A few cool Mac apps I use

It’s been a few years since I wrote about the Itsycal calendar app that I use on my Mac. It still is the default time and calendar app on my Mac’s menu bar.

Here are a few more cool Mac apps that I use and love.

Clocker

Clocker displays time from additional time zones on Mac’s menu bar or as a floating panel. In my work, I look up UTC time a lot, and so I set up UTC time on Clocker to show it on the menu bar. You can also click on the menu bar to expand the locker to show preset additional time zones.

A section of my Mac's menu bar showing Clocker on the left displaying the UTC time. Itsycal on the right. Both are set to show time in the same format.
A section of my Mac’s menu bar showing Clocker on the left displaying the UTC time. Itsycal on the right. Both are set to show time in the same format.

You can read more about Clocker in this review, and download it from its developer’s website.

TextSniper

TextSniper extracts text from images and other places on the screen in seconds. You can activate it using a preset keyboard shortcut and screen-grab text from any part of the screen. TextSniper then copies the text from that part of the screen to the clipboard using Optical Character Recognition (OCR). You can then paste the text anywhere using the regular Cmd + v keys.

Popular Apple commentary website 9to5mac.com reviewed TextSniper here. You can see TextSniper in action and purchase it for a small price (License for 1 Mac $6.99 and License for 3 Macs $9.99) from their website here.

CleanShot X

CleanShot X is a nifty Mac app for grabbing, annotating and sharing screenshots. It also captures GIFs and screencasts. I use a lot of annotated screenshots and screencasts in my line of work and so it is important to have a handy app for that. I used Droplr for about five years but it was getting stale. Droplr’s annotation tools were lagging and inadequate at the time I stopped using it in favour of CleanShot earlier this year.

As an aside, it is great to see the Licecap software that I used years ago (circa 2014) for simple animated screen captures as GIFs is still being maintained. If you want a no-frills, simple app, try that one!

I discovered CleanShot X from Jason Fried’s tweet earlier this year and liked it after trying it for a few weeks.

You can learn more about CleanShot X in the following video review and check its pricing here.

Reading books: quality over quantity

Out of the 11 books in my this year’s reading list, I already read five books in the last few years and some just the last year:

  1. What I learned by losing a million dollars.
  2. The Psychology of Money.
  3. Atomic Habits.
  4. Style: the basics of clarity and grace.
  5. The Customer Service Survival Kit.

I am going to re-read them all this year.

The year-end lists of books read by some people I follow are really long! And I only read a handful of books for the past two years (2019 and 2020). While I am cool with the amount of reading I do, I must admit, at some corner of my mind I had the nagging feeling of having to read more. Nevertheless, when I made a tentative list of eleven books to read in 2021, I included the above five books that I already read in the years past.

I felt validated last week when I read the blog post of my ex-colleague and an excellent human Jeremey, titled On Re-Reading and The Book Quantity Trap. I particularly liked this quote in Jeremey’s post:

A good book gets better at the second reading. A great book at the third. Any book not worth rereading isn’t worth reading.

NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB

That validated my thoughts on reading and re-reading a few, but good books. And today’s meditation of The Daily Stoic emphasized the same point.

What if, when it came to your reading and learning, you prioritized quality over quantity?

What if you read the few great books deeply instead of briefly skimming all the new books? Your shelves might be emptier, but your brain and life would be better.

May 20th page of The Daily Stoic

Here’s to reading and re-reading a few but what I believe are great books!

I realize in the tweet sent from my previous post I sounded like I sent a pre-populated tweet some services encourage you to share right after signing up for them. 😬

That tweet isn’t something HEY populated or nudged me to send. I should have written a personable custom message to go along with my previous post.

Nevertheless, I am excited about signing up for HEY!

Hey, HEY!

Last night I bought my @hey.com email address subscription after trying it for a few days. I have been following HEY ever since Jason gave a heads up earlier this year. Since this is from Basecamp, I knew it is going to be amazing and it is! I signed up as soon as I got an invite a few days ago and I loved everything about it: the onboarding, speed, features, simplicity and privacy. But most importantly, I subscribed to the HEY Manifesto and the principles of its principals Jason and DHH and their Small Tech company, Basecamp.

I never thought I would pay for an email service, but it is probably the best ninety-nine US dollars I spent lately. Like many people, last time I was this excited about an email service when Gmail was introduced in 2004 (or 2005?). Big Tech is so pervasive, and it is not going to go away anywhere or any soon. But where possible and affordable, I think we should support subscription-based services offered by Small Tech companies; they cost money upfront, but they don’t sell your privacy and data to the highest bidders to display ads.

If you want to check more about HEY, I suggest these links: 

Fibre Ultra

I upgraded my fibre internet to Fibre Ultra, technically called Gigabit fibre which has the advertised speeds of 900 Mbps down and 500 Mbps up.

First, some backstory.

My first fibre connection I got in 2018 was solid (Fibre 100 – 100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up). After some time I grew unhappy with the puny 20 Mbps upload speed. I felt uplink could be better and so I upgraded in 2019 to Fibre 200 which doubled the download speed, but oddly enough it did not change the upload speed. So I saw no point in paying extra just to improve only the download speed. I downgraded back to Fibre 100 to save money.

Fast forward to this April. A discussion on Bill Bennett’s blog made me lookout for other offerings with higher upload speeds. After doing the price math, I settled for Fibre Ultra from Skinny.

Fibre Ultra is supposed to get me 900 Mbps down and 500 Mbps up. It does, but only on the ethernet. And I don’t like cables. On WiFi, I get only 300 to 400 Mbps down and 400 Mbps up. Nevertheless, now the downlink is about 4 times and uplink is a whopping 20 times what it was. That itself is amazing!

Was – Fibre 100
Now – Fibre Ultra

But I felt like I am not making the most of the downlink. While I did not expect to get all 900 Mbps down, I hoped to get at least 600- 700 Mbps. I wrote to Skinny and am disappointed by their response:

Internet service provider’s advice 🙄

I generally like the customer service of Skinny (one of the reasons I moved to them), but I wasn’t impressed by this specific advice esp. the note about the hardware. As a professional troubleshooter, I checked and played with the WiFi router settings, and tabled it for later since I couldn’t find that elusive setting that could bump up the download speed to 500+ Mbps.

As luck would have it, yesterday Bill published another blog post in which he clarified:

if you connect to, say, Speedtest, from a home computer connected to gigabit fibre but linked to your broadband port via Wi-fi and nothing else is running you might see speeds of 300Mbps to 400Mbps on a good day. Some connections will be slower.

I like to think of it this way: Gigabit fibre is faster, so the bottleneck moves to the Wi-fi network.

Sigh! Now at least I know that I am not missing out any router settings. Thanks again, Bill! You saved me a lot of time.

I feel better now knowing that I couldn’t have done anything to make the most of my internet connection, other than perhaps plugging in ethernet, which I am not going to do. Around 400 Mbps both ways is still pretty awesome as it is!

Outlook app issues

I finally removed the Microsoft Outlook app from my phone. It still keeps freezing and getting in my way.

The Outlook tech support person was kind and offered further help when I blogged and tweeted my troubles with the app in October.

However, I still face this problem with the app. The frequent “performance improvements and bug fixes” in the app’s version history don’t inspire my confidence. I captured only the latest few in the following screenshot but the same note repeats for many earlier versions.

Version history of Microsoft Outlook iOS app

I have enough demands in my life that I don’t want to spend any time to uninstall, reinstall, and configure my email accounts, and set up my preferences.

I just want a simple app that lets me check my email on my phone with as little effort as possible, so I can move on to deal with other challenging aspects of my life.

Outlook app is not fitting this bill anymore. So I simply uninstalled the app and reinstalled the iOS Mail app.

That’s the brutal reality of life. And I say this as a tech support person myself. It helps me empathise with the problems my customers face with the technology I support.

Uninstalling and reinstalling is not as easy as it sounds on the surface. It costs time and effort that can’t always be justified. It is much quicker and easier to switch to an alternative app like I did. It helps to remember this fact and acknowledge it before dispensing this seemingly benign and common advice to customers.

It’s not the customers’ job to help troubleshoot problems with the technology they have been kind enough to use in a world where they have a lot of choices.

Something is wrong with this iOS Outlook app update

Update: I uninstalled the app, restarted the iPhone, reinstalled the app (version 4.7), set up my email accounts and disabled notifications and smart default settings that I don’t need.

It is back to all good now.

Technology is weird!

This version 4.6 loads, but the app is unresponsive.
There’s the next version (4.7) in the App Store but can’t update yet.

A debate between Matt M and DHH

Recently REWORK podcast recorded and published a fascinating debate between the two people I admire and respect, Matt Mullenweg and DHH, about tech monopolies and the power of the open-source.

Open Source and Power with Matt Mullenweg and DHH

I look forward to another show on Venture Capital and funding. Hopefully, they are able to record it sooner!

Messaging app with VIP features

It is 2019 and I wonder why there are no messaging apps that will let me choose the people from whom I wish to receive notifications. Right now, the notifications are all or none deal and I default to none. Which is better, but not best. As people start getting detached to devices and start prioritising their offline lives, I think there would be a lot of demand for a user-centred notification system.

The closest I know is of the VIP feature in the iOS Mail app. But that’s not good enough. My dearest people will not email me; they either call or text.

I’d be very willing to open my wallet for such an app. Let me know if you know of any. Although I am sceptical that someone will build such a user-friendly app, I’d be thrilled to be proved wrong.

Twitter’s half-truth about its app settings

Bill Bennett, a local technology journalist I respect, tweeted a CNN Business article about Twitter’s overzealous algorithm.

That article quoted a Twitter spokesperson:

… We will continue to work to improve our efforts here, and people always have the option of turning off our curation if they just want to see content from the people they follow.

This quote is sketchy and only half-true.

The other half-truth, which this Twitter spokesperson did not say, is that although you can turn off curation, on the phone app Twitter turns it back on within a few days without your consent. The settings on my web app are untouched though, which is likely what this well-meaning spokesperson has quoted.

If you really want to improve your efforts here, Twitter, stop changing your users’ app settings and start respecting their preferences.

And definitely educate your spokesperson with your phone app’s hidden features as well, so they can share accurate information about your platform.