Posted in: General

Curio 14 public beta

Curio is one of the nicest, best-looking, useful, and thoughtful apps I’ve used. George, the developer, is insanely responsive and helpful.

I started using Curio in 2006 and never stopped for more than a month or two at a time. Here’s why I sometimes stop using Curio:

  • I think I’ll be going all-in with the iPad (there’s no Curio for iOS)
  • I decide that plain-text only is the way to go
  • What if I switch to Linux?

I come back each time because Curio is so good. It’s just so damn pleasant to use. I’ll open a Curio document I created for some project from years earlier and after just a few seconds I am able to wrap my head around everything related to the project. It’s all about the free-form visual layout. No matter how much I want to just write everything down in, say, Emacs, I end up admitting that I’m a visual thinker. Curio excels for people like me.

There’s a public beta of Curio 14, so of course I’m trying it. Version 14’s tentpole features most interesting to me are “Journal” and “Auto scoot”. The Journal is just a handy way of creating a date-based tree of idea spaces with specific templates. Here’s what one of the built-in templates looks like.

Curio’s Creative Planner journal template

Or there’s the “Meeting” template

Curio’s Meeting journal template

Of course these can be customized as desired, and they are still idea spaces that can be used like any other in Curio. I’m looking forward to giving the journaling features a spin.

The other feature I’m excited about is called “Auto scoot”, which I must admit is an adorable name. If I have a text or other expandable object in a space, and there are other objects below the text object, those objects below will automatically move (scoot) down and out of the way. This sounds minor, but is kind of a big dea.

Curio 14, as with every update, contains dozens of thoughtful and useful new features and tweaks.

Check out the Release notes.

Posted in: Art

Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters 🎵

Wonderful, weird, powerful new record from Fiona Apple; and I’m very very happy about it.

I resent you for having each other
I resent you for being so sure
I resent you presenting your life
like a fucking propaganda brochure

Seriously great.

Whenever you want to begin, begin
We don’t have to go back to where we’ve been.

I saw Apple perform in 2012 and I’d love to go back and do it again.

Fiona Apple, Frederik Meijer Gardens (2012)

Posted in: Photography

More notes about Mylio for photo management

I started using Mylio for photo management a few days ago and it’s gone swimmingly so far.

I still prefer keeping my photos organized as files in folders on my hard drive. I use Capture One for editing raw files, and then I export the “keepers” to what I call my Digital Print Archive. This is comfortable for me. It feels permanent and manageable. The problem is that I lose out on the features of tools like Apple Photos or Lightroom or Google Photos. I don’t have face recognition or automatic organization by date and/or location. I don’t get automatic sync across devices. I feel left out.

For the past couple years I’ve added everything in my DPA to Google Photos. This way everything is available everywhere, at least for viewing, and I get all the fancy tools. Still, Google gives me the creeps. I could use Lightroom but I don’t want to rely on a cloud solution.

This is where Mylio comes in. Mylio doesn’t use a cloud. It syncs peer to peer whenever devices are on the same network. When they’re apart, changes are saved locally until re-connected. There is some form of https-based sync, but I’ve not investigated how that works

I started out by using my DPA folder as a “Source Folder”, meaning all changes to that folder are mirrored to all devices running Mylio. All managed files are also synced to one or more “Vaults”. The key difference here is that I can use any number of things as Vaults and everything is mirrored to each of them. Currently, I have a single vault on an external USB drive. The beautiful part is that my folder structure is mirrored both ways. In other words, I can move files around in folders, create folders, etc, and that same folder structure is synced to the Vaults and each device. It’s like the best of both worlds: Local management and cloud sync all in one.

Once I got comfortable adding my DPA folder, I also added other folders. Things like “Projects” and miscellaneous folders with avatars, watermarks, and misc logos and images I use other places. Here’s what my top-level folder view looks like now.

Folder view

Note the Apple Photos folder is just what you’d expect, all of my iPhone photos have also been imported. I used to manually import from my phone into Capture One. Now I don’t have to.

Mylio has a bunch of other tools as well. Batch renaming, automatic organization into folders, exports to Flickr, and so on. Here’s the area of Mylio showing my devices, locations, Exif summaries, etc.

So far I only have around 20,000 photos in Mylio, but it still feels very fast. Syncing happens almost instantly. Best of all, everything is kept exactly where I want it.

Mylio is worth a look.

Posted in: General

My wiki is more Roam-like thanks to TiddlyBlink

I’ve finally gone and added TiddlyBlink’s modifications to my TiddlyWiki-based wiki at rudimentarylathe.org. This gives me a little of the automatic backlinking functionality of Roam but in TiddlyWiki

This was inspired by Getting started with TiddlyWiki: a beginner’s tutorial. I’m not a complete beginner, but seeing TiddlyBlink’s use mentioned in the context of “getting started” made me feel a little more comfortable trying it.

One of the cool things about TiddlyWiki is that content and feature enhancements can be installed by simply dragging and dropping from another wiki, right in the browser. To install TiddlyBlink, I dragged the tb tag from the TiddlyBlink sample into my wiki and clicked “Import”. This brought in a couple dozen custom tiddlers and I immediately had all the features of TiddlyBlink and more.

It’s the “…and more” part that caused a bit of trouble. A few of my own customizations were overwritten, such as…

  • Default Journal tiddler titles was changed to YYYY-0MM / 0DD / 0hh:0mm:0ss / which is just way too long for me. I changed it back to DDD, MMM DD, YYYY since I only create one Journal entry per day. My default regular tiddler title is set to <<now "YYYY.0MM.0DD">> - which I prefer.
  • The styles were changed to an inverse of the grey vs white of my theme. Changed it back to “vanilla”
  • Default tiddlers shown in the Story River was changed to [[TiddlyBlink home]]. Nope, I had mine set the way I like it for a reason.
  • Lots of toolbar items were changed and had to be reverted.
  • Story View setting was changed to “zoomin”, which I don’t like. Changed it back to “classic”

For someone starting fresh, the above changes are probably beneficial. For me, they were invasive. Not a huge deal. I spent maybe 20 minutes finding and fixing them.

A few benefits that came along with TiddlyBlink were…

  • Automatic linking when typing [[. This is helpful, and makes linking feel more like Roam.
  • A different tiddler can be shown in the sidebar, for side-by-side comparision. Not nearly has handy or easy as the way Roam does it, but it could come in handy.
  • Handles sources when tagged properly. Have to play with this.

I’ll need to tinker with all this to see how (or if) in improves things.

Posted in: Technology/Software

Running CloudReady on the 2008 iMac

Patrick Rhone posted a link to a post by Steve Best titled New Life for an Old iMac. Steve had installed Neverware’s CloudReady OS into an old iMac.

CloudReady makes our little iMac feel like a new computer again.

I had never heard of CloudReady.

Based on Google’s Chromium OS, the same open-source architecture as Chromebooks and Chrome OS, CloudReady provides unparalleled speed, simplicity, and security without hardware limitations, whether your computers are brand new or 10 years old.

It so happens I had an ancient iMac gathering dust in a closet, so I dragged it out, dusted it off, and set about installing a weird, new-to-me OS.

I created a boot USB, fired up the iMac, ran the installer, logged in, and I was up and running. I’ve never used Chrome OS so the whole thing is new to me, but I now have a 24-inch screen running a simple, fast OS on hardware that was never going to run a modern version of macOS so I’d say it’s a win.

The Magic Keyboard paired nicely. The Magic Mouse, while it paired, would not scroll, so I grabbed an old wired mouse until I can figure out why the Apple mouse didn’t work. Wifi worked, and so far everything else seems to have worked as well.

I’m not sure what I’ll use it for, but it’s fun to tinker with.

Posted in: Photography

Using Mylio for photo management

In Bringing my photos in from the cloud I wrote that “Photo Mechanic is my Librarian”. That may be changing now that I’ve started testing Mylio as a way to sync, backup, and manage my edited photos.

Here are a few reasons I’m testing Mylio:

  • Photos are synced quickly everywhere and the sync is very robust and seems to work well
  • Mylio does NOT keep my photos in any sort of “cloud” storage. Everything is managed right on my devices, as files that I can see right in the finder if I choose to.
  • When using “source folders”, Mylio maintains my original folder structure.
  • It has flexible storage rules. I can determine whether any device keeps full copies, thumbnails, or an in-between preview version.
  • Everything works offline and syncs when back on the network.
  • Vaults can be on internal storage, NAS, or even cloud storage if I wanted that.
  • I can keep multiple “vaults” which then gives me additional copies of each original.

I still export all “keepers” to full-sized jpeg files in my Digital Print Archive. I have this DPA set as the “Source” folder for Mylio. This means everything in the archive is immediately available to Mylio on all devices. If I organize folders using Mylio on my phone, the same folder structure changes are mirrored in the DPA. This is exactly how I want to work.

My old system required that I import iPhone photos occasionally and export them to the DPA from Capture One. Now, I have the iPhone’s photo library automatically imported to Mylio. I ruthlessly cull photos from my phone so I end up with only “DPA-worthy” photos anyway.

I’ve read reports of people with more than 1 million photos in their Mylio libraries, and they have nothing but good things to say about performance and capabilities. That’s encouraging.

So, Mylio is my new librarian. It replaces Photo Mechanic in that role. I lose some of the fancy bits of PM but I gain enough convenience features (e.g. face recognition, maps, calendar integration, etc) to make it worth the change.

Posted in: General

I’ll be using Org-roam for the time being

It’s been a challenging week for me using Roam. For the past several days my Roam database simply wouldn’t load. I’d see the spinning Astrolabe forever. Deleting the site data in my browser and restarting would help for a time, but then it would happen again.

What I’ve come to learn is that I need my Roam database available to me all the time. I understand that Roam is still in beta, but here we are.

While I wait for Roam to figure things out, I’m back to using Org-roam. This means that I’m dependent upon Emacs for useful notes, and I was trying to avoid that, but at least I can get at my notes were something to break. You know, text files and all that.

I prefer “real” Roam, but Org-roam is pretty great, and is improving so fast it’s hard to keep up with it. Of course Org mode is just so good anyway. Oh, and it’s stable, so it’s got that going for it.

Posted in: General

Thoughts vs Records

UPDATE: After writing this I realized what a jumbled mess it became. I’m posting it anyway because it really is intended as a way for me to think this through. I apologize for the rambling you’re about to be subjected to.

I work mostly with two kinds of notes: Thoughts and Records. 

Thoughts are meant to be used as raw materials for new thoughts. Records are for logging events. Thoughts are most useful right now, but will also be used in the future. Records are only useful in the future. Thoughts work better as easy, visual notes. Records can be kept in a simple, permanent, plain-text format. 

The difference here is that Thoughts should of course be as permanent as possible, but permanence is not their defining feature. Permanence is secondary to usefulness. 

I struggle with note-taking tools because I always want it both ways. Bear with me while I think this through.

Here are the kinds things I write down. Of these, some are Thoughts and some are Records:

  • What happened today? (Record)
  • How am I feeling? (Record)
  • Purchases (Record)
  • Plans or ideas for the future (Thought)
  • Project notes (Thought/Record)
  • Notes about people (Thought/Record)
  • Events related to people (Record)
  • Notes on various topics (Thought)

Thoughts don’t work for me as a wall of plain text (Markdown, Org mode, etc). For example, while project notes usually contain Records, they are mostly Thoughts. I need to see them, sometimes one at a time and sometimes all at once. Ideally, I’m able to easily rearrange them. This is where plain text falls short. A bunch of short, specific notes (ala Zettelkasten) can be useful when kept as a folder full of Markdown files, but they don’t help me think. They don’t as often spark new ideas. I don’t learn as well. I become fatigued. They’re not as fun, you know?

Records, on the other hand, excel as plain text. I have text files that just keep growing with year after year of “Here’s what happened” notes. If I need to know when I last had a cold, a quick search and I’m done. And I know I’ll be able to look this up in 10 years if I need to. There’s no specific app needed. That’s comforting.

How does this relate to tools? Well now that’s the question, isn’t it? It’s the thing that causes me to waste inordinate amounts of time.

What about permanence?

Text files are permanent. They work with any OS and just about any app that deals in text. They’re easy to back up, version control, and manage using only the operating system’s file manager. They’re great! But, as I’ve described above, they aren’t as immediately useful for Thoughts.

So what formats or apps are most useful for keeping and managing Thoughts? Here are my favorites: CurioTinderboxRoamTheBrain.

I can open an area or document from any of those and quickly get a handle on everything about that topic that I’ve written. This is terrific and useful. But, how permanent are they? That depends on your definition of permanent. None of them are permanent in the their current form if the app goes away, but all of them can be exported to a format that I can use to find information using other tools if I had to.

All of this is great, but it means I should use different apps for Thoughts vs Records. I don’t want to do that. I want the One True Place™ for notes. If I prioritize permanance, that would mean Org mode or maybe Markdown text files. If I prioritize usefulness I’d want to use one of the others.

Do any of them work for everything?

Right now I’m going out on a limb and putting my money on Roam. Here’s why:

  • Roam is designed as a place for everything. It works for both Thoughts and Records. It works very well for Thoughts.
  • It’s browser-based so accessible from any device by default. Mobile app will come, but I’m not in a hurry for that. Roam’s author, Conor White-Sullivan, is not a fan of using mobile apps for writing or thinking, and neither am I, so we’re aligned there.
  • Everything is easily exported to JSON or Markdown. Currently, neither of these formats are very useful, but I expect tools to be written that will do magical things with the JSON export.
  • Some open source version of this will probably be released and I could potentially self-host, which would alleviate my privacy concerns.
  • It’s said that they’ll be charging $12-$15 per month once it’s out of beta. That’s expensive, but could help with sustainability.
  • Lots of very smart people are into Roam, and doing cool things with it.

Roam needs offline support, an API, and lots of refinements. I expect those to appear over time.

What about Org-roam? Org-roam is a fantastic pseudo Roam that leverages Emacs and Org mode. It’s very good and has been neck-and-neck with “real” Roam recently. The difference is that “real” Roam is simply easier to use and better at being Roam than Org-roam is. 

So Roam wins this round of me searching for a “Second Brain”

Posted in: General

Org-roam and aliases

I just learned that Org-roam supports aliases. This means that I can reference pages in my Org-roam database in more than one way. 

For example, I might want to have a page for “World War II” but when mentioning it I would just use “WWII”. It’s done like this…

#+TITLE: World War II #+ROAM_ALIAS: "WWII" "World War 2" 

This is really handy. Even “real” Roam doesn’t support this as easily yet.

It’s in the docs. I should read them more often.

Posted in: General

Doom Emacs vs my custom Emacs config

I’ve become catatonic over whether to use Doom Emacs or my home-rolled Emacs configuration, so I’m jotting down a few notes to help me think it through.

Doom has very good defaults, looks great, and continues to fine-tune a bunch of behaviors in a way that I generally get along with. (I like it more than the other big contender, Spacemacs). On the other hand, Doom’s behavior feels out of my control and things change frequently, forcing me to pay attention to my editor in a way that I’d rather not. That’s not the way Emacs is supposed to feel. It should feel like it’s 100% mine.

So you can see the dilemma.

This also ties in to my Vim vs Emacs keybinding debate. I have (or had, at least) a decade or more of Vim binding muscle memory. Using stock Emacs bindings for the last couple of years has erased most of that memory. Now I suck at both.

Evil Mode in Doom works great. I want to use it. I tried adding Evil to my own config but its behavior was inconsistent and it would likely take me weeks to build something usable out of it.

Of course I can customize Doom, but in doing too much of that I feel like I’d end up with an unmaintainable combination of done-for-me config and my own tweaks. Worst of both worlds?

So right now I’m using Doom because it’s so very nice. My own config, as light and personal as it is, is missing a lot of Doom’s many niceties. Still measuring the trade-offs.