Archive for the ‘Admin’ Category

Writing updates and asking “Is Github my new Dropbox?”

I’m testing the waters for the first time in using Github rather than Dropbox to coordinate a private project. I’ve used private repos before for material that wasn’t meant for public consumption or to stage material that would then later be released openly but this is the first time I’m testing it out for material that’s substantially not code.

I’ve been meaning to give this a go ever since Github changed its policy to allow unlimited private repositories. I used to be limited to just five in total and I guarded those slots carefully. Under the new policy, I have repos to burn. Today was the first time that I set one up to use in this way.

It feels odd using Github instead of Dropbox as I’m so used to my Github content being primarily open, and Dropbox requiring explicit permissions. Have you tried using Github this way? And how have your experiences been?

The reason I’m testing out Github is that I’m updating iOS Drawing for Swift. I have a week or so to burn while I’m waiting on editorial feedback and tech review on my Swift Style title from Pragmatic. It will take another 4-6 weeks for Addison Wesley to release iOS Drawing rights back to me but I figured I’d get a head start writing some test chapters and get some early feedback about the project while I had some downtime.

I’ve used Dropbox for years to provide material to beta readers and gather their feedback as well as to coordinate material on multiple machines. In testing out Github, I was inspired by Pragmatic’s workflow.

Pragmatic uses a delightfully retro SVN version controlled interactions between editors and authors. (I’ve had to create an SVN/git cheatsheet to remind myself how to SVN all the things.) Pearson/AW in contrast uses Basecamp to manage projects. Basecamp offers a lot of great team features including messaging, calendars, email updates, and so forth, and I’ve been quite happy with it.

Book projects tend to be hefty, especially those with lots of illustrations and sample code but Github has generous file policies. It imposes a 1GB repo limit, 50 MB file warnings, and 100MB file limits.  These are far beyond what I’d need.

I’ve recently changed my overall personal workflow, having been inspired by conversations with editors at O’Reilly. O’Reilly has been pioneering modern, flexible content using markup source. I took my lead from them. (I’m personally using CommonMark instead of AsciiDoc and pandoc instead of Atlas, but the ideas are similar.)

Pandoc has been a pure delight. Even if CommonMark offers less nuance and control than Microsoft Word (however ugly MS Word is, it has power and all the ugly but practical features you need for professional publishing), pandoc allows me to push from manuscript to book in seconds.

I don’t have to use Calibre to build epub, pdf, and mobi output. My code examples are readable and my tables of contents are perfect. I’ve written a bunch of command-line utilities that automate the process of building the ebooks, zipping up archives, and storing copies in a Dropbox beta folder. I still use Dropbox to provide early reader access.

I built Swift Style‘s first draft using this workflow, writing in MacDown, an open source macOS Markdown editor. I like MacDown’s side-by-side display but, to be honest, for material of any size, it has no way to keep the text and output in sync, especially once you introduce illustrations.

If I find some time, I’ll probably try to mess with the source to add this functionality because once you drop the ability to see your edits as you add them, the utility loses a lot of its charm but that’s a project for another day.

In the meantime, I’m just getting settled into Github for this project. A lot of my work steps are similar: I start by pulling and wrap up by pushing but now it’s to the repo, and not to Dropbox. Github offers more version control than Dropbox’s undelete functionality and I don’t have the same worries about filling up my quota.

I’m curious: Are you using Github for non-coding projects? And how has that worked out for you? Did the DNS incident a few days ago make you rethink? Or are you committed to this kind of collaborative tool? Let me know. Thanks!

Weekend Posts

Bits and bobs: May 27

Upcoming Webcast

Just 2 weeks left until WWDC. Will it be as disruptive this year as last? Probably no new programming languages although all the buzz suggests Swift will update to version 2.0 and include major new features. I’m guessing that 1.x will persist for App Store submission until around September.

Regardless of what’s announced, I’m going to present a webcast that I’ve tentatively titled “So that happened: Cool stuff about new Swift features” on June 18th at 1PM ET. I’ll link up the Pearson landing page when we get closer to the event for anyone who wants to pre-register.

Speculation

At WWDC, it would be nice to finally see a TV API, although I’m not holding my breath. Rumors point to new streaming media services further expanding Apple’s presence in this contested arena but nothing much about developer-facing APIs.

Otherwise I’m ready for iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 to be a thing. There’s a certain satisfaction in there even being a 10.10. I remember  skepticism when I predicted that after 10.9, Apple would move to 10.10 instead of rounding up to 11.

I expect there will continue to be a big focus on the new watch, Research and Health Kit at WWDC. Swift, iCloud storage, Metal development, internationalization, App Store, and power optimization (battery power that is, not the power of awesome) are likely session focuses in addition to whatever new tech gets introduced. Lesson: Avoid pre-writing posts too far in advance. A preliminary schedule for WWDC has been posted.

Anticipating WWDC creates an atmosphere of both fear and excitement. I really wish Apple would consider moving it to late Winter or early Spring to take some of the pressure off the death-march to Christmas Sales.

DevMate

MacPaw, the people who brought you CleanMyMac, have announced DevMate, which includes support for sale and distribution outside the Mac App Store. It seems to offer a combination of product licensing, Sparkle-like app updates, user feedback support and crash reporting in addition to industry standard analytics.

Normally “maker of CleanMyMac” wouldn’t be a big selling point but the feature set looks surprisingly interesting, especially since in-store sales can be quite limiting.

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Pricing starts at a free level, with up to 1000 current users, 500 deliveries, and 50 activations per month. Activations are “the number of activated copies during payment period”, which I assume corresponds to sales. The price then ramps up from $39/month (about 3 sales a day, if I’m doing the math right), with increments to the activation numbers, active users, and updates at each level.

More information at the DevMate website, along with a bunch of testimonials.

Folderol FAQ #5: What are these new app options?

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Folderol continues to evolve over time. The latest version (1.95) includes some new and re-stated options. A summary:

folders only: This option prevents folderol from coloring non-folder items like text files. It is enabled by default because OS X builds previews for many document types. When colored by folderol, you lose those document content hints.

tint and tag (OS X 10.9 and later)This option enables you to add custom tags as well when coloring items

replace icon entirely with custom image: This option swaps in your source image preventing icons from cropping to folders and other file shapes.

don’t blend custom image with original icon color: some users really didn’t like the way folderol blended images to the default blue folder color. This option better preserves source image hues.

fit custom image to icon: folderol normally adapts any art to the destination geometry, stretching or squashing the art to fit. Enabling this option forces the image to keep its original aspect ratio. This option may add padding effects (letterboxing or pillarboxing) to the final icon.

 

Folderol FAQ #4: I don’t see icons in list view / column view / etc

User writes:

I was very excited when I found out about your app. I rely on the label color function provided by finder,  but find it very limiting as it only has five colors.  But only folders in the icon view show up as colored  using folderol– at least in Mountain Lion.  I like to organize using the column view and the standard Mac color labeling works with that.
If you cannot see the custom folderol icons in any of the Finder views, make sure you’ve enabled icons in the Finder’s View > Show View Options (Command-J) pane. For this user, re-checking “show icons” fixed the problem.
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Folderol FAQ #3: Avoiding color blending

Kent writes:

Just purchased folderol (v 1.9). I’m having a dilemma when adding custom images. Sometimes it blends the custom image into the blue color of the folder which changes the color of the image. Other times it doesn’t. I’d like to say I’ve figured out a pattern but I haven’t.

Answer:

I don’t have examples to look at so it’s a little hard to diagnose. The active color is always blended to the image unless you choose to remove the active color or choose the do-not-blend option. 

Avoiding Hues: Once you clear the color, you’ll see a checked board background. Now when you add a custom image and drop a folder, the image will not blend with a hue.

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Avoiding Image Blends. There’s also a further option called Don’t blend image to icon. When you enable this, the image will replace the folder instead of blend with it.

Here’s what all these options look like:

Original folder: 

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Blended with image (normal, no tint selected)

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Blended with image (pink/red tint selected)

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Do not blend option enabled (no blend with original folder art or the folder’s blue tint)

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Folderol and Yosemite

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A last second (very last second) Yosemite API change is fixed and a new version of Folderol is awaiting review at iTunes Connect. I apologize for the inconvenience. Email me if you need a beta version to hold you through until the fix is approved.