Author: James

Control window position with Spectacle


If you’re looking for a little more control over your Mac’s window placement but don’t want to waste time mousing around, Spectacle is the answer to your wish.

Spectacle allows you to move windows to full screen, top half, bottom half, left and right half position with a simple keyboard shortcut.

Results are in: The pen IS mightier than the keyboard


Educators are eager to know how the computers popping up in their classrooms actually affect student learning. A recent study published in Psychological Science confronts the issue head-on.

The results of the study come to no surprise to me. People who hand-write notes are more likely to process the information as it comes in (and have a much easier time recalling the information later), compared to those who basically sit there and transcribe an entire lecture or presentation on a computer.

I compare the results of this study to logo design. Even with all the modern software & hardware technology making it easier and easier to create on your digital devices, you still get better results when you sketch your logo design concepts on paper first. There’s just less distraction with the process. You don’t get hung-up on colors and precise layout when you sketch on paper, which leaves your mind to focus on the basic concept.

Yet another example I can think of is that I find that when I have a client meeting, I’m better able to understand what a client is asking for when I limit my notes to a few high-points (or not take notes at all), than when I used to basically write down every word they said. I learned over time that it’s better to HEAR what a client is saying, not LISTEN to what they’re saying. When you’re taking notes, you’re listening to what they say, but you’re not really hearing them.

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Enhance OS X’s speech services


If you use Mac OS X’s built-in speech service to read text back to you, you’re going to love this little gem!

Dictator is a free add-on that enhances built-in speech services by adding a progress indicator, a teleprompter (for reading along with the audio if you wish), and control audio with play, pause, and skip forward by sentence or paragraph controls.

To use Dictator, you simply select some text in any Services supported app (pretty much every app), right-click and choose Dictate from the menu.

You can download Dictater here.

The best iOS 9 content blocker so far

I started using an extension for Safari on my iMac a while back called Ghostery. It basically blocks tracking cookies and other obnoxious little things. It’s not an ad blocker, but it not only speeds up website load times, it’ll protect your privacy as well. It’s awesome, and I recommend you get Ghostery for the Mac right away.

Flash forward to yesterday when I finally got around to trying some content blockers for iOS9 on my iPhone 6Plus. I tried several, including one that was more than the price of a cup of coffee. Let me tell you that almost every single one of them available on the App Store absolutely sucks. Then I came across a Tweet about yet another content blocker—but this one caught my eye because it also mentioned Ghostery.

Peace content blocker for iOSTurns out, Marco Arment (creator of Instapaper and Overcast) has an iOS 9 content blocker called Peace for only $2.99.

What got me to buy it immediately was that A) The screenshots looked much more polished and easier to use than the other apps. And B) Marco has an exclusive deal with Ghostery to use their database as the foundation for Peace’s ability to block trackers. And really, that’s what sold me.

What it does

Peace blocks ads, trackers, social media buttons and other mobile web annoyances. You can configure with a simple slider if you want those social media buttons blocked, as well as most web comment systems and a site’s use of web fonts. All of those things can really slow a web page down, something I can overlook on an uber-fast desktop cable connection but is absolutely infuriating on mobile. As a bonus, Peace can install a set of Share Sheet extensions that allow further access to the app’s capabilities.

Peace isn’t perfect, by any means. Some ads still get through. And sometimes it’ll block things you don’t want blocked. But peace will allow you to add domains to a whitelist if they don’t work properly, or you simply love a site and want to support it by not blocking anything.

Want proof it’s working?

If you buy it and really want to see what it does, may I recommend you visit MacDailyNews before and after installing. At any given time, the site can have around 25 banner ads and a list of trackers as long as my arm. The page loads slow even on a fast cable connection, but on mobile it’s excruciatingly slow. So much so that I often just skip right over any link that points to the site. After I installed Peace, I went to the MacDailyNews homepage. I was shocked when it loaded almost instantly. Of course, almost every one of the ads and all the trackers were blocked, and that’s why it loaded so quickly.

You can read more about Peace here. Direct link to Peace in the app store here. Best $3 I’ve spent in the App Store in a long time!

UPDATE: Marco Arment (the developer) has pulled his app from the App Store after having some regrets. If you managed to buy Peace before it was removed, you can request a refund, or continue to use the app until such time that Apple updates iOS to the point that the app no longer works.