moment of nostalgia, I’m always left with the thought that “of course it should work”. Older products don’t magically stop working when newer versions come out. In the same way that if you buy a Game Boy Colour now, and Pokémon Yellow, you’ll have the same experience as you would have done 20 years ago.

Surely as long as the hardware of a product remains functional, and any software updates keep the product working as expected, then technology should theoretically last forever?

When the question whether an older product or technology is still viable in a certain moment, if the need/purpose is still the same, then it is as suitable and capable as it was originally.

Of course, there are more specific arguments that could be made against this. For example, if you have an old iPhone and update it to the most modern version of iOS, while you may have newer features, your device is most likely going to run slower.

There’s a potential argument here that keeping software updates isn’t always the best way to keep something working for a long period of time. But I’ll save that thought for another day.

All I’m trying to say, is that when you think about older products, their capabilities aren’t usually what has changed. They can most likely perform the same function as they did originally. But what has changed is your expectations of what a certain product should provide.

My answer to every “Can you still use X in 2022?” question, is that if your needs have not changed and there aren’t any software compatibility issues, then of course you can.

From a Blog Post to a Printed Essay

3rd January 2022

I’ve been thinking about my writing recently, but from a different perspective to normal. This time thinking about the longer-term life of some of the things I’ve written. Not the quick link posts, or the product reviews, or anything like that, but more of the longer-form pieces that I’ve really put thought into.

I’m not sure how to best explain them, but if I could choose a few examples that fit into this category, which I’ll be calling “essays”, they would be these:

These all range roughly from the 500 to 1300 word mark. So, it’s not always a certain length. But I would say that what I call an essay, is a piece of writing that you could print out and have it stand on its own, without needing to be supported by the context of my blog.

I’ve gone through my blog and found 25 posts that I feel fit this category, and organised them with the “Essay” tag, which is available to read individually, and has been added to the main navigation bar at the top.

I’m mainly thinking for archival purposes, but the thought of having my writing in book form, especially a physical copy, sounds very appealing.

Maybe those books could be available for others, although I would guess that they would only ever be available digitally. But it’s certainly something I want to look into soon.

The concept that I think would suit my writing best would be a collection of volumes, where perhaps Volume I has X pieces of writing, and then Volume II has the next X pieces of writing, and so on.

I think that’s my first project for 2022. Curating my best writing so far, and making a book. First for myself, but also potentially for others.

Finding the Right Place

22nd December 2021

There’s a type of content, that I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but for quite a long time, I’ve itched for it to find a place. There might be a word or phrase for it already, but I can only describe it as informal, ephemeral, and sometimes very meta.

I think for some, this is social media. But as a person with a blog, I’ve always felt as if it should be more like that, instead of writing on a closed platform like Twitter. That has led me to trying to use Micro.blog multiple times, and also Mastodon recently (which I haven’t been active on for a while).

The only places where I’ve similar content to what I’m talking about is actually on Micro.blog. However, not those that use Micro.blog as a Twitter replacement, which is what I essentially did. But instead, those that really leant into Micro.blog as their sole blogging platform.

Part of me always wants to steer towards hosting all of my writing in one place, and keeping it live and accessible forever. Which is the reason I always end up giving up on platforms like Micro.blog, but I’m starting to think I might just have to accept that it’s probably the best fit. Because the alternative is to share it here on this blog, and I really don’t want to go through all the hassle where I have essentially a full blog and micro blog merged together, but also separate.

I think I’ve talked myself into microblogging again.

Should I use Micro.blog, or keep it self-hosted and syndicate it to Micro.blog (and everywhere else)?