Published my first Android application

TimeblocksI’m very excited, I just published my first Android application on the Google App Store. That app was written for my other website, “Flying Kraut“, but I would like to mention it here as well:

The app is called “Time Blocks“, you can get it here:

Android app on Google Play

Time Blocks is a productivity application that is designed to be “simple” (in the sense of “not bloated with features”).

The concept behind Time Blocks is to be more productive by blocking off times on your calendar for the things you need to do. You can do that by create “routines” of blocks of time, and publish them to your calendar of choice.

If you have additional feature requests, bug reports or any other feedback please let me know using my contact form!


Green maximize button in Yosemite

The recent upgrade to Mac OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) brought a number of nice changes – and, as always, some changes you have to get used to.

One of those changes is the new behaviour  of the green “maximize” button in the windows toolbars. In the past this button was to maximize a window – now it puts the window into fullscreen!

Fortunately there is a solution, although one you have to get used to: Hold down the alt/option key while clicking on the green bubble and voila – you have the old behaviour of maximizing the window instead of fullscreen.

I’m sure there will soon be tools to change that functionality but for now just hold down that option/alt key while clicking….

How to remove the toolbar from your second monitor in Mac OS X Mavericks

Apple has greatly improved the support for multiple monitors in Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks), or at least so they claim.

While that might be true or not, it certainly has one effect that is for many users a negative side effect:

If you have multiple monitors connected to your Mac it will show a toolbar on each monitor. If that bothers you this toolbar can be easily removed from your non-primary monitor, although the option to remove that toolbar is in a not very intuitive place:

Open “System Preferences” (that’s the symbol in your dock that looks like the inside of an old fashioned clock), then select “Mission Control”.

mission contorl

Uncheck “Displays have separate spaces”

In the resulting window uncheck the checkbox for “Displays have separate Spaces” and voila – the toolbar from the secondary monitor should be gone.

As I said, not the most intuitive place for this option….

Android KitKat updated to 4.4.3

Android Kitkat update to version 4.4.3 just got released and showed up on my Nexus 7.

Get your’s – it’s free – and the update went without a problem for me!

nexus system screenshot

IE7 and the “submit” button

I’m currently working in a place where the users are forced to use IE7 on their work machines (please spare me comments about this -I know!).

This has obviously a number of challenges when it comes to CSS and JavaScript, and recently I discovered something else:

Imagine you have a HTML form with some <button></button> tags. Usually you would expect, on submission of the form, to get the “value” attribute of the button in your submission. That’s the way it works with all sensible browsers, except IE7 (or older). With those browsers you get the text from within the button tag (the text displayed on the button)  instead.

This is extremely annoying, but fortunately I found a good blog post on ways of dealing with this issue:

Hope this helps!

Quickly create text files on your desktop for editing

A few days ago a friend of mine approached me with something like this:

“While taking notes in meetings I would like to quickly create a text file on my desktop and open it for editing in my editing application. Any ideas?”

My initial thought was something along the lines of “…there are about a hundred ways of doing that – pick one!”. Problem for my friend was that, only because there are hundreds of ways of doing that, he just needed one that works for him.

Fortunately he is an avid user of Alfred (… and my approach works the same for Quicksilver or any other application launcher).

Here is the basic idea:

  1. Write a shell script that creates a text file on the desktop, with a name that includes the date and time, and open the file in an editor.
  2. Wrap that script in an Automator application
  3. Use the Application launcher to execute that application when needed.

Here is the script:

d=`date +%Y%m%d%H%M%S`
touch $filename
open -a TextWrangler $filename

Since I use TextWrangler as editor for plain text files I used that in the last line of the script. Simply change that to whichever application you prefer.

Next step is to open Automator and create a new document of type “Application”:


Next add a “Run Shell Script” action and  add the script in the text field:



Save the application with whatever name you like (I used “”). Now use Alfred or Quicksilver to execute your beautiful new application. Done!


How to disable Ping in iTunes 10

I don’t want to go into the discussion about the annoyances around the new “Social Music Network” Ping that was introduced by Apple with iTunes 10.

After installing iTunes 10 many users have, maybe not with full intend, switched Ping on. Since I have received a number of questions on how to opt out of Ping, or completely disable Ping, I thought I’ll take some screen-shots for this little step-by-step how-to guide.

There you go:

1.) In iTunes, select “View My Account …” in the “Store” menu:

2.) Your account information is now displayed in the main iTunes window. In the “Ping” section select “Turn Off”:

3.) In the confirmation dialog select “Turn Off”:

4.) Your account information should now display that Ping has been disabled and is turned off:

That should be all you need to do to turn off Ping.

Hope this was helpful!

Force Quicksilver to index Firefox 3 bookmarks

OK, this one baffled me: One of the quicksilver functionalities I use the most is the opening of URLs.

I recently switched back from Safari to Firefox 3, something I do from time to time just to keep life interesting.

Even though I enabled the Firefox plugin in Quicksilver it didn’t index the Firefox bookmarks, because Firefox 3 stores the bookmarks in a format that Quicksilver can’t read. Fortunately the solution is simple:

First go to the “about:config”-page in your browser bar:


In the resulting page enter “bookmarks.autoExportHTML” to find the entry for “browser.bookmarks.autoExportHTML”.


Now all you need to do is set the value for this preference to “true”.

From now on Firefox will, every time Firefox quits, write the bookmarks in html format in your preferences folder. Quicksilver will index this file (as long as the Firefox plugin in Quicksilver is enabled). You’re done!

iTunes Genius of songs rarely used

I have to admit: When I first heard about the Genius function in iTunes 8 I thought “…when would I ever use that?”.

Today I listen to music at work, and 90% of the time I use the “Genius” to select the songs for me. There is just one problem – after a while it feels as if iTunes selects the same songs over and over again, even when seeded with different songs. So I tried to find a way to create a Genius playlist with songs that I’m not listening to all the time. Here is my solution:

Create a Smart Playlist to contain only the Genius songs that I have listened to a limited amount of time. This is how the conditions for this smart playlist could look like:

Smart Playlist with rare Genius songs

The number of play counts would obviously depend on your own iTunes library. For my library, with a playlist count of eight the smart playlist will contain approx. 75% of the songs in my Genius list, and only the once I have listened to less than eight times. Another approach would be to filter by “Last Played”, so the list has only songs that you haven’t listened to in a month or so.

Now all I need to do is listen to this Smart Playlist instead of the Genius (maybe on shuffle or through iTunes DJ). There you have it – seed Genius with a song of choice and only listen to the songs you haven’t listened to in a while.

Keep your pictures organized…

I’ve seriously outgrown the capabilities of iPhoto since starting to take pictures not only of family vacation, but also trying to sell some pictures as Stock photos. I have taken about 5000 pictures within the last five month and can really feel how the organization of those pictures is slipping out of my hands.

After downloading the trial version of Lightroom I’m sure that this software would really help me with my postprocessing workflow before it falls into complete chaos. Too bad I can’t afford a full license right now, but maybe and with some luck I will win a licence over at the PhotoNetCast podcast?

TaskPaper updated to Version 2.0

Jesse Grosjean of Hog Bay Software just released an update to his excellent personal productivity tool TaskPaper, bringing it up to version 2.0.
Some of the improvements over the previous version are better searching, some improvements to the user interface and the introduction of themes.

As mentioned in an earlier posts, I like TaskPaper a lot because it uses just enough functionality to the editing of plain text files to make it a powerful tool without restricting the user. This is important to me, since I don’t want a productivity tool to tell me how to organize my life.

TaskPaper costs $29.95 and is available from Hob Bay Software.

Auto-Quit the Printer Application

I like most of the new features in Leopard (yes, I even like the translucent menu bar!), but there are as always small annoyances.

One of those annoyances is that the printer application stays open and in the dock after printing.

Fortunately there is an easy solution:
Next time you print something just right-click and select “Auto Quit” from the menu:

Auto-Quit the Printer

Voila – now the printer application will quit after the job is done.

Mute system volume with Apple Script and Quicksilver

Quicksilver’s iTunes plugin comes with several excellent scripts, one of them is to mute iTunes.

The only problem is, that you can still hear all the system sounds. Pretty annoying if you are in a meeting or sitting in a class.

My workaround was to write an Apple Script to control the system volume:

set curVol to (get (output volume of (get volume settings)))
if curVol > 0 then
set volume output volume 0
set volume output volume 50
end if

This script will mute the system volume, or set it back to 50% if it’s already muted (the value for “set volume” is a percentage value from 0 to 100).

That’s it, I created a keyboard trigger to execute this script (I used Shift-Ctrl-Command + M) and I can mute my system without having to use the mouse or trackpad.

TaskPaper for your ToDo lists

Yesterday I wrote a post why I prefer to use plain text files for my ToDo-lists instead of some fancy software. Shortly after publishing the post I came across a brand new application from Hog Bay Software called TaskPaper that might just give a new spin on the things I said yesterday.

To summarize my opinion about TaskPaper:

If you want (almost) the flexibility of plain text files with just the right amount of user convenience,
TaskPaper might be the solution for you.

Here is a screenshot from TaskPaper, displaying a file similar to the one I used yesterday:

TaskPaper Screenshot


Even though Hog Bay Software had a different idea how to organize projects, I could still use it the way I prefer to do things. TaskPaper is not forcing me into a workflow that doesn’t work for me. A big round of applause for Hog Bay for not telling me how I have to organize my life!

Another big advantage is, in my opinion, that TaskPaper’s data file is just a plain text file. So I will always be able to access my data – even if TaskPaper is for some reason not available. So for example syncing the file to a PDA and edit it like a plain text file should not be a problem.

So – what kind of convenience does TaskPaper add to using a plain text file?

Adding what is called “Projects” in TaskPaper can be done by clicking one of the buttons at the top, or using a keyboard shortcut. Adding tags to your tasks works just the same way. In order to mark a task as “done” you can just click on the little “bubble” and the tag “@done” will be added, like in my task “Prepare papers for budget meeting” above.

The main disadvantage I see so far: It is not possible to “fold” sections of your data file like in BBEdit. So keeping the overview in a very long file might be a bit dicey. On the other hand, it is possible to jump between Projects with the click of a button, so navigation in a big file should not be a problem. This is similar to the menu in BBEdit to jump between headers, as shown in the following screenshots:

Navigation between Projects in TaskPaper Project selection in BBEdit



TaskPaper is free to try for 15 days. Afterwards it’s $18.95 as an introductory offer, later probably something like $27.95.

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