Laptop Downsizing

From 512 Pixels:

Currently, I’m using a Mid 2015 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. It has an 2.5 Ghz i7, 16 GB of RAM and a 1 TB of SSD storage. It’s the fastest, most capable Mac I’ve ever owned.

I went with the 15-inch because I thought I’d be using it as a notebook way more than I actually do.

(http://www.512pixels.net/blog/2016/2/the-notebook-dilemma)

I fell foul of this when I started remote working, I bought a maxed-out 15″ Retina MacBook Pro thinking I’d need something powerful for at my desk and something I could carry around for when I needed to get out of the house.

Unfortunately, due to the size of the rMBP, I never took it out and ended up with the same ‘tied to my desk’ feeling I would’ve had with a desktop Mac.

The best thing I did, for my productivity (and my mental wellbeing) was trade the rMBP in for a far, far less powerful 12″ MacBook. Yes, it’s slower, which can be especially noticeable when I’m coding or photo editing but now I feel like I have far more freedom and I work in other (more interesting) locations more often.

I don’t regret the decision to trade down, all I had to do was swap some power for a bit of patience, which was worth it in the long run. It’s something I’d definitely recommend considering if you have a large laptop but still feel ‘stuck’ in the home office.

Cloning Permissions And ACLs On OS X

Sometimes permissions get messed up, it’s normally easy to fix, but if the problem also breaks your access control lists (ACLs) then the fix can be much more time consuming (especially when external drives are involved).

Most of the time, for a quick fix, I use the commands below to clone the permissions and ACLs from a known good folder to my broken folder. Usually, this is all I need.

Either set the environmental variables as you need to or replace them directly (liberal use of sudo may also be required depending on the folder being updated).

I can’t take credit for the above commands, I discovered them on StackOverflow a good while ago and added them to my useful snippets – if I come across the original I will add the necessary credit.

Giving Up On Google

I don’t hate Google, that would be a silly thing to do in public. After all, in the last twelve months they purchased an organisation that developed some of the world’s most impressive (military) robots 1 and have always developed impressive AI systems of their very own 2 – what could possibly go wrong 3.

But that hasn’t stopped me from giving up on them.

The main reason I’ve given up on Google’s services are the ever increasing feelings of becoming locked-in. More and more services coming from Google seem to be Chrome-only, or at least work far better in Chrome than anywhere else and I think this speaks to the future of Google.

There’s no denying that Apple products are a kind of lock-in, but I feel that Apple don’t rely on my data as a source of revenue so I’ll always be able to get it out if I need to – I don’t feel this way about Google.

Whilst this feeling has been building up over time due to factors like requiring a Google+ profile to make full use of YouTube, or Gmail never quite playing nicely with other mail clients; it came into focus more recently with the introduction of Inbox. There’s no denying that Inbox is a great service, it’s innovative and genuinely useful, but I can only access it though Google applications.

This particular lock-in isn’t fundamentally a problem in itself, I can still get at my data, but it leaves me fearful for the future of my email. In the future I imagine Google turning off all POP & IMAP support – access to my email will be via Google (or maybe an approved API) only and my email, my data, will be more ‘stuck’ where it is than I would like – and I imagine the same will be true of all of Google’s other services.

None of Google’s recent behaviour strikes me as ‘open’, Apple is hardly an open company either, but I at least feel like Apple is open with my data on a closed platform rather than, like Google, closed with my data on an open platform.

I’d quite happily pay Google to have better access to my data, but they don’t seem to have much interest in that – so I’m moving all my data elsewhere.

Push Email With FastMail (Sieve) & IFTTT

As I was writing this post FastMail released a new app with push notification support, it wasn’t really for me as I prefer a unified inbox but if you think it might suit you – check it out.

I recently went through the process of prising my email from the jaws of Gmail and getting it into FastMail, the switch went pretty smoothly but I missed Mailbox’s push notifications (even if it gets IMAP support I probably won’t use it any more – having my email flowing through another cloud server never felt quite right).

The simplest thing to do would be to set up the email channel in IFTTT, forward all incoming mail to trigger@recipe.ifttt.com then use the iOS notifications channel to push the alerts. The main problem with this is related to privacy; the email body will also, at some point, end up on IFTTT’s servers.

To solve this problem I created a custom sieve rule inside FastMail’s advanced rules section that strips everything other than the subject. It’s pretty simple and looks like this:

This rule should probably go after your junk mail filters (which probably look similar to the below), unless you want to get notified about your junk mail too of course.

I also have emails coming through to a work Google account that I like to get push notifications for (without using the Gmail app). IFTTT is a little limited as it only supports one email address in one email channel so I set up Gmail to forward all my emails to FastMail. I didn’t really want all this unrelated email cluttering up my inbox so I added another rule, just after my notification rule, to discard them:

And that’s all there is to it really – I get a (nearly instant) push notification that I have a new email and I can open the mail app of my choice when it’s convenient. One added benefit seems to be a little extra battery life after turning off fetch & push in the native iOS Mail app.