Posts tagged "software"

Roon music player

hardware software music
One thing I love about blogging and friendly social networks is that they can be a great source for finding out about cool things that you might not otherwise have come across. However, this can also open up dangerously enticing rabbit holes in which to fall, often involving spending money when you get to the bottom of them! So when Jack Baty posted about Roon, I was intrigued. At the time, I had a quick look and liked what I saw, but thought, “I don’t really need that as I’m quite happy with iTunes and Apple Music”. Continue reading →

Pandocomatic and Scrivomatic

geekery software

Regular readers among you will know that if there’s an easy way to do it, or a difficult but deliciously geeky way to do it which involves substantial amounts of tinkering, I invariably prefer the latter. So you’ll appreciate that when a search for some tidbit of information about Pandoc turned up an article by Andrew Goldstone titled Easy Lecture Slides Made Difficult with Pandoc and Beamer (and its follow up, Programmatic Lecture Slides Made Even More Difficult with R Markdown), I smiled with recognition. It seems that Andrew and I are both connoisseurs of a geekily baroque workflow.

I’m a long-time user of Pandoc to produce most kinds of document, but this week I have been trying out a couple of linked systems — Pandocomatic and Scrivomatic — which aim to tidy up your Pandoc workflow, and make it quicker to produce the kinds of output you need.

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Forklift 3

software review

A couple of years ago, I was a devotee of Path Finder, a Finder replacement. However, as Finder got more capable, Path Finder started to feel a bit too heavy on resources and too complex, so I stopped using it. Nevertheless, I would often miss some of its handy features. Recently, I came across Forklift 3 while browsing through Setapp’s applications, and decided to try it out.

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Spacemacs on develop branch

geek software

It has been a long time since I’ve published anything, as I’ve had a frantically busy month or so at work. I’ve had barely any time for anything else. I haven’t sewn any garments for a while, and the only creative thing I’ve done with my hands is to start knitting a pair of socks, which I then had to unravel back to the start half-way down the foot when I made a catastrophic mistake. Things are getting a little quieter now and I hope to get back to my sewing projects, but the only productive, non-work thing I have done lately is to tinker a bit with my Spacemacs configuration. The first thing I did was to switch from the stable release of Spacemacs to the develop branch. This is slightly risky, because of course things tend to be in flux in development. However, the general consensus in the Spacemacs chat room is that develop is pretty stable and fine for everyday use with a bit of care. You do get the latest and greatest improvements, including a choice between using helm or ivy for completion. After trying ivy for a bit, I ended up sticking with helm, as I prefer the way it presents the completions and allows you to work flexibly with them.

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Falling down the Emacs rabbit hole

geek software emacs

It has been about 18 months since I started using Spacemacs, and I am still constantly learning wondrous new things about it, and about Emacs more generally. I go through waves of tinkering and learning, but I find myself using Spacemacs for more and more things. I’ve had a recent tinkering bout — partly inspired by some helpful resources — so I thought it was probably worth documenting what I’ve done here for anyone interested, and so that I remind myself what I did when I inevitably forget a few months down the line! This is going to be quite a long article, so whether you are an Emacs fan, or just Emacs-curious, you might want to get a drink of your choice and settle back.

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Org mode and Pandoc

geek software

In the intervening time since first setting up Spacemacs I have been getting more familiar with org-mode, and becoming increasingly impressed by its power and flexibility. Consequently, I’ve started writing by default in org-mode rather than Markdown. What I like about it is that it provides a lot of features for structuring, re-arranging and editing text. For example, text with headings, lists and so on is defined as a tree, and there are commands for moving nodes within this tree up and down, or promoting or demoting them. These nodes can also be shown or hidden selectively, and you can even ‘narrow’ a buffer to a particular sub-tree, which means that this particular section of the document temporarily appears to be the only contents of the buffer. This is wonderful in a long document when you want to focus on a specific part, but still have access to the rest of the document when needed. Table editing is also superbly easy in Org files — it’s almost worth using org-mode for this alone if you often include tables in your documents. Of course, the point of writing in either Markdown or Org format is that it is human-readable and easy to edit, but can be transformed into many other final document formats using Pandoc. Originally, I used the Pandoc mode package with Spacemacs, which is excellent and works with any source file format, but for some reason it stopped working for me. I tried everything I could to get it working again, but had no luck, so I was looking around for another alternative.

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software geek
It’s nearly Christmas, and what could be more festive than writing about a command-line file manager? I’m pretty sure that I’ve tried Ranger before, but at that point it was early in its development, and I had a few issues with it. I was reminded of it again by Dr Bunsen, and decided to give it another go. It’s available via homebrew, so you can install it with a simple brew install ranger. Continue reading →

Tmuxline and Promptline

geek software
Sometimes, tinkering begets more tinkering. Writing about my most recent tinkering session in Tinkering with Vim, I found myself wanting to tweak one or two things a little further. This was partly because I came across a couple of very interesting Vim plugins (tmuxline.vim and promptline.vim) that — oddly — act to alter the appearance and function of the tmux status bar and the shell prompt respectively. While I liked my previous powerline setup, a few things niggled me a little about it: Continue reading →

Tinkering with Vim

software geek
Once again, I have been tinkering about with my .vimrc and tweaking my settings. While I do still use Sublime Text as an editor, I find myself using Vim by choice much more often. Over the years I have been using Vim, I have swung from a very complex setup to a rather simpler one, as I have learned which of the ‘built-in’ features of Vim I like, and which I prefer to replace with plugins and custom settings. Continue reading →

LaunchBar 6

software review
I know from bitter experience of using other people’s Macs that I find it very hard to use a computer without a launcher of some kind installed. Having to mouse around to launch applications or files (let alone all the other things that launchers let you accomplish) feels positively archaic once you have got used to relying on one. As I wrote about when LaunchBar 5 was released, I’ve used (at one time or another) almost every third-party launcher including Quicksilver, LaunchBar and Butler, but in recent years, I have settled in to using Alfred exclusively. Continue reading →


review geek software
A few months ago, I started using a bit of software called Koken to publish a kind of portfolio of my photos. I loved it, and was really happy to have somewhere to display my favourite photos that was tailored to my own needs and — more importantly — on my own server and under my own control. I was about to write a review of it when I had to switch to nginx as a web server rather than Apache and managed to break everything. Continue reading →

A weekend of breaking things

geek software
I seem to have had a weekend of breaking things on my Linode server. One of the things you need to do regularly if you have a virtual server like those on Linode is to keep the software up to date. I run ArchLinux on Linode, and it’s pretty easy to keep it updated by running pacman -Syu every month or so. It must be pretty fool-proof, because this is actually the first time in about 18 months of running the server that I’ve broken something, but it was a pretty big something. Continue reading →

Bookends and Pandoc

geek software
I’ve written before about both my Pandoc workflow and my use of Texts when producing various documents for work. An excellent recent article by Kieran Healy on his own plain text workflow using Pandoc prompted me to overhaul my own rather complex setup for longer documents. If you’re new to using Pandoc, or if — like me — you had an existing workflow that was in need of a bit of pruning, I highly recommend Kieran’s article. Continue reading →

MailMate 2

Readers may remember that 18 months or so ago I wrote in glowing terms about an email application, MailMate. For me, it struck a perfect balance between the geeky tweakability of something like Mutt, but with a friendly GUI face. Unfortunately, difficulties with HTML emails that needed to be forwarded on at work meant that I had to revert to Apple’s Mail. Since then, work email has got even less flexible, and we are now restricted to accessing it via an Exchange server only1. Continue reading →

Mavericks tags and Dropbox

geek software
I updated to Mavericks (aka Mac OS X 10.9) on my laptop and desktop not long after it came out, and the process was fairly painless. I generally like the changes in the new operating system, and I find that Finder in particular is much more usable. I’m trying to manage with Finder rather than Path Finder, which I had been using as a Finder replacement. Path Finder is an amazing bit of software, but is is rather hefty and is inevitably not as well integrated into the system as Finder. Continue reading →

Using Texts to make Pandoc painless

Using Pandoc Regular readers will know that my love for Pandoc is great and all-encompassing. I love the simplicity of writing in Markdown syntax and then being able to export to any final format I might wish to use, such as HTML, LaTeX, PDF or even Word. Pandoc gets more powerful all the time, and while there are still occasional glitches to a smooth workflow (depending upon what you want to do) it’s a pretty magical system. Continue reading →

Running back to Alfred

geek software
Sometimes I just can’t help myself from tinkering with my workflow on the computer. One of the bits of software that is essential to me on any Mac I happen to be using is a hotkey application that lets you launch applications, files and run scripts using the keyboard. Years ago, I started with LaunchBar, and from that point on any computer I used that didn’t immediately pop up a command window ready to do my bidding when I hit cmd+space felt utterly broken. Continue reading →


software ios review
Everyone loves Editorial, the new iPad text editor. if you have missed hearing about it, a good place to start is with Federico Viticci’s wonderful and very thorough review. I’ve only been using it for a short while compared to Federico’s 6 months, but I already love it. I’m pretty sure that it will become my standard editor for doing any kind of writing on the iPad. I’m embarrassed to tell you how many text editors I have downloaded over the years for the iPhone, and more recently, the iPad. Continue reading →

Running Pelican

geek software
I wrote earlier today about updating this blog’s design in the process of switching from Octopress to Pelican to generate the site. As I said then, the move shouldn’t be construed as falling out of love with Octopress. I have a terrible problem with tinkering, and if a new framework or static site generator turns up, I often check it out. If it turns out to be good, that has a tendency to turn into many weekends and evenings spent wrangling HTML and CSS and other bits of code to build my site with the new tool. Continue reading →

Pandoc workflow

geek software
I’ve written here before about how much I enjoy using Pandoc, but I thought I’d write a bit more about my new Pandoc-based workflow. For those of you unfamiliar with it, Pandoc is a brilliant tool for converting from a wide range of markup formats to pretty much any other format. It has matured really quickly into an extremely full-featured and capable system, and can handle tables, images, and mathematical formulae as well as in-text citations and a properly formatted reference list. Continue reading →

Living with Vim

geek software
I’ve written here before about how I initially got into using the Vim text editor, and how I keep cycling back to it on a tour of OS X text editors. More recently I’ve noticed that I’ve been less tempted to try out the latest shiny new text editor, and I’ve been sticking with Vim for everything. I used to find prose writing a little hard-going with Vim, so I would open Textmate or BBEdit for that kind of editing, but I seem to have hit upon (with a lot of help from the Internets) a set of customisations and settings that allow me to work very comfortably with any kind of text in Vim. Continue reading →


geek software
There are some categories of software that I tend to play around with a lot, switching frequently from one application to the next. The category of text editors is one (though recently I have settled fairly comfortably on vim/MacVim), and email clients is another. I think that part of the problem is that these are applications that I use very frequently, for which I have rather exacting and complex requirements. Put simply, I try a variety of applications and tend to encounter a kind of ‘Goldilocks’ situation: the application is too simple, or too fussy and complicated, and it’s difficult to find one that’s Just Right. Continue reading →

Default Folder X

software geek
Before I upgraded to Lion, I had a bit of a digital clear out. I uninstalled various bits of software that I had idly installed at various points to try out and then abandoned. I tidied up my directory structure and carefully considered whether or not I needed all the applications I have installed. To some extent, I had already gone through the same process when I got my MacBook Air. Continue reading →


geek software
I’ve been really busy for the past couple of weeks, so I haven’t had the chance to blog about Lion. I didn’t think I would even have the time to install it, but geeky impatience overcame caution (and sleep) and I took the plunge. I decided to install on my new MacBook Air1, as it is the newest Mac I own and closest to the stock configuration, so I thought it would probably be the least troublesome. Continue reading →

The Agony Of Word

geek mumblings software
I really dislike Microsoft Word. It’s a necessary evil in academia, where .doc or .docx is the editable format of choice, but I avoid it wherever I can. It’s true that things have got slightly better since I upgraded to Office for Mac 2011. Office at least looks like a proper OS X application now, and some of the annoyances and downright bugs have been removed. But it makes things unnecessarily complicated and has a nasty habit of biting you just when you are most in need of having a fully-functioning word processor. Continue reading →

Vim And The Wonder Of Vundle

geek software
I’m on holiday, it has been beautiful weather outside and I have (mostly) been indoors tinkering with my .vimrc. What a waste, you might be thinking. You might be right, but I’m happy enough. You see, I’ve had another enormously stressful month and a half, and so I’ve been self-medicating with geeky ephemera, and it has been fun. I have fallen back in love with vim (or more precisely, MacVim) recently, and have been using it for everything, slowly getting to know vim’s many interesting features and shortcuts. Continue reading →

Sharing iTunes

geek software technology
For a while now, I’ve been wondering how best to handle sharing the collection of digital music I’ve built up with other computers in the house. This collection is mostly composed of rips of CDs that I own, but there are also a few albums that I’ve bought via the iTunes store or Amazon. I keep the main collection on the Mac mini in the living room, and that also serves as the library which the Squeezebox Server serves up to the three Squeezebox music players I have scattered around the house. Continue reading →

Vim and Zsh, Oh My!

geek code software
Is there such a thing as too many text editors? I ask, because I seem to be perpetually cycling between a set of editors, unable to settle for once and all on one of them. On a fairly regular basis, I use BBEdit, TextMate, and MacVim, and now I find that my head has been turned once again by a brand, shiny new text editor, Sublime Text X. Certainly I find that different kinds of editors tend to suit a particular kind of task (writing HTML, or Ruby or plain text, for example), but I can’t help thinking that I would be a lot more productive if I could just become an expert in the One True Text Editor (in fact, any One True Text Editor), and be happy with that. Continue reading →