Things I Use
I’ve been meaning to collect together all of the things that I’m asked for a recommendation for, seemingly quite often. There are no ads here, and no affiliate links (but I will link to things that are for purchase). Just things that I use every day to get things done.
None of this is exhaustive: you probably have your favorite thing for a popular task. I’m only listing things here that I find people are surprised about when I mention it.
I will keep this post up-to-date over time.
This is a general bucket for technology-related tasks.
The first category is iOS: As people try to get more done with just an iOS device, I trade stories with people and talk about being productive.
Pythonista is a Python 2/3 environment for iOS. You can write scripts that perform a wide range of tasks, including network access. It even has support for x-callback-url, which makes it particularly useful with Shortcuts.
Apple’s purchase of Workflow, and its subsequent conversion into Shortcuts.app—now built into the OS—has been a complete game-changer, allowing for automation of many tasks across iOS.
I wrote my own blogging engine mainly so I could write posts anywhere, at any time, with any of my devices that I had access to. My blog engine accepts plain-text files in markdown format. That’s it: the requirements are very low. I can use iA writer on all of my iOS devices, get rendered previews of posts, and storage of works-in-progress in iCloud. I can pick up said work-in-progress on my Mac as plain-text and continue in Vim. There are other markdown editors, but I’ve been happy with iA Writer for years.
Secure Shellfish adds the ability access remote machines via ssh through Files.app. Sounds simple, right? It is! Without this capability, though, I’m only half a person. Use the app itself to configure servers and access—including key-based-authentication!—and these connections show up in Files.app (or any app that uses the document browser, so, an app like iA Writer can go edit files in-place). Free to evaluate, but seriously, just download it and pay the $10. I can’t recommend this highly enough.
Blink Shell is a terminal application with a basic shell. The shell provides a base set of Unix commands, but its reason for existing is really to provide ssh and mosh clients. You can buy it on the App Store and support the developers (worth it!), or check out the open source release and compile it up yourself.
iSH is a Linux shell running on iOS. Using user-mode emulation, it’s really running Alpine Linux. Fire it up and you are dropped into a root shell running Linux in ash (Alpine Shell. Love bash? Just install it with apk, the Alpine package manager). Both Blink and iSH provide an immediacy that GUI apps just can’t provide. I often use Blink and iSH to quickly curl or download a file, run a script, or test network connectivity with ping. iSH has One other trick up its sleeve, though: it exposes its filesystem via the Files.app and document browser. Need to put a file into iSH for processing? Just move it via Files. iSH has steadily improved since its inception, and I’m really excited to see where it goes.
Yes, there are still surprises and delights on this mature OS.
Little Snitch is the first thing I install on a new Mac. It’s more mature and functional than anything else in its category for macOS. It’s fascinating to watch apps make connections, and figuring out just how much you can block while keeping everything working.
Muzzle is a simple utility with a singular purpose: enable Do Not Disturb mode any time you begin using video conferencing apps, such as Zoom, Hangouts, WebEx, and so on. This is ideal when you begin sharing your screen to avoid the pop-ups from showing to your audience.
Objective See’s Block Block provides notification and blocking of startup items. Like Little Snitch, it’s a great tool to just learn about what’s going on with your machine that you may not otherwise notice.
I love Raspberry Pi computers: inexpensive, runs Linux, powerful, tiny, and can easily be powered by a battery. There are a host of uses for them.
Pi-hole is a network-wide ad-blocking server. Yes, ads can be annoying, but increasingly, they can also be malicious. Block ‘em all! Configure a Pi-hole, have your DHCP server set it as everyone’s DNS server, and you get ad blocking for all of your devices. Plus, the Pi-hole has a wonderful web-based UI where you can allow destinations you may still require, and get reports regarding most blocked domains and active devices.
With the open source homebridge, you can basically have anything show up on Apple’s HomeKit. If you’re interested in a HomeKit camera that has most of the hard work done for you, look at the open source HKCam
As a Portable Shell
Since the Pis are so small, I’ve started traveling with one that I mosh/ssh into from an iPad using Blink. While the shells on iOS are pretty good, they don’t approach having a full version of Linux at your disposal. The Pi, plus a portable router, can be powered from a single, small battery pack.
Things I Won’t Be Recommending
There are a number of things that are just too specific to each person to make a broad recommendation.
I know what I like/use/can afford, and that should be different than your set up. Everyone will have their own favorite camera, lenses, and editing software that turns into your style. (I am happy to talk about this at length, of course!)
This is another creative area that preferences are largely subjective. There are important techniques to know, so, get me talking about microphones sometime.
Find the shirts, shorts, and shoes that work for you.