Review: MacSparky iPhone Field Guide I was fortunate enough to get a quick look at David Sparks’ new field guide in Chicago earlier this year and was impressed – and then David kindly sent me a copy of the book to beta test! I expect you all think of me as a power user, and I class myself in that category as well, but I was very pleasantly surprised to find how many tricks I was missing on my iPhone!

For those of you not familiar with a MacSparky field guide be prepared, this is not just a book. In fact, I would say it’s a “Beauty and the Beast” book – though without the singing. This book has videos embedded in it, over two hours of them where David demonstrates these features. The book is split into 44 chapters, and multiple sections within each chapter. A chapter tends to be an area such as Email, with sections being a look at the apps available. You even get tips and tricks such as how to use Fantastical’s natural language parser to add an alert to an event when creating it, or which calculator application has an augmented reality mode in it. You can see the full chapter list here.

David’s done a great job here; the whole book is jam-packed full of knowledge – even for power users. I’m going to be buying a few copies for my family and best of all these tips and tricks can be used to enhance your iPad usage too. The only thing you should be aware of is that you’ll most likely buy at least one app because of this book!

Get your copy of the iPhone Field Guide now.

The current price is introductory so grab it while you can!

Workflow: Clearing Out Your Camera Roll “Clear The Camera Roll”){.image-right} Sometimes you take screenshots, lots of screenshots. And sometimes you use built in screen recording to capture what’s happening on a device. You probably use these features even more frequently if you’re beta testing an app – and that’s how this Workflow came to be. Ryan mentioned in the OmniFocus Beta Slack that his camera roll was suffering with all the screenshots he’s been taking. Challenge accepted. This workflow will help you delete both screenshots and screencasts you’ve taken on your devices.


You can get the workflow here: Clear The Camera Roll

Enjoy clearing your camera roll!

Workflow: Mac Power Users & Podcast Show Notes

?cropResize=100 “Mac Power Users”){.image-right} This is a very simple Workflow I use to get the show notes for the Mac Power Users podcast, I use it when I’m listening on another device and I don’t want to grab it or interrupt what I’m doing. It’s quite simple, just 3 steps in fact.


You can get the workflow here: Mac Power Users Show Notes. It’s designed to run in the today widget. “Podcast Show Notes”){.image-right} Now, you might listen to more than one podcast (dramatic music) – and you probably don’t want one of these for every podcast you listen to, that’s just not manageable. But with some help from the dictionary action you can make it much easier.


You can get the workflow here: Podcast Show Notes

Omnifocus 3 Sneak Peak

I’m fortunate enough to have been let into the very early OmniFocus 3 Beta. The app isn’t finished yet, but here are some of the features which you might enjoy. To make things clear, I have the dark theme on OF3, and the light theme in OF2 – and I’ve tried to do screenshots to let you compare the two easily.

Multi Pane Views

You can now have a multipane view, this means you can have the traditional Home Screen on the left, tasks in the middle, and the inspector (detailed view of a task, project or tag) on the right – or you can have any combination of these three.

Forecast View

There have been some changes to the Forecast view as well – primarily the interleaving of tasks and calendar events. This is purely based on the due time of a task and the time of the calendar event.

A new feature is the ability to have a tag displayed in the forecast view. This might be very handy if you have lots of #waiting on tasks which you need to be on top of, or if there’s a particular area you need to focus on. Of course, if you want multiple tags that’s what perspectives are for.

The Inspector

The inspector for tasks, tags, and projects has received some updates. You can set what you want to see and hide by default – so if you never use locations in tags (or contexts as they are in OF2) you can hide them.

The Project Inspector

The Tag Inspector

The Task Inspector

And of course these changes are present on the iPad as well.


Search can now happen from any view, just by pulling down on the tasks list. Previously it was in the bar at the top.

Location Based Notifications

The notifications have had some changes made to them as well. Here on the top you see OmniFocus 3, and below it you see OmniFocus 2. Omnifocus 2 shows you the name of the context, the first task, and the number of other tasks available. OmniFocus 3 shows you the name of the tag, and how many tasks are available to you.

The watch notifications are exactly the same. At first glance this seems like it is less information – but force touching or 3D touching the notification (depending on which device you’re on) gives us a lot more choice.

OmniFocus 3 here lets me View Location, or View Actions. OmniFocus 2 lets me dismiss the notification.


Notifications have had an overhaul – gone are the days where you get pinged as something goes from “hell being about to break loose” to “apocalypse”, you can now set up a series of notifications for a task. If your task has a due date you can set reminders to happen X amount of time before it becomes due by adding minutes, hours, or days. Whether or not your task has a due date you can set a custom or fixed notification which will happen at the date and time you specify – very helpful. These notifications are one off, but the customisability is definitely something I’ll be using frequently.


A task or project is flagged or isn’t flagged. A task can inherit a tag from the project or task it belongs to – and none of this has changed in OmniFocus 3. What has changed is how you tag things. You can simply swipe from left to right on a task or project, and tap to flag it.

You can also see very easily when a task is flagged because its parent is flagged which is very nice.

Quick Editing

So swiping from left to right lets you flag or unflag, swiping in the other direction allows you to delete the task, or if you tap more you can schedule it – for today or tomorrow.

Batch Task Editing

It’s now possible to edit multiple tasks at once as well – this is hard to explain in screenshots so I’ve created a very short video for you.

To summarise, I absolutely love the beta of OmniFocus 3. There are things planned for this iOS app which haven’t yet arrived, and many exciting new possibilities. I’m going to really have to dig into tags to see mysq

A quick note about the icon:

Tile: Finding the Things I Lose

I am a forgetful person, not necessarily disorganised, but forgetful. And the more I have to do the more forgetful I tend to be – which results in things like misplaced keys, purses, ID cards – and naturally at the most inconvenient of moments. I heard about Tile a long time ago, but the thought of not being able to replace the battery or recharge the device seemed wasteful.

Not too long ago, KeySmart, a company who makes Swiss army style covers for keys, came out with the KeySmart Pro – which has built in Tile technology, and a micro USB port. So now once every 2 months or so I need to charge my keys, but when I misplace them I can open the app on my phone, and make them ring. I’be had this since November, and actually ordered two as I have the keys to my parents house – which I don’t need the vast majority of the time, so am more likely to misplace. “KeySmart Pro on charge”){.image-left}

After a while of having the ability to find my keys (though summoning them Harry Potter style is not yet possible, sadly) I realised that being able to locate my work ID and keys, or my purse would also be handy. This week I picked up a set of the Tile Mate and Slim. The slim is about the thickness of 2 credit cards, and the same height as one, I put one in my passport holder, and another in my purse (having managed to pack my purse in my checked luggage and spending an hour looking for it last week really pushed me here!). The Tile Mates will go on my work keys once I get home, and then I have a spare – purpose to be determined. “Tile Mate and Slim, dollar bill and purse for scale”){.image-right}

One of the deciding factors for me when getting my first Tile though, was a story of a woman in Australia who had lost her keys. She marked them as lost in the TIle app and a few months later got a push notification that they had been found – someone had walked past the lost property area where her keys were and the Tile app on their device registered that her keys were present. While this sounds creepy, you can’t see anyone else’s devices unless they choose to share them with you – so your phone scans for the locations, and reports them back to Tile, but you don’t ever see the data yourself. The brilliance of this is helping others – maybe today I have all of my possessions where I expect them to be, but if/when I misplace one of my things it’s comforting to know that other people are helping me look, and they don’t have to lift a finger to do so.

The advantages of Tile are simple:

  • They will recycle dead devices and give you a voucher towards your next Tile, called ReTile.
  • There’s a large network of users, which means if you can’t find your propery then maybe someone else can.
  • It works.
  • The KeySmart Pro is rechargeable.

Unfortunately there are some disadvantages to Tile:

  • You can’t recharge most of their devices.
  • The white does discolour, depending on where you keep your items and how much you handle them this may be quick or slow, but the white will probably turn grey sooner or later.
  • There are no notifications for leaving something behind.

That said, for me the advantages well outweigh the disadvantages – and I’m very happy with my new system. I use my Apple Watch to ping my iPhone, and my iPhone to ping whatever is missing.

Apple Store Opening, Vienna

?cropResize=400&classes=image-right “Apple Store Vienna, Grand Opening”) The first Apple Store in Austria opened today, and it happened to be the 501st Apple Store. I attended the opening and was lucky enough not to be too far back in the line – lots of people seem to have arrived before midnight, including one man from China who arrived at 2pm the day before! At it was cold I only got there at 7am.

This store matches Apple’s new style with plants indoors, but they’re using Genius tables and the grove is outside. All of the employees were there today and seemed to be really enjoying it – everyone I spoke to was enthusiastic and friendly, a few looked a little overwhelmed but that is to be expected!

The Day Before “The first person in line – from 2pm the day before”) “The Grove is outside”) “A stone staircase – in keeping with the style of the building”) “Staff watching a presentation the evening before the store opens”) “Last minute adjustments to the power cables”)

Opening Day

When I got to the store the queue was just going past the end of the barrier. Due to the width of the street and the fact that it can be used for delivery vehicles Apple had prepared further waiting areas towards the other side of the street. The few of us tailing past the end of the ropes were asked to move to the middle and remain in order. Once that area filled up they moved on to the next and further on. Of course this meant there were lots of people milling around between the queues – but Apple had thought of that. When each queue was allowed to progress to the next one every person was given a card. You had to show this to enter the next queue, and then hand it over when exiting the queue or just before entering the store. This was a very simple but efficient system and prevented queue jumping.

Thankfully the security managing the queues were multi lingual and friendly enough to allow you to make a quick bathroom or coffee run – assuming the people standing next to you in the queue were happy to hold your spot that was, they did stop allowing that at 9am though (30 minutes before the store opened). While we were in the queue four employees came through to photograph everyone and get permission to use your photo in their marketing material. If you didn’t want to be featured they did request permission to take a photo anyway so they could work on an exclusion basis rather than an inclusion basis. At around 8:30am staff brought out coffee for people in the queue which was very much appreciated. “There are just two lines allowed next to the Apple Store”) “There are three further lines of the queue in the middle of the street”) “The queue”) “It’s a bit like a reverse zoo”)
?lightbox=1024&cropResize=200 “Making new friends in line!”) “Queue pass”) “Exercise Rings”) “A purchase and set up”) “Sockets embedded between the seats and the windowsills”) “Plants on the wall”) “HomeKit Corner”) “Upstairs”) “The queue from the window”) “Downstairs”) “Seating near the screen”)

Postcards and a pin

Instead of giving out t-shirts we were given postcards and a commemorative pin. The postcards are on lovely thick, cream card stock, and the design is raised on the front with a slight gloss. I’ve scanned them in to show you – but the designs do belong to Apple. These images are animated and shown on the screen at the back of the store on the ground floor. “Pin & postcard pack”) “Pin closeup”) “Postcard pack closeup front”) “Postcard pack closeup back”)

?lightbox=1024&cropResize=200 ‘Postcard 1: Pencils’)
?lightbox=1024&cropResize=200 ‘Postcard 2: Birds’)
?lightbox=1024&cropResize=200 ‘Postcard 3: Chevron’)

?lightbox=1024&cropResize=200 ‘Postcard 4: Abstract’)
?lightbox=1024&cropResize=200 ‘Postcard 5: Sound wave’)
?lightbox=1024&cropResize=200 ‘Postcard 6: Cameras’)

When I left the store at just after 11am they were still letting people in – with the cheering still at full volume and enthusiasm. I’m really looking forward to shopping in my local Apple Store.

Controlling a Raspberry Pi via SSH

I have a Raspberry Pi 3 running HomeBridge, HomeAssistant, and a few other services. It has a 7″ touchscreen display attached which is lovely – but bright. I prefer to turn the screen on and off when I want to use it instead of relying on the energy saver preferences (as I inevitably use the device just before I want to sleep) – however typing the terminal commands to do it is rather old fashioned.

?cropResize=500px “Dictionary of actions in Workflow”)

The first action is a dictionary – so every ssh command I run has a name which I look at when running the Workflow. You can have anything here of course – providing it’s a valid SSH command. My commands are as follows:

Screen On
sudo bash -c "echo 0 > /sys/class/backlight/rpi_backlight/bl_power"

Screen Off
sudo bash -c "echo 1 > /sys/class/backlight/rpi_backlight/bl_power"

Restart HomeBridge
sudo systemctl restart homebridge

Restart HomeAssistant
sudo systemctl restart home-assistant@homeassistant

Then Workflow asks you to choose an action to execute, and executes it. Finally you see the result of the SSH command returned to you – which is useful if there is output.

You can download the Workflow here. You’ll need to know the IP address of your Raspberry Pi, the username (default pi), and password (default raspberry). If your username and password are the default ones I recommend you change them.