Stuff I Learned from Merlin Mann on Mac Power Users (2015 Edition)

Recorded on May 23rd, 2015

Merlin Mann was on Mac Power Users again, as is he every spring. I’m still not done listening to the episode, but the whole thing would have been worth it if only for his tips about nvALT, Editorial, and Workflow.

Stuff I learned:

  • In nvALT, if you have a URL in your clipboard, you can select some text, hit Option-Command-V, and your text and the URL will be turned into a Markdown link.
  • You can set nvALT to open its notes in whatever other text editor you want. Go to nvALT’s Preferences > Editing > External Text Editor.
  • I already knew Editorial was great, but it sounds like it’s Merlin’s main text editor on iOS, and it understands Markdown in a good way. Hmm. Worth a second look, although it will take a lot to unseat Nebulous as my go-to.
  • There’s a repository of Workflow actions on Reddit. Where has this been? (I think Katie may have mentioned this one, actually.)
  • To link to images for things like the Back to Work show notes, Merlin uses a stupid-simple trick of dumping all his images in a public folder in Dropbox, then linking to those from his HTML (or Markdown). Just what I needed for easy image-linking when posting Statamic text files from the iPhone (or anywhere, really). It’s not a long-term solution as good as hosting the images yourself, but man it’ll be nice not to worry about FTP for those. Fewer barriers!

CloudBeats for Playing FLAC on iOS

Recorded on May 19th, 2015

CloudBeats app icon image

I’ve been looking for a decent lossless/FLAC audio player for the iPhone. For a while I used VLC for iOS because it could browse a Plex library I had running at home, but either the VLC app or my aging white plastic MacBook couldn’t keep file transfers consistent. I’d queue up a bunch of music to download, let the phone do its thing, and return to find that half of them never made it to the phone. I usually noticed that on the way out the door. No lossless music = sad driving in the car.

I found CloudBeats, which had a ton of positive reviews and seemed to be updated regularly. It handles FLAC just fine, you can store music in offline folders (if you buy the non-lite version), it understands album art, and downloads are way easier and more reliable. And it works with Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, OneDrive, MediaFire, and ownCloud.

Another plus is that it doesn’t run down the battery and make the iPhone all hot like VLC did. I also think it remembers where you were in a track better than VLC did, but I need to keep testing to be sure.

I dragged just a few folders of favorite FLAC albums up to Google Drive and let them sync. After they were done, I pulled them down to CloudBeats and every track arrived perfectly. So nice not to worry about the MacBook always being on, or being limited to grabbing audio only when I’m home. I’m only on Google Drive’s free 15 GB plan for now, but this could make me start paying for more space, or give MediaFire a spin. MediaFire gives you 50 GB free to start with, and at least right now their 1 TB plan is $2.49/month.

T-Mobile vs. The Same Old Thing

Recorded on September 23rd, 2014

Has anyone had good or bad experiences with T-Mobile’s coverage in Richmond, Virginia?

I really want to believe T-Mobile’s claims about their LTE network and where it’s going. Verizon coverage here in Richmond is mostly OK, with the exception of some weird 3G holes in our neighborhood and inside various local businesses. But I’m really tired of the dreaded two-year contract. I know how these devices are subsidized by the carriers, rendering the $199.99 “cost” of a new iPhone as nothing more than a down-payment on a never-ending loan. T-Mobile’s separation of device cost from service cost, their wifi calling and HD Voice, and lack of an annual contract all look like factors to consider before re-upping with Verizon. Conveniently, their 7-day free Test Drive is an option for the curious. You sign up for a loaner iPhone 5S, they send it a couple of days later, you live with a $700 hold on your credit card, and see if their network really works in all the places you’d normally go. After a week, you return it to a T-Mobile store in person. I’m gonna try it.

In the meantime, I love a list:

Pros about T-Mobile:

  • Wifi calling works now. Good for calls from home and work, where 3G is iffy.
  • If HD Voice works even half as well as they claim, that would be a huge improvement.
  • Phone paid off after two years, at which time you only pay monthly for the service (until new-iPhone lust sets in again in fall 2016).
  • “Unlimited” data (well, unlimited-throttled after the first 1 GB of LTE if you choose that plan).
  • Music streaming from Pandora, Spotify and others doesn’t count against your data. That’s just crazy.
  • Can quit and switch device to AT&T if T-Mobile sucks—I guess?

Cons about T-Mobile:

Is it too soon? We will see.