Sonos and Airplay 2: First Impressions

I bought a Sonos One back when it was released late last year, and it quickly became something I used without thinking about it too much. I got a Spotify subscription and liked that I could just switch my stream from my headphones to the Sonos from the Spotify app – in contrast to Apple and Google Music services which required navigating the Sonos app. I prefer Apple Music though – being able to put my headphones on and just press play is a surprisingly powerful factor, so I switched away from Spotify and back to Apple Music.

Airplay 2 has given me the ability to switch where the music is playing to easily once more though, I can switch from my AirPods to my Sonos, there’s a very slight pause waiting for the stream to switch – but this is technology, not magic! You can use any app to play the audio elsewhere, though some apps need to update to support Airplay 2 and those are noticeable with a longer pause from when you press a music control button – but I’m confident we’ll get an update for these apps.

I’m currently listening to podcasts on my Sonos and it’s good – easy, no fiddling, just play and select the audio output. I have a feeling this might cause me to purchase a few more!

Smart me last night packed my contact lenses and my glasses so that if I woke up late I could just go to the airport. Silly me this morning did not remember this and spent 20 minutes hunting for my glasses and eventually put on my old prescription… Oops?

Shortcuts Beta now open!

Earlier today a few little birdies told me about the Shortcuts beta being open to sign up for if you have a developer account. If I hadn’t already had one I might have been tempted to sign up for it just for this!

It seems Apple is sending out the invitations pretty quickly as mine has already arrived. I’m really looking forward to testing this and getting stuck in – iOS 12 has made some big promises regarding automation, I bet it will live up to them!

You can read more about the current beta over on MacStories.

Continuing listening to yesterday's @_upgradefm and I bought the Zoom H4N Pro for exactly the reasons outlined. Use it in person, as a USB interface, or with my iPad! (Even for double ended recording πŸ€“)

My Raspberry Pi Zero W Portable Development Server

I love my iPad, it’s a great, very portable device that I can use for almost everything. Unfortunately the almost for most people is a deal breaker – but I’m stubborn and see these things as a problem to be solved rather than a reason to use another device!

One of my most frequently used “tools” are servers – if you can call a server a tool. This blog runs on one, as does Automation Orchard, as well as a lot of little scripts which make my life easier. Unfortunately having an entire server running locally on an iPad isn’t quite possible yet – apps like DraftCode Offline PHP IDE are fabulous and can even run WordPress – but sometimes needs must, and you need something that is less restricted. This is where my Raspberry Pi Zero W comes into play.

The Raspberry Pi Zero W, for those of you not familiar with it, is an extremely small headless computer – it doesn’t have a screen – indeed when you buy it you just get the board, that’s it! The hard drive is a micro SD card, and it sports a few ports – 2 micro USB (one for power), and a mini HDMI. How on earth can you connect to that with an iPad?

The answer is not the shortest or easiest, but it does sound simple: wifi. I have set my Raspberry Pi up so that when it boots up it creates a wifi network, of course this doesn’t create an internet connection, but that’s not what we’re after here. I won’t go into the steps of setting this up here, instead I recommend you follow this guide: Setting Up a Raspberry Pi as an Access Point in a Standalone Network (NAT)

The other part I needed to do was to make sure the Pi would always have the same IP address. This allows me to use use Workflow to control it via SSH, and connect to it with Coda which lets me hook right into the device and has great syntax highlighting. As I mostly program for the web with PHP I use Coda in split screen with Safari which I can refresh to see the results of what I’m doing.

I use a CMS called Grav, and they have a nice little guide to help you set up the Raspberry Pi to run it – there are guides to set up most CMS on a Pi if you look.

Why would I do all of this over using something like Linode or Digital Ocean, you might ask. It’s a very simple answer: internet isn’t always a given. I travel a lot, and most of my flights do not have wifi (and those that do charge a fortune for it). Even trains go through tunnels where you lose your connection. If you always have wifi or cellular data then you can avoid carrying a tiny computer, cable and battery pack along with your iPad, but if you don’t then this is a very small combination that gives you a lot of power.

Hardware in use:

Cloudflare seem to have blacklisted a range of IP addresses, i.e. the ones provided by my IP. Which means practically every website I visit I have to fill out an aggravating captcha, and this fixes the problem for an hour at most. Any suggestions? Currently using mobile data to help maintain sanity…

Cloudflare seem to have blacklisted a range of IP addresses, i.e. the ones provided by my IP. Which means practically every website I visit I have to fill out an aggravating captcha, and this fixes the problem for an hour at most. Any suggestions? Currently using mobile data to help maintain sanity…

Whenever people send me PDFs with a password for "security" I do like to see it as a challenge of "how fast can I get into this document and remove the password". Today it was less than a minute on my iPhone. Good job there guys. Nice and secure.

Managing References and Resources When Writing Academic Papers

Some of you may know that I’m studying for my Masters degree in Computing (Software Engineering), this naturally requires me to write more than a few essays with full referencing. Being a nerd I want to make this as easy as possible for myself, whilst still being accurate – and the simplest way to do this is to use software to manage my references.

After doing some comparisons I settled on Zotero – it’s free, which is perfect for a student budget, and you could program your own extensions if needed. More importantly it has a Word plugin which as I am required to submit my assignments in Word format is extremely useful.

For those of you not familiar with referencing plugins and software you usually write your essay, and as you get to a place where you would insert a citation then you use the plugin in Word to do so. This software later generates a complete bibliography for you. EndNote, Mendeley, Bookends and Zotero are all capable of handling different citation formats, and Zotero even has one for my university’s exact styling which is a great timesaver.

At the start of each course or module I save all of the recommended reading into Zotero, they have browser plugins for Safari, Firefox, and Chrome which is ideal. By default Zotero saves PDFs if one is available for the reference, or a web snapshot. I prefer to save these items to DevonThink so use DevonThink’s plugin to save the actual files to it instead. When saving the files I use the format Author - year - title which makes it easy to find the relevant reference. DevonThink allows me to use Edit in Place on iOS to annotate documents with whichever app I like. I also prefer to save web pages in PDF form which means I can annotate everything with PDF Expert.

To remove these attachments from my Zotero library (you only get 200MB of sync storage for free), I have created a saved search. It has Item Type is Attachment as the sole criteria, and searches the whole library. I simply open this saved search, use CMD+A, and press delete – which deletes all of my attachments. As I prefer to use the search in DevonThink to find references I remember this isn’t a problem, and I can also use the NEAR search parameter (NEAR(man, cat) would find items where the word man is within 10 words of the word cat, you can expand on this with NEAR(man, cat, 100) which would do the same but within 100 words – this is a massive timesaver for me.


Sometimes items added to Zotero do not always have the complete metadata – this tends to be my university website in my case. To fix these items I have a very useful smart folder and Keyboard Maestro Macro. The smart folder filters for items from my university website, which have no date or creator, the keyboard maestro macro requires me to set the number of items it should process and then goes through and uses the “click at image” action to set both the author and the date of the item in question. Zotero does have an API, but sometimes the best automation is the one you can set up the fastest which achieves the needed results – and this certainly fits that bill.



DevonThink and Zotero are a very useful pair for me and I honestly think that without them I would struggle to complete my assignments.

The New Mac Power Users Community

The Mac Power Users community which I have been helping to moderate has a wonderful new home on Discourse. The Facebook group has been archived (which means it is still there, but in read only mode), and is already exceedingly popular. I know a large number of the Mac Power Users fans are not Facebook users and hope that they will join this community.

Here are some of my posts which I have created so far:

And here are some useful help posts:

I feel like I'm getting better as a programmer. I'm creating a little webhook for a project and decided to add pushbullet notifications when things happen (especially errors), really easy and it works! (This is on top of regular logging.)

Workflow: OmniFocus University Course

I was asked to talk through my thought process behind a Workflow by powderizedbookworm in the OmniFocus Slack, so this post will go into more detail than usual.

The purpose of this Workflow is to add my syllabus to my OmniFocus project for that class. The project will already exist as I have to register for the course, and potentially order course materials or communicate with the course professors before I get the syllabus. Each of my courses is separated into action groups – sometimes the courses divide their materials into weekly blocks, and sometimes they’re divided into blocks based on assessments. I always put assessments in their own blocks, because they are broken into sub sections as well.

This workflow should add each section of work or assessment to OmniFocus as an action group, deferred and due as is appropriate. As such the first thing it does after I input the project name (which is the class name) is to ask me how many sections there are in the course. We then go through every section inputting the name of it. If I know that the course is split into weeks then I modify this action in advance to just use “Week Repeat Index” as the name of the section. I use the start and end dates to set due and defer dates, and then select if this section is to study something or to submit something (study or assignment). This is a menu which allows me to use different actions based on which option is selected.

In the study section, I input the tasks and format them as taskpaper. In the assignment section I input the name of the assignment and the number of questions it has which generates subtasks for me.

This whole Workflow generates TaskPaper and adds it to OmniFocus for me.


  • Ask for Input: The course name (which is the project name in OmniFocus)
  • Ask for Input: How many sections or blocks does the course have?
  • Repeat: Going through every section/block
    • Ask for Input: The name of the section
    • Ask for Input: The start date
    • Ask for Input: The end date
    • Choose from Menu: Is this a study or assignment section/block
    • Study
      • Ask for Input: Input the tasks which need to be completed.
      • Split Text: Break up the lines of tasks
      • Repeat with Each: For every task
        • Text: Format it with a tab indent and the - used to indicate a task in TaskPaper
      • Combine Text: Put these tasks back together with line breaks between them,
      • Text: Format the action group here, with the defer and due dates (these are inherited), followed by the tasks which were input and formatted.
    • Assignment
      • Ask for Input:
      • Ask for Input:
      • Repeat with Each: For every task
        • Text: Format it with a tab indent and the - used to indicate a task in TaskPaper
      • Combine Text: Put these tasks back together with line breaks between them,
      • Text: Format the action group here, with the name of the assignment, defer date and due date and the questions as subtasks.
  • Add TaskPaper to OmniFocus: Put everything we’ve generated above into OmniFocus.

You can get the workflow here: OmniFocus University Course

Review: Juuk Rainbow Watch Strap

?fixOrientation&cropResize=150,150 “Juuk Rainbow Ligero Watch Strap”){.image-right} A while ago I ordered a rainbow watch strap. Not just any rainbow watch strap, but an aluminium link, Apple Watch strap. I came across a purple link watch strap on Reddit months ago, fell in love and then was immensely disappointed it had sold out. I did spot the rainbow strap on the same website though, and immediately put it on my wish list.

Since then the rainbow strap has been in the back of my mind – I dislike buckles on watches, which is why I never tried to get the Apple Pride strap despite loving the idea and colour combination. Similarly, I’ve never owned a link strap for my Apple Watch. My wrists are small, so unless the strap comes with an adjuster tool, it often ends up being comically large. Juuk ships all of their watch straps with an adjuster tool, and the video guides for adjustment didn’t look too hard to follow either – I decided to give it a whirl.

I paid for fast shipping, and shipping was fast. I ordered May 1st; it was delivered May 5th. Of course, postage depends a lot on the postal services are involved and handover time – but it’s safe to say I’m impressed. The watch was in an envelope, in a box – in a box. Good packaging so you could give the strap as a gift, and the recipient would be delighted.,500 “Outer box, brown cardboard”),500 “Inner box, white with a picture of the strap on it and the Juuk logo at the top”),500 “The strap in the box, in grey foam. There’s a silver bar at the top and more foam above that.”)
Inside the box in a box, was the watch strap. Nicely presented in specially cut out foam. I didn’t realise to start with the metal bar at the top is the adjustment tool – with its own piece of foam on it to prevent you hurting yourself. The way it is laid out makes it look high quality – and it is too.

The strap itself has some heft to it – and you would expect it to. But being aluminium rather than steel it’s not that heavy, making it comfortable to wear all day. Every link is a different colour graduating through the rainbow from the watch face on both sides, and it is designed so that one side has one more link than the other – to make it easier for you to put on and take off I presume, the idea being the shorter side brings the butterfly closure closer to the inside of your wrist. An extra nice touch is the last link above the closure has Juuk engraved into it, it’t not highlighted in any colour and if you weren’t looking for it you might miss it. I dislike wearing advertisements for brands unwillingly – but should I forget where I purchased this band (unlikely) I will still be able to see it and let people know.,500 “The adjustment tool, a aluminium bar, with three points of varying heights to allow you to pop out the pins”){.image-center}

Adjusting the watch strap was as easy as the video says. Make sure you don’t put your fingers on the top of the pin you’re trying to pop out, and I would personally have a small tray (such as the lid from a tube of Pringles) ready to put the pin and pin casings in. Unless you do this sort of thing regularly or have another strap to compare to for length you’re going to have to adjust this with trial and error. I thought I had it adjusted perfectly, only to decide 20 minutes later that an extra link would be preferable – so keep the adjustment tool handy. There are extra

This is the first link strap I’ve bought that I can wear (I haven’t managed to get the other one linked above adjusted yet), and it takes some getting used to. Putting it on the watch requires a little more coordination than I’m used to, as Milanese and sport loops are floppy and flexible, and the sport bands are of course two pieces – that’s not a criticism of this band though, I went to the Apple Store to play and all the link straps are like that. I have found it’s easiest to put both sides on at the same time now.,500 “The strap as it arrived, with all the links and much too big”),500 “After removing the links the strap fits very well”)

I love this strap, it’s fun, comfortable, nice quality, and easy to wear. It’s not cheap, but it’s much cheaper than the Apple ones. For people not into rainbow they also have a variety of solid colours, and even ones with a raised stripe/bar down the middle that remind me of racing cars. Some straps are available on Amazon, but the Juuk website has the full range and excellent customer service should you have any questions.

In good news I've saved >€60 on accommodation in San Jose so far. In bad news I've just had to make my 3rd AirBnB reservation because my second host cancelled on me! I'm crossing my fingers really hard right now. 🀞

Nothing quite as stressful as your accommodation falling through with 7 days to go. Thankfully I found somewhere else to stay (actually looks better), crossing my fingers I won't end up asking some of you for a hotel room floor to sleep on!

Workflow as an OmniFocus Trigger List

A workflow I frequently run to help me remember tasks is my Trigger List workflow. For those of you not familiar with them, trigger lists are essentially prompts you use to help you remember things you may have forgotten.

This workflow is very simple, it has a list of items at the top, goes through each item and asks you what’s on your mind regarding it. Then it takes all of these items and puts them in your OmniFocus Inbox.

I’ve uploaded two “flavours” of this Workflow, one where the trigger word is noted after the task in brackets, and the other where the trigger word becomes the parent task of an action group, with your triggered tasks inside of it.

Trigger word in brackets

Action groups with the trigger word as the parent task

If you need some inspiration for your trigger list the official GTD Trigger Lists are a great place to start – and there are trigger list examples all over the internet.

One enhancement you might make is to have more than one of these workflows – one at home, and one at work. You could also trigger the Workflow to run at a specific time with Launch Center Pro – I do this as it’s one of my tasks which kicks off my weekly review. Here’s the Launch Center Pro action.

Workflow: Menus, Lists & Dictionaries

When should you use a list or a menu. What about a dictionary? If you’re not a programmer and have had little experience with writing for computers in general then this can be a little overwhelming.


A list is exactly what it sounds like. You have a list of items, and you can choose from them or get a specific item (at an index, so the 1st or 5th item for example). A list gives you what you choose – so if you have a list of animals, when you choose “Cat” you get “Cat” – fairly simple.

You can make lists in a few ways, if you Add to Variable you can get that variable and use Choose from List. You can also Split Text and then Choose from List again. There is also the list action you can add items to – and you follow it with a Choose from List action again.


A menu is a list of items which contain actions – this is ideal if you want to be able to do different things based on the option chosen (e.g. reminder vs calendar event vs note). You don’t get the text of the menu item after you click it, though you can work around this by using the Text action if you need it.,300 “Workflow Menu Action”){.image-center}


A dictionary is somewhere between a list and a menu in many ways. If I choose “Spaghetti Bolognese” then a dictionary can return “ground beef, tomatoes, onion, spaghetti…”. This can have all sorts of applications – and Workflow actually gives you dictionaries a lot of the time when you put the Choose from List action after another, such as Search App Store.
Dictionaries can really help improve your Workflow experience. Maybe you want to have a simple list of people, and when you select one you get that person’s phone number – or maybe you want to get complicated and go crazy. That’s all possible with dictionaries.
A dictionary is a series of keys and values. The key is what you choose, and the value is what you get. There are multiple ways to make dictionaries in Workflow – the simplest way though is to use the Dictionary action.

Tips and tricks

You can order lists, menus, and dictionaries manually using the grab handles on the side of their action blocks. But a list or dictionary can also be sorted by its key using the Filter files action. You can use this to sort the keys alphabetically. This won’t change the list or the dictionary in your editing view, but it will change before you choose or get an item from it.

It has been one of those weekends. A draft blog post, complete with images, completely disappeared. And somehow there are no backups. But, I ate chocolate, watched lots of Elementary, wrote lots of things up, and am about to book my holiday for this year!

Siri Watch Face,200 “Apple Watch Face showing a homekit scene and a calendar entry”){.image-right} The Siri Watch face has been an unexpected gem for me – it is limited but still very useful. One thing many people miss is that you can customise the data sources for the watch face – so if you don’t want to see reminders to breathe, or the stocks then you don’t need to.

The Siri watch face only allows you to have one complication, which complicates matters somewhat (pun intended!). I have chosen Carrot weather, because the weather in Vienna tends to stay somewhat stable throughout the day, this means I can turn off the Weather source in the watch face.,200 “Blank Siri Face – Have a Nice Day”){.image-left} What is limiting is that 3rd party app developers can’t integrate into the Siri face – at least not directly. I have managed to get my OmniFocus data into it though – by subscribing to my OmniFocus calendar on my iPhone. This calendar is hidden, and does have the unfortunate side effect of giving me an extra notification when each task is due if I let it get that far – but for me the trade off is well worth it. You can manage the calendars shown on your Apple Watch in the Watch app, under Calendars. I don’t have this mirror my iPhone as I am subscribed to many calendars and toggle those on and off as needed – but I still don’t want birthdays showing up on my watch face as that’s a bit late reminder wise!

Throughout the last year the Siri face has been very successful in providing me the data I want when I want it – possibly because I don’t have many data sources enabled. If you tried it before and gave up on it then I would recommend giving it another shot – perhaps with less data this time. “Settings for the Siri watch face”){.image-center}

Overlay Contact Information on Wallpaper “Overlay Contact Information On Wallpaper”){.image-right} A while ago Katie Floyd put out a call on Twitter looking for a replacement app which can overlay contact information onto your wallpaper for iOS. I thought “I bet you can do this with Workflow”, and I was right! Here’s how it works.

Steps: “The original wallpaper, and the wallpaper with the contact information overlay”)

You can get the workflow here: Overlay Contact Information On Wallpaper

Overlay Contact Information on Wallpaper “Overlay Contact Information On Wallpaper”){.image-right} A while ago [Katie Floyd]() put out a call on Twitter looking for a replacement app which can overlay contact information onto your wallpaper for iOS. I thought “I bet you can do this with Workflow”, and I was right! Here’s how it works.

Steps: “The original wallpaper, and the wallpaper with the contact information overlay”)

You can get the workflow here: Overlay Contact Information On Wallpaper

Launching Automation Orchard “Automation Orchard Logo”){.image-right} I’ve been working on a project for a while – a place to find all of the automation content for Mac, iOS, Web and even your home, and it’s finally ready!

Automation Orchard is where I’ve collected every article, podcast and even video I’ve found regarding any automation topic related to Apple, from Workflow to IFTTT, and Automator to AppleScript. It doesn’t have everything – yet, but it has a lot. So if you were trying to find a Workflow workflow to work with Trello, you could search and find a lot of options. All of this content links back to the original website. “Automation Orchard”)

There’s also a forum, this is split up into sections:

  • Learn – housing lessons, challenges, and questions based on language.
  • Mac – for questions and posts about automating things on your Mac, including using AppleScript, Keyboard Maestro, et. al.
  • iOS – for automation on iOS, including Workflow and more.
  • Web – the place to talk about IFTTT, Zapier, Microsoft Flow, and other cool web automation services.
  • Home – where you can discuss home automation.
  • General – for everything else. “Automation Orchard Forums”)

Why? I love to automate, I love to help people automate. The website has become my Wikipedia – if I want to find a DEVONThink Workflow then I know where to search, and I know I’ll probably find helpful related content too.

The forum only has a few posts in it right now – started by me. I hope to see many of you there, asking questions, sharing your automations, and discussing why we automate!

My personal posts will still appear here – Automation Orchard is to collect content from around the web, including from here! There will be some blog posts there too – predominantly about the why of automation, you can check out the first post here.

P.S. Yes, the name is a play on my name and the focus on Apple!

iOS App Review: Sidefari “Sidefari – Web browsing companion for Safari”){.image-right} Sidefari is a small utility which has had a place on my iPad since shortly after it’s release. It’s a very simple browser which uses the Safari engine, and it’s purpose is to allow you to view two different web pages at once. This feature has been built into iOS since Sidefari was released, but it still has it’s place for me.

Sidefari wins over the built in Safari split screen for me in two ways: I am not required to have 50/50 split of the two web pages, and I can take one of those apps to a different space entirely if I wish to do so. This really helps me to work effectively on iOS. You can also use Sidefari as a browser with no tabs – useful if you are trying to avoid being sucked down a rabbit hole.

Sidefari – Web browsing companion for Safari is available for free on the App Store.

I was reading a sample on my Kindle, and bought the full book on my Mac. As soon as the full book had downloaded it immediately transferred me to the exact same place in the full version. I didn't do anything. That's freaky and magical.

Workflows for Project Planning With Trello and OmniFocus

Trello is a lovely service which offers Kanban boards for planning – and I often like to plan out projects there, especially ones that need to be done in multiple stages or have many areas of focus. OmniFocus is my task manager of choice though which means I need my tasks to end up in there to have any hope of accomplishing them. To this end I have created a few Workflow workflows to get the data out of Trello and into OmniFocus, they’re not very sophisticated – but they function very well.

Single Trello List to OmniFocus workflows-for-project-planning-with-trello-and-omnifocus/workflow-trello-list-to-omnifocus.png?cropResize=100 “Trello List To OmniFocus”){.image-right} Maybe you just have one list in Trello and you want to get the tasks and put them in OmniFocus. This workflow does exactly that.


You can get the workflow here: Trello List To OmniFocus

Multiple Trello Lists to OmniFocus workflows-for-project-planning-with-trello-and-omnifocus/workflow-multiple-trello-lists-to-omnifocus.png?cropResize=100 “Multiple Trello Lists To OmniFocus”){.image-right} If you have several lists on a board you want to get into OmniFocus then this Workflow will allow you to do that. It will create a task or action group for each list with sub tasks for each card in that list in Trello.


You can get the workflow here: Multiple Trello Lists To OmniFocus

Trello Board to OmniFocus workflows-for-project-planning-with-trello-and-omnifocus/workflow-trello-board-to-omnifocus-project.png?cropResize=100 “Trello Board To OmniFocus Project”){.image-right} If you have planned your whole project in Trello and want to move it over to OmniFocus then this Workflow will help you do so. It makes the whole board into one project, with each list becoming an action group and the cards becoming tasks inside of those.


You can get the workflow here: Trello Board To OmniFocus Project

These Workflows are very helpful to me – and get more use than I thought they would! I hope you find a use for them too.

Workflow: Taskpaper to OF “Taskpaper To OF”){.image-right} This is a very simple Workflow which allows you to add TaskPaper formatted tasks or projects to your preferred place in OmniFocus


You can get the workflow here: Taskpaper To OF

I started drafting a blog post in Drafts on the way home from work and just opened it on my iPad. It turns out I can write a lot on a small device when I have an idea! Now I just need to migrate all of my Editorial actions over and start using tags better than I have been.