Moom, Minus, and Keyboard Maestro

Using a single 32-inch monitor with my M1 Mac Mini has caused me to re-think how I manage apps and windows. After a few iterations, I’ve settled on the following layout.

This layout includes Finder, iTerm2, Safari, and Emacs. Safari takes up the majority of the center. Finder and iTerm are split equally on the left, and Emacs is on the right, divided into two windows (or “panes” as most other software calls them). All my most-used apps are visible at the same time and I’m not constantly moving windows around.

I love this setup, but sometimes I need to resize things so they better fit the content or maybe move an app out of the way for a minute. I use Moom to put everything back for me.

I had switched to Rectangle from Moom earlier this year, as it’s simpler and a little snappier, but Rectangle doesn’t (as far as I know) do custom window layouts, so I moved back to Moom. Now I arrange my windows exactly how I want them, save the arrangement in Moom, and assign it a keyboard shortcut for easy recall. This lets me clean up my windows quickly and get everything back where it belongs.

I recently learned about Minus: “Zero distractions, One task + Extra superpowers” and initially scoffed at it. I’ve always considered apps meant to reduce distractions to be gimmicks and never found them useful. I tried Minus anyway, and it’s turned out to be great.

Minus is not something I expected to find useful, but it really has made a difference. It has configurable “Desktop Environments” that will configure my Mac in a number of helpful ways. My default environment configuration does the following:

  • Hides all apps
  • Switches to a specific, simple wallpaper
  • Hides desktop icons
  • Turns on “Auto-hide” for the Dock
  • Turns on “Auto-hide” for the menu bar
  • Enables Do Not Disturb
  • Closes all “Distractions”

Here is what the settings panel looks like:

And here’s what my screen looks like after triggering Minus (by hitting CMD-ESC) and then bringing Emacs to the front so I could continue writing this post:

Ahhh, so quiet and uncluttered.

Minus lets me define “Distractions” and will let me know when I venture off into places I’ve told it I shouldn’t. For example, if I visit Twitter the entire screen will go all gray and display a distraction warning. My options are to close the distraction or, if I really want to check Twitter, snooze the alert. This feature has made me painfully aware of how often I drift off into social media land. Minus has a few other features that I don’t use or need, but it’s been great at helping me keep things tidy and focused.

Tying all this together is Keyboard Maestro. I use a KM macro to make sure all the relevant apps are running, trigger Moom, and activate a specific tab in Safari. Here’s the macro:

So at any time, I can hit Command-Option-Shift-M and everything is reset and ready to go. Or, I can just activate Minus (via mouse or Command-Escape) and have completely tidy blank slate to start with.

Renting eBooks

None of the old books on my Kindle mean anything to me. They’re just there. I never see them, I never re-read them. I never use them for anything. Seems like a waste.

In addition, I’ve recently purchased a couple of hardcover books that I didn’t enjoy. So now what? They’ve gotta sit on my shelf forever? I suppose I could always give them away, but that’s also work. (Advantage, real books, though).

What about the library? While I love the idea of going to libraries, I almost never do. The pandemic hasn’t helped, of course.

I ruled out renting eBooks from my local library a couple years ago, since they didn’t use the only relevant rental/reading service, OverDrive with Libby. Haven’t thought about doing that again until recently, on a whim, I checked the library’s site and discovered that they have finally started making books available via OverDrive/Libby.

I signed in using my library card number, browsed a bit, and checked out 3 books. Two of these were only available in ePub format, so I’ll have to read them using the Books app on my iPad. But the third was available for the Kindle, which is what I was hoping for. For the record, the books are Permanent Record by Edward Snowden, Zero World by Jason M. Hough, and Blindsight by Peter Watts.

This is so cool! It means I get to experiment with all sorts of different books without the cost and commitment of ownership. I’ll still buy books, of course. I love books. I love having books. But I’ll only need to buy the ones I actually wish to own.

The down side is that it’s kind of slim pickings when it comes to availability. I had to put “holds” on a couple of books that were high on my reading list because they weren’t available. And worse, they aren’t scheduled to be available for 2 or 3 months. It’s OK, this just means I need to dig though the archives and find things that haven’t necessarily been top of mind while I wait.

A few photos from Easter

I haven’t seen my parents in a long time, so we got together on Easter. Everyone is fully vaccinated (ok, technically I’ve only had my first shot) and it was wonderful being “with” people again. Here are my favorite photos from the afternoon.

Another attempt and having One True Blog

I am once again having thoughts about only maintaining One True Blog™.

I know, it’s just another mood and it’ll probably change, but as I wrote a few days ago, I don’t feel like blogging lately. I’m wondering if this is partially because I’m exhausted by the decisions around publishing. Just last week I moved my other blog at baty.blog from Blot to Micro.blog and back again. This meant switching from using Emacs to edit posts to MarsEdit (and back). I maintain automation to support all of it, and keeping all those threads going has become less interesting.

I mean, this all used to be fun, right? It still can be fun, but less so, and less often. What if I just typed and hit Post and kept doing that over and over in the same place for a minute?

What if I did all this using WordPress here at copingmechanism.com?

(Of course I’ll still publish short posts on my Micro.blog site.)

The Minolta Autocord

I’ve had this Minolta Autocord for so long I don’t remember where I got it. Or when, exactly.

Mine is a model RG-2 from 1962 with the Optiper-MVL shutter. I don’t know much else about the camera other than it’s fun but challenging to use. I keep thinking about taking it out for a spin but haven’t done that in a few years.

There’s more info about the Autocord at camera-wiki.org

Here’s an example from the camera. It’s me trying a self-portrait while wearing Mario jammies of course.

Self-portrait at home (2009). Minolta Autocord. Tri-X.

And then there’s this crazy thing…

Jack self-portrait with Gas mask (2010). Minolta Autocord. Tri-X.

Doom Emacs from scratch

A week ago I decided to cancel Doom Emacs and go back to building Emacs from Scratch, and once again I was reminded what a terrible idea that is.

Seriously, stock Emacs, even with a leg up from Nano Emacs, gets so many things “wrong” that I could spend the rest of my life fixing things and still wanting more. I thought building from scratch would help me avoid Configuration Fatigue. Wow, was I wrong.

So, back to Doom. I started from scratch with the usual…

git clone --depth 1 https://github.com/hlissner/doom-emacs ~/.emacs.d
~/.emacs.d/bin/doom install

Then I edited init.el and enabled just a few non-stock things. “Zen” mode, org-journal, and pandoc-mode. Otherwise, it’s right out of the box.

I copied the gotta-haves from my original config.el. Most of these are around file paths, Org mode, and LaTeX. Plus a few of my favorite key bindings. Otherwise, I left it alone. So far.

Doom Emacs is simply too good to pass up. It handles all of the little behavioral and visual tweaks that would otherwise take forever to learn about and modify on my own. Half of the things it does for me I just expect to be part of Emacs, and am surprised when I find they’re not.

I’m still using the default Doom theme, which isn’t my favorite, but I’m trying to resist farting around with that for at least a couple of days while I get settled back in.

Posting from iA Writer

Is this something I can do?

Sometimes I want a better environment for writing and posting to my blog. Ghost’s post editor is fine, but not “nice”. For writing with Markdown, iA Writer‘s editor is hard to beat. I thought I’d see if there’s a way to post from iA Writer to Ghost.

There is. First I had to add an “App” in the control panel so I’d have an API token. I entered that and the corresponding endpoint URL in iA Writer. Now, I can write, add images, and post a new draft simply by right-clicking the post and hitting “Publish…”.

I can’t seem to add “Featured” images this way, which is too bad. Still for feel-good editing, using iA Writer for writing blog posts is worth it.

Book logging in plain text

Of all the ways I’ve logged books, I’m thinking that plain text remains the best. I’ve been adding books to a text (Markdown) file for while now and it’s not pretty, but it works. And it will always work.

I publish a copy at https://www.baty.net/books.

Like I said, it ain’t pretty. On the other hand, I use it regularly by simply running little searches. If I want to know how many books are read in 2020, it’s just grep 2020- books.md | wc -l and I get 14. To see the actual books, it’s even easier: grep 2020- books.md which gives me this:

A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas A. Basbanes (2020-01-05) | ★★★★
How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell (2020-02-05) | ★★
The Instructions by Adam Levin (2020-02-15) | ★★★★
The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan W. Watts (2020-03-06) | ★★
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (2020-03-09) | ★
Recursion by Black Crouch (2020-04-05) | ★★★
Devoted by Dean Koontz (2020-04-23) | ★★★
The Soul of an Entrepreneur by David Sax (2020-05-04) | ★★★
Shakespeare for Squirrels by Christopher Moore (2020-06-09) | ★★★
Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries, #5) by Martha Wells (2020-06-24) | ★★★★
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (2020-07-19) | ★★★★
The Permanent Portfolio by Craig Rowland (2020-07-22) | ★★★
More Effective Agile by Steve McConnell (2020-10-10) | ★★★
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits (Zoey Ashe, #1) by David Wong (2020-12-27) | ★★★★

Or, how many books have I read by Christopher Moore? grep 'Christopher Moore' books.md:

Coyote Blue by Christopher Moore (1999-01-01)
The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore (1999-01-01)
The Griff: A Graphic Novel by Christopher Moore (1999-01-01)
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore (2008-12-24)
Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore (2009-03-12)
A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore (2010-12-28)
Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore (2010-12-28)
The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore (2011-01-01)
Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore (2015-11-12)
Noir by Christopher Moore (2018-05-15)
Shakespeare for Squirrels by Christopher Moore (2020-06-09) | ★★★

It’s not perfect, and leaves out any kind of social discovery, so I also enter books in both GoodReads and StoryGraph, which honestly only takes a few minutes per book so it’s hardly a burden.

I love that my plain text book log is so lightweight and simple.