MPU Plus: A Christmas Wish

We just published a feedback show at the Mac Power Users.Topics include direct attached storage, auto-mounting volumes, iPad mini vs. Pro, recording Keynote presentations, using WeMo and MyQ with HomeKit and feedback on managing subscriptions, gift ideas and the new MacBook Pro.

Sponsors include:

  • The Omni Group We're passionate about productivity for Mac, iPhone and iPad. 
  • MindNode MindNode makes mind maping easy.
  • Casper: Because everyone deserves a great night sleep. Get $50 off with the code ‘MPU’

Google PhotoScan

Google has released a clever new application, PhotoScan, that lets you digitize snap shots. The clever part is the way it assists you in moving the camera around the picture in order to remove glare. I’ve never seen this technique where the user moves the camera around the glare but it absolutely works. I tested it with some old family photos and it works great, particularly old photos with not-so-great resolution to begin with.

Once the photos are scanned in, you can save them to Google Photos (of course) or your Photos library. Below are a few screenshots from my tests.

Ulysses 2.7

Today Ulysses got a significant update to version 2.7. The new version adds several useful features.

Touch Bar Support

This new version fully supports the Touch Bar. It is interesting to note how some developers are using the Touch Bar to replace keyboard shortcut functions and others are using it to add new and different functionality. It is still early days and, since I am already pretty handy with keyboard shortcuts, I prefer the new functionality model. Ulysses’ update includes a little bit of both. It’s obvious that conscientious app developers are struggling with how best to take advantage of the Touch Bar and I expect the design language around the Touch Bar is going to evolve quite a bit in the next year.

Sierra Tabs

The Sierra update made it easy to add tabs to any application. This makes a ton of sense in an application like Ulysses and now it supports it.

There is More

Additionally, the new version supports storing images in external folders and Evernote import. Is it just me or does it seem like a lot of developers are finding ways to accommodate unhappy Evernote users?

This is a nice update for Ulysses and I’m happy to see the continued development and support. You can read more about the Ulysses update on their blog.

MPU: Setting Up Your New Mac

On this week’s Mac Power Users episode, Katie and I walk through all the steps necessary to set up your brand-new Macintosh.

Sponsors include:

  • Squarespace: Enter offer code MPU at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase.
  • Pearl RearVision: The wireless backup camera redefined.
  • PDFpen from Smile With powerful PDF editing tools, available for Mac, iPad, and iPhone, PDFpen from Smile makes you a Mac Power User.
  • Making Light Get (or give!) a candle subscription and make some new habits. Use offer code "MPU".

Sponsor: Track Your Time Automatically with Timing

I'm pleased to welcome back Timing as this week’s MacSparky sponsor. Maybe you’ve never thought about it, but the ability to know how you’re spending your time on your Mac is a great way to find holes in your productivity. I'm a believer in time trackers but manual time trackers suck. They are a distraction and I always forget to use them. 

This is where Timing comes in. Instead of making you do all the work, Timing automatically tracks how you spend your time. It logs which apps you use, which websites you visit, and which documents you edit. You can easily categorize activities into projects.

With Timing you can look back at the end of the day or week and see where you got work done and where you got lost. You can also reconstruct how many hours you spent working on a specific client project. 

Timing does the job and gets out of your way. It’s a one-time purchase (no subscription) of $39, but with the coupon code MACSPARKY, it drops to $29. That’s right … I twisted their arm to give you $10 off, though only until the end of the week. So give it a try and see if you can’t fine tune your own productivity heading into 2017.


The Dangers of Knock-Off Power Adapters

Chartered Trading Standards Institute, a UK-based consumer safety company tested 400 chargers they purchased online and found that just 3 of them had adequate insulation. This issue is increasingly coming to light as we discover that many devices sold by Amazon and other online retailers are not all they're cracked up to be.

Wondering if you have a dangerous charger? Trading Standards, via the BBC, has some pointers:

How to spot a dangerous fake charger

  1. Plug pins - Plug the charger into a socket, but don't switch it on or connect to a device. If the charger does not fit easily, the pins may be the wrong size. There should be at least 9.5mm (0.3in) between the edge of the pins and the edge of the charger
  2. Markings - Look for a manufacturers' brand name or logo, model and batch number. Check for the "CE" safety mark, but be aware it can be easily forged
  3. Warnings and instructions - User instructions should include conditions and limitations of use, how to operate the charger safely, basic electric safety guidance and details of safe disposal

The problem with all of this is that these shoddy manufacturers are shameless. They'll forge all the CE markings and overall do a good job of making their power adapters look like the real thing on the outside while on the inside they are dangerous junk. At this point, there is no way I'd buy a charger for any Apple product from anyone other than Apple. I fully expect in 2017 we'll start discovering how many online venders are also selling crappy USB-C adapters and cables as well. Be careful out there.

Home Screens – Todd Peterson

Lately I’ve struck up an email friendship with Todd Peterson, the Director of Project-Based Learning and Professor of English at Southern Utah University. Not surprisingly, Todd is an articulate guy and pretty passionate about his new iPhone 7. Thankfully, he’s agreed to share his home screen with us. So Todd, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?


This app helps me review and delete pictures I don't want to keep. It's step one of my developing photo organization workflow. My old process was untenable. This app gets me going in the right direction.


Evernote is my digital filing cabinet. I love the OCR, searchability, and relational algorithms in it. Evernote helps me find cool associations in the menagerie of things I capture and store. Because of iPhone scanning, I now keep a large piece of black poster board by my desk, which makes a great contrasting background for auto-edge detection.


This is my workhorse application. It's helped me eliminate the stacks of scraps paper. The prepend and append functions are amazing. When I'm waiting for a meeting (or bored in one) I will process captured bits of text. It's very satisfying to have all that material in the cloud and findable. 


I love this application. I'm currently revising a novel for an agent using this application. The sync is spot on, and the iPhone 7 Plus is big enough, I've found I can actually write and edit a little on it in a pinch.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Instagram. I've been working on curating a pretty good list of friends and strangers. I love peeking into their lives and seeing various bits of the world throughout the day. I also love to capture my own moments (a lot of my kids) and post them. My wife and high school-age-daughter are both on Instagram and they say the photographs really capture our family. It's a delightful, politics-free way to interact with others.

What app makes you most productive? 

Slack. There are so many reasons why this has been a break through for me as a college professor. I can't even start into it, or this post would be 10,000 words long.

What app do you know you're underutilizing?

OmniFocus. It's such an important application for me, and I know I'm only using about 30% of it. I could do so much more with time estimates, views, perspectives, and geofencing. I need to take a day with the Mac Sparky OmniFocus Field Guide and play around.

What is the app you are still missing?

Drafts for desktop. Drafts has so fundamentally changed my idea of how to capture and process ideas, that I feel shackled on a desktop. When an idea hits while I'm working on my MacBook Pro, I'll often go to my phone to capture and process it.

How many times a day do you use your iPhone/iPad?

Since I have Apple Watch, my iPhone use has gone down. I've filtered and sorted notifications so I can focus. As a college professor, a lot of my work is headdown thinking, reading, writing, planning, and grading. Distractions kill my momentum. I've also recently pulled all social media apps from my iPhone except Instagram, so I've only got my head in my phone a couple of times an hour. Before these changes, it was ridiculous with how often I checked my phone.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

Up Next

I’m always forgetting about meetings I've scheduled. It was worse when other people were scheduling for me. It's better, actually, now that I schedule myself, but I need to keep those promises right up in front.


I have so many books in the cloud, this widget reminds me of what I'm currently reading, and I love how it shows progress. Instead of grazing social media when I have a spare moment, I swipe into notifications, tap, and read. 

Dark Sky

I love this app so much, and I like being able to quickly tell my kids why they can't leave the house without a jacket even though it seems fine right now.


My key ring was getting shaggy with all those dumb-but-necessary bar code cards. I've moved them to Stocard, and I love that they are available right off the lock screen. There's a watch app, but it's too many taps.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

I really like the "hard press." In my mind, I'm always begging developers to reduce the number of steps to do something. Drafts is the pinnacle of this for me: tap, write, tap, and it's done. On the flip side, playing any music on iTunes is: tap, tap, tap, scroll, tap, play (or worse). Drives me crazy. 

I haven't had the iPhone 7 Plus for very long, and I'm still finding places where there are hard press opportunities.

In general, though, my favorite feature of the iPhone is the fact that it sits at the core of my workflow. It's not just part of an ecosystem, or attached to it, like an Android phone would be. I'm not lying when I say the camera qualities of the Google Pixel camera are enticing, but my iPhone is a window into my entire workflow, it's a dashboard, input device, quick reference and retrieval tool. A Google phone would be outside of all that and would seriously mess with my mojo.

If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?

Bluetooth makes me crazy, especially for audio. I like the idea of it, but in practice I'm forever connecting and disconnecting speakers. I have a nice Tivoli PAL^BT radio that sits on my desk and a Bose SL III in the kitchen. They always seem to tangle each other up. If I could connect and disconnect Bluetooth devices using Siri, then we'd be off to the races.

I would also try to hire Greg Pierce, the man behind Agile Tortoise or the people at Realmac, who make the delightful list-making app, Clear, to dive into the UI of iTunes. I think these people have a good sense for how to reduce friction points in a user interface. Things are a little better for iTunes in iOS 10, but in my opinion iTunes is the least of Apple's achievements.

Do you have an Apple Watch? Show us your watch face tell us about it.

I love my Apple Watch. Its primary function is to keep me from always checking my phone, and it works. I have the notifications finely tuned, and I only get messages and information that really matter: Slack messages from key people on my team, texts from my wife and kids, emails from my dean. Otherwise, these potential distractions are sequestered in the phone.

I love analog watches, and that was a significant concern for me in going to a smart watch. The hands on a watch or clock are cool because they don't just tell you what time it is, they also tell you what time it has been and what time it's going to be. I feel like an analog face always keeps time in context for me.

I have two customized faces.


Complications: Fantastical, Day/Date, Temp, Activity. All of this is information I check and re-check throughout the day. Having my next calendar item on the watch face has had a very positive effect on my tendency to forget to check appointments.


Complications: Date, Breathe, United/Delta, World Clock. When I travel I check very trip-specific information, so I've built a face that has all of that stuff. It's based around displaying my destination time using the World Clock, and then my airline's apps, and the Breathe app, which helps me mellow out in stupid TSA lines.

What's your wallpaper and why?

A black nylon pattern. I'm really distractable visually, and I like low-clutter minimalistic backgrounds but not a flat tone or color. Given all the visual complexity on a home screen already, adding a picture would be too much. I have a great close up picture of a Batman action figure on my lock screen. It is delightful everytime I see him scowling at me.

Anything else you'd like to share?

The apps are one thing, but how I actually manipulate the phone is a big deal, too. The Loopy Case is a game changer for me. The iPhone 7 Plus tests the reach of my thumb, and I always feel like the thing is going to fly out of my hands. A developer friend of mine put me on to this case. He says he can't fathom using a iPhone without it, and neither can I.

Thanks Todd.


Aqua and Bondi

My friend Stephen Hackett’s written another book. This one, called Aqua and Bondi, is all about the the original iMac and the transition of NeXT’s technologies to Mac OS X. If you are at all interested in Apple history and how Apple worked in those days following Steve Jobs’s return, this one is for you.

Tasks vs. Calendar Events

I get a lot of emails from readers asking me exactly how I distinguish between tasks and calendar items. In a perfect world, a task is an item you need to do and a calendar item represents a place you need to be. However, the way I work makes things a little muddier. 

For example, I like to schedule appointments with myself. This helps me manage big projects. I will often schedule a block of time on the calendar for a big project. Something like, Thursday 10 AM-12 PM, ACME contract review.

So now that calendar event shows up in my calendar but I’ve also got a collection of tasks related to that contract review in OmniFocus. So how do I resolve that? It really isn’t that hard. I will go into the project view in OmniFocus and select all related tasks to the contract review and set their deferred date to Thursday at 10 AM. Then the tasks disappear from my active OmniFocus list until that time and I don’t think about them anymore.

The trick to all of this is being honest with yourself. If you set these appointments with yourself to manage big projects but don’t keep them, you lose faith in your system and the wheels start falling off. Treat those task-related appointments just as sacredly as you would an appointment with your boss. If something comes up that requires you to move that appointment, go ahead and move it but follow all the necessary steps. Reset the appointment in your calendar and move the tasks in your task manager.

Another advantage of setting aside blocks of time for big projects is that it gives you a more realistic view of how much you can actually get done in the day. If suddenly you see yourself completely blocked and there are still significant tasks left on your list, that should be a warning sign that you’ve got a problem.

So to answer the question, I generally am a purist and keep tasks in my task list and calendar events in my calendar. When I do use the calendar to block time for an extensive set of tasks, I will simultaneously move all of those tasks to the designated time and date.

Sponsor: Brain Storm with MindNode

This week MacSparky is sponsored by my favorite mind mapping application, MindNode. MindNode walks that line of providing powerful tools while still keeping a simple (and delightful) interface.

Mind mapping is something you really should try if you haven’t recently. I was originally unimpressed with mind mapping but when I bought my first iPad I tried it again and it just clicked for me on the tablet form factor. Now I use MindNode every day with copies on my iPhone, iPad, and Mac all syncing data together. One of my favorite uses for MindNode is brain storming. Watch the below video to learn how to brain storm with MindNode and get yourself a copy of MindNode to get more productive.

Apple Spaceship Video

It's been a lot of fun watching the monthly drone footage of Apples new campus. They're planting trees now so they must be getting close. When the time comes, I'm going to pester all of my Apple friends to get me in for a visit.

MPU: Workflows with Ian Byrd

Ian Byrd is a former teacher, a professional speaker, and a friend. Ian joined us this week to share his workflows and tips for giving full-day lectures and workshops, writing, video production, and more.

Sponsors include:

  • MacPaw: Get a 30% discount on all of MacPaw’s must-have Mac Apps on Cyber Monday - November 28, 2016!
  • 1Password Have you ever forgotten a password? Now you don't have to worry about that anymore. Save up to 20% using this link.
  • MindNode MindNode makes mind maping easy.




How to Fight Calendar Spam

I wrote a few days ago about the increasing amount of calendar spam. I'm not alone as I received a lot of email asking how to fix this. I woke up to these little beauties this morning and decided it was time to take action.

A Little More About Calendar Spam

Most of the calendar spam I’ve seen has originated from China. Somebody has a big list of email addresses and sends out calendar invites with spammy links embedded. By default, the Mac looks at these invites and gives them to you via the calendar app along with a notification. 

Historically, I’ve really liked this feature. My family uses multiple calendars and we routinely send each other invites. If I need to drive my daughter to a particular event, she sets the event in her calendar and sends me an invite. (We also have a shared family calendar but that includes everyone and in this case it would just be me and my daughter.)

This is what makes me so pissed about calendar spam. It’s taking something I use often and corrupting it. My guess is this is only going to get worse and I really hope Apple intervenes. In the meantime, there are a few steps you can take.

Step 1 - Never Accept OR Decline

While it seems like pressing the “Decline” button is your way of giving the finger to these calendar spammers, all you are doing is confirming that there is a human at the other end of that email and encouraging them to send even more.

Step 2 - Move and Delete

This stack exchange thread has a good idea. Move the offending invites into a separate calendar. (I named mine “Spam”. ) Then delete the newly created calendar with the calendar spam in it. Make sure to select the “Delete and Don’t Notify” when doing so. The crappy part of this is that you’ll need to repeat this process if this becomes a thing, which it will.

Step 3 - Move to Email Notifications

If the problem continues, the best solution is to go into the Calendar screen of your account and throw the lever to move calendar invitations from the calendar app to email. Then you can delete emails before these things ever hit your calendar. The below gallery walks you through the steps to do so. 

The crappy part about this is that the next time my daughter sends me an invite to drive her somewhere, I won’t see it until I get to email. Like I said, Apple needs to give us a better way to deal with this.

If you’re looking for more resources on this, I'd recommend this Apple Support thread, this Stack Exchange thread, this piece by Aaron Douglas, and Gabe Weatherhead weighed in too.

Cyber Monday Deals

It’s that time of year and my email inbox has been burning up with press releases about Cyber Monday sales. Between the App stores and Amazon, I’ve come across several discounts from apps and products that I use and enjoy.


iOS Apps

Alto’s Adventure

$2.99 reduced to $0.99

One of the few games I'd recommend. It’s beautiful, fun, and strangely relaxing. I’ve written about it before.


$4.99 reduced to $2.99

This is my favorite package tracking app. I bought several competitors earlier this year with the idea of writing up a comparison only to fined Deliveries is still the best.

DEVONthink To Go

$14.99 reduced to $10.99

We’re planning a future MPU episode on DEVONthink. The iOS app has made a lot of progress and is on sale.


$6.99 reduced to $2.99

While I still primarily use Apple Mail, Dispatch is on my home screen for certain email tasks.


$4.99 reduced to $2.99

Due is a reminder app that specializes in being an absolute pain in the neck when you fail to take out there garbage cans by 6pm on Thursday.

Fantastical 2 for iOS

My favorite iOS calendar app is on sale. The iPad version is reduced from $9.99 to $4.99 and the iPhone version is reduced from $4.99 to $2.99.


$4.99 reduced to $2.99

Hydra can merge 60 frames to make a single high-quality picture. This is a camera app that’s definitely worth adding to your collection for low light shots without too much action in them, like a Christmas tree in a dark room. 

PDFpen 2

$19.99 reduced to $9.99

I like working with PDFs on my iPad better than on my Mac and PDFpen is my favorite tool for the job.

PDF Expert

$9.99 reduced to $4.99

PDF Expert is another great iOS PDF app and it’s on sale too. 


$4.99 reduced to $1.99

Pixelmator is my favorite third party photo editing app and on sale.

Scanner Pro

$3.99 reduced to $2.99

Need to take a picture of a receipt and send it to Dropbox with minimum fuss. Try this app.


$19.99 reduced to $14.99

This year I'm thankful for my beloved Scrivener making its way to iPad and iPhone. Get $5.00 off for the next few days.


$4.99 reduced to $0.99

ABBYY makes some of the best OCR tools on the market and 

TextTool is one of the best-of-breed on iOS. As an added bonus, it can translate foreign languages.


Mac Apps


$9.99 reduced to $4.99

Here’s the Mac companion for the Due iOS app covered above.


$59.99 reduced to $39.99

Hydra is one of the best available HDR apps for the Mac and for the next few days, it’s $20 off. While I already own most of the apps in the post, I just bought this one.


$2.99 reduced to $0.99

I’ve been working on my regular expressions chops lately in my free time and Patterns is a great Mac App to help out.

Prizmo 3

$49.99 reduced to $29.99

Prizmo’s another great scanning app, this time for the Mac. (The iOS version is on sale as well.)


$14.99 reduced to $10.99

This App is made by the same team that makes Scrivener. It’s an excellent tool for organizing thoughts on big projects, particularly writers.


$9.99 reduced to $4.99

Want to remove a bit from the background of your photo, Snapheal does the job. It just does one thing, but it does it really well.


$5.99 reduced to $2.99

Unclutter adds a drawer to the top of your Mac’s screen where you can keep your clipboard, files, and bits of text. Useful.


Amazon Deals

Amazon Echo
$179.99 reduced to $139.99

I’ve been using the Echo for a year and like it. Hopefully Apple is working on something similar.


Anker Batteries

All of the Anker Batteries are on sale. I’ve already bought a few as stocking stuffers.

PowerCore 10,000

$49.99 reduced to $23.99

PowerCore 20,100

$79.99 reduced to $39.99

PowerCore 26800

$99.99 reduced to $55.99

PowerCore Slim 5000

$49.99 reduced to $22.99

Anker USB Wall Charger

$29.99 reduced to $12.49


EERO 3 Pack

$499.99 reduced to $399.99

Apple’s out of the of the router business. EERO’s pretty great.


Sonos Play 1

$199.99 reduced to $149.99

Be warned with this one. The Sonos Play 1 was my gateway drug into all things Sonos.


Tardis Ornament

$16.50 reduced to $8.49

I bought one of these and love it on my tree.


Jazz Friday: Jacob Collier

Last Jazz Friday I wrote about prodigy Joey Alexander and received a lot of feedback from readers that are now Joey Alexander fans. So this time I thought I'd cover another prodigy, Jacob Collier. Jacob's parents are both musicians with the Royal Academy of Music in London and the apple didn't fall far from the tree.

In addition to the ability to play the keyboard and just about any stringed instrument, Jacob has a 4-octave voice. In 2011 he went viral with his YouTube video rendition of Pure Imagination. My favorite, although, is Fascinating Rhythm. Jacob is ridiculously talented and at just 22, understands harmony in ways that I'll never figure out in my lifetime. He's now working with Quincy Jones and I expect we'll be hearing more from Jacob in the future.



2016 Holiday Gift Recommendations

Happy Thanksgiving fellow nerds! If you're looking for a geek-related gift for yourself or others, I've got a few recommendations. Most of these were covered in this week's Mac Power Users episode but not everyone listens to the podcast so here you go …

Bose QuietComfort 35s

Everyone keeps telling me how putting on Bose noise-canceling headphones on an airplane is like putting a pillow over the face of everyone on the plane. With these headphones, that is delightfully true. I bought a pair of these while traveling and can't believe I waited so long. The 35s are the new Bluetooth version and they work better than expected.

eero Home WiFi

I bought a set of eeros earlier this year and then they sent me a few more when they sponsored the podcast. Sprinkle a few EERO devices around your house and it's like wrapping up in a warm blanket of WiFi. I used to have dead space problems in my house, particularly near my teenage daughters' rooms. They'd not notice (or not care) and end up on LTE, burning through our wireless allowance. With eero, no more.

Waterfield Bags

I bought a few more products from Waterfield this year. Whether you've got the smallest iPad or rocking the latest MacBook Pro, Waterfield has a bag/case/sleeve/backpack that will look great and last a long time.


I'm officially a Sonos weirdo now with them sprinkled all over my house. That means that when I want music, I get it … everywhere. And loud. This year they added Apple Music integration which makes it even more awesome for Apple device owners. Start with just one piece and grow it slowly.

Anker Batteries

Anker expanded its line of external batteries this year so they have something at every size and price point. I've bought several of these over the last few years. I keep them in my bag and love knowing I've got a little extra juice ... justin case.

Apple Air Pods

I like Apple’s new Air Pods. They were supposed to be out by the end of October but got delayed. Some rumors say we'll have them available before Christmas. Hope springs eternal.

ARM Macs

The Internet is abuzz today in response to Jason Snell's Macworld article arguing that Apple probably will not convert the Mac to an ARM processor. ARM processors are currently being designed by Apple for use in the iPhone and iPad and their custom chips are one of the reasons they are so far ahead of the competition on mobile processors.

Lately, the Mac has been taking heat for the slow upgrade cycle, Part of the blame (but not all of it) falls on Apple's current Mac chip manufacturer, Intel, for missing deadlines. Jason makes the argument that Apple will, in all likelihood, stay with Intel because the Mac doesn't earn enough money for Apple to justify the substantial cost of time and money to make a transition to a new processor.

I can't help but think that Apple's tendency to want to control everything would probably be enough for them to commit resources to switching to ARM. If Apple designs their own silicon, they'll never rely on Intel again. Also, with the ever increasing race for better battery life, I'd expect Apple could make a MacBook that runs a very long time on an ARM-based chip. Jason Snell's a pretty smart guy and been around this racket much longer than I but I wouldn't be surprised if Apple does bring ARM to the Mac at some point, even if it is just the lower-powered, super-long battery MacBooks.