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Hometown: GA
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Member since: 2002
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Playground for masochists (updated with links)

Just kidding! (Sort of...)

TL;DR -- Thanks for the Keyboard Maestro recommendation! I've been trying it out for a week or so, with mixed results. There are several other utilities and tools I use or have tried, listed below.

Now, for the gritty details...

Some macros I've created with KM work great when I'm testing them and then bomb when I trigger them in the course of my normal activities. Some of this, of course, is due to the tool's steep learning curve, and some is the result of my struggle to think like a developer.

To really get the most out of Keyboard Maestro, it appears you need a lot of time and patience, and the ability to approach things very methodically. The app, like the computer itself, is dumb and knows only what you tell it. That's what I mean by "thinking like a developer."

But I have managed to create some triggers and workflows that I think will be useful:
  • Change audio settings for Zoom (and back). This one still needs work, but I think with some more tweaking it will work as intended. It involves switching from the audio interface I use regularly to using the Macbook's built-in microphone and speakers, and then going back to my usual settings when the call is over.

  • Open a group of related URLs in the default browser. I envision being able to bring up different groups of related websites, opened in adjacent tabs. One set can be for sites for paying bills online, another might be favorite news sites, or learning/training sites, etc. This is pretty straightforward. I think I'll beef it up by checking to be sure my VPN is running before launching any money-related sites. Some also work better in Safari than in Firefox or Brave, so I can get them to open appropriately.

  • Create a new forwarding email address. This one is a work in progress, but the intent is to have it bring up Spamex and/or my domain host's site, where I can then continue the steps to create a new address that forwards to my real email address. I use (and delete) these constantly so I can keep a lid on spam.

I've reviewed a few Keyboard Maestro tutorials and spent some time looking through the user forum, and it looks like I've only scratched the surface of what this powerful app can do. The jury is still out on whether I'll really make it a part of my daily routine. For simple keyboard shortcuts, most apps have a few (or a lot), and of course you can create your own via Apple Menu > System Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts.

But for anything requiring multiple steps or variables, Keyboard Maestro is certainly more robust and easier to use than Automator. And I'm never going to spend a lot of time writing Applescripts or doing anything else that technical. So there's a good chance I'll find KM worth the effort, and potentially worth the cost of a license.

I'm also trying Alfred, which doesn't do everything Keyboard Maestro does, but is easier in some respects and pretty strong in its own right. The ability to quickly access 1Password entries was enough to make me spring for a license. I'm also enjoying the enhanced file search capabilities, and options for storing reusable text snippets, viewing clipboard history, etc. Alfred workflows seem promising, but I know nothing about those yet.

Other indispensable utilities I use include:

1. Default Folder X. I use this multiple times a day, although as I get more accustomed to Alfred I may change my habits. I use Default Folder X to quickly search in a list of Favorite folders (a customizable list), quickly see lists of recent folders and files, see all drives at a glance, see open Finder windows, and more. You can do a lot more with Default Folder X, but Iím just using it at a basic level.

2. BBEdit. I was a Text Wrangler user for a long time until BareBones phased it out. BBEdit, from the same developer, is among my most frequently used apps. For me, a plain text editor is essential. I use it to quickly strip formatting from text before pasting it into emails or online posts, save text snippets for temporary use, count characters or words in a paragraph (for sites with a limit on a form field), change the case of a text string, compose emails and posts without worrying about losing the drafts, paste the URLs of links to review them before clicking, do search & replace operations, etc. I donít write code, so I donít need the automatic color coding and formatting features, but for those who do, BBEdit would be even more useful.

3. BlackHole virtual audio driver. This replaces Soundflower, which was great up until MacOS 10.10 rendered it useless. It comes in handy for routing audio between apps without latency.

4. Cookie. This is another must-have, as far as Iím concerned. Cookie lets you manage web cookies and databases. Until I started using it, I had no idea the alarming amount of tracking websites were doing (even after ďremoving all cookiesĒ in my browsers). You can keep ('whitelist') the cookies and databases that are benign and/or necessary and delete the ones that spy on you.

5. 1Password. One of my most important apps. A good password manager is probably the first thing I would recommend to anybody. and this one has done the job for me for years. Not only does it generate and store thousands of unique passwords for different sites and purposes, it also stores secure notes, router & network information, software licenses and invoice numbers, credit card details, and much much more. 1Password also shows me at a glance which passwords need to be updated either because theyíre old, because theyíre not strong enough, Iíve used them on multiple websites, or because theyíve been potentially compromised in a data breach. Iím sure other password managers do a great job, but I havenít found one that makes me want to abandon 1Password.

6. SpamSieve. Helpful adjunct to MacMail (or other IMAP clients such as Outlook, et al.) for identifying and eliminating spam.

7. Mountain. Makes it easy to mount and unmount volumes and drives, which is nice if you have a bunch of them like I do. And there are shortcuts to unmount all drives and sleep (a sort of ďGoodnightĒ switch), remount volumes, and quickly bring up a volume in the Finder.

8. Carbon Copy Cloner. I use Time Machine to do frequent backups of key volumes/drives/folders, but CCC goes a lot deeper and helps me make scheduled backups of every directory and file on my system and all attached drives, either to network-attached storage or to removable drives. And the backups are in their original format and state (unencrypted and uncompressed), so itís easy to restore one or more items from backup and get back up and running right away.

9. Drive Genius. Important addition to the maintenance arsenal that provides tools beyond those found in MacOSís built-in Disk Utility app.

10. TunnelBear. A VPN is an essential part of my online life, and TunnelBear is reasonably priced and effective.

11. Cheat Sheet. Simple, free utility that displays all shortcut keys in the active app when you hold down the Command key for longer than a couple of seconds. I start this app only as needed rather than launching it at login, because I so frequently page through open apps using Command-Tab that it gets annoying to get an unneeded list of shortcuts when I sit on the Command key. Most apps have a few custom keyboard shortcuts (or a lot), and of course you can create your own via Apple Menu > System Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts. But when I want to use it, itís very handy -- especially in apps with a lot of weird shortcut keys that I can never remember.

12. Magnet. Iíve just started using this, but itís convenient for organizing and positioning windows, including making them ďstickĒ to one of the four sides of the display.

13. Mosaic. Similar to Magnet, but I find it easier to use. I can quickly arrange windows in any of several schemes, and easily do static screen captures (with an option to copy or save the screen cap image).

14. Unclutter. This is one of those simple, high-impact apps that could become an integral part of my daily habits once I get used to it. With Files, Clipboard, and Notes panes that are accessed with a keyboard shortcut when I scroll to the top of the screen, this lets me move miscellaneous files off my desktop, take and save quick notes, and see recently copied or cut items in my clipboard. You can save anything in each section as a Favorite.

15. CleanMyMac. I donít use this on a regular basis, but once in a while itís helpful to do some basic disk cleanup. Maybe itís crazy, but I feel a little paranoid about giving free reign to an app developed in Ukraine. Iím sure the developers are great folks, but I canít help having a nagging worry about their proximity to Putin. So I use this one on a limited basis.

Iím sure there are more apps Iím forgetting -- I tend to install a lot of them! In the past Iíve tried other utilities and productivity tools, such as Quicksilver, DragThing, Yojimbo, EverNote, etc. but I ended up abandoning them for various reasons. Either I found them cumbersome, not worth the cost of a license, a potential security risk, or just not my cup of tea.

And of course, going down the rabbit-hole of helper apps can start as a productivity booster but become a huge time suck if you let it. So, despite my app-hoarding tendencies, Iíve tried to focus more on what I actually want to accomplish with the computer than on tinkering around under the hood. Still, for what itís worth, these are a few of the add-ons Iíve found useful, to one degree or another.

Reality check - "Biden vs. Trump: Who's the Actual Criminal Justice Reformer?"

Welcome to DU! I don't mean to pick on a newcomer, but I feel it's important to point out that The First Step Act -- and the Trump Administration's criminal justice policies -- are at best an extremely mixed bag.

Biden vs. Trump: Whoís the Actual Criminal Justice Reformer? - Politico, 4/23/2020

Despite a bipartisan push to reduce the United Statesí highest-in-the-world incarceration rate, the prison population decreased only slightly in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available. It was the last year in a slow but steady decade-long decline to the current population of 1.5 million.
- much more at link:

Trump Just Bragged About Criminal Justice Reform. Look Closer at How His Administration Is Undoing It. - Mother Jones, 2/4/2020

During his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump praised himself for his work on criminal justice reform. ďOur roaring economy has for the first time ever given many former prisoners the ability to get a great job and a fresh start,Ē he said. ďThis second chance at life is made possible because we passed landmark criminal justice reform into law. Everybody said that criminal justice reform couldnít be done, but I got it done and the people in this room got it done.Ē

Yes, itís true that Trumpóthe same man who recommended heavier enforcement of stop and frisk policing, and whose administration brought back the federal death penalty and fueled the expansion of private prisonsósigned a much-heralded bill in 2018 to reform the federal criminal justice system, with broad bipartisan support. The First Step Act made changes that have reduced the federal prison population, and it was the first criminal justice reform bill to pass Congress in a generation. So far, the law has shortened the prison stays of about 2,500 people who were serving disproportionately long sentences for crack cocaine offenses, most of them African American. It has also let more than 3,000 people go home early because of their good behavior during incarceration. And it could lead to improvements in prison conditions.

But as Trump claims credit for freeing people from prison, thereís one very big problem that heís not mentioning: His Justice Department is actively pushing to send some of these same people back behind bars, and to prevent others from reducing their sentencesówhich greatly limits who can benefit from the law that Trump has touted as one of his signature achievements.
- more at link: https://www.motherjones.com/crime-justice/2020/02/trump-just-bragged-about-criminal-justice-reform-look-closer-at-how-his-administration-is-undoing-it/

Oh, yes, this too: Trump administration has executed more Americans than all states combined, report finds - The Guardian, 12/16/2020

The Trump administration ultimately executed 13 prisoners, most recently Dustin Higgs.

I'm familiar with that deer-in-the-headlights look

When I've tried to explain to conservatives that Trump's reduction of the "death tax" does nothing for the average person, I've gotten blank stares. Before Trump's windfall for the 1%, the estate tax exemption was about 5 1/2 million bucks per person, or around $11 million per couple. I dunno about you, but that certainly was never even close to being an issue in my family. (And if it had been, what a nice problem to have, eh?)

Now the estate tax exemption is a little more than double what it was before the Treasury looters came into power. So Trump, Ryan, and McConnell's scam provides unnecessary "relief" for the top-hat-and-furs crowd but does absolutely nothing for 99% of Americans.

Greetings from Georgia's Blue Wall

I live in DeKalb County, Georgia, where the highest percentage of voters went for Warnock and Ossoff in this runoff election (83+ % at this point in the count). My wife and I went to bed being very cautiously optimistic, half-resigned to ultimate defeat. We're so used to losing here that even after 2018 and 2020, we're reluctant to allow ourselves hope.

I was hoping to be awakened by fireworks at 3 a.m. when both races were called for the Democrats, but no such luck. Then I awoke this morning to news of Warnock's victory.

You already know this, but it's stunning, I have to tell you.

Senator Warnock. The first Black U.S. senator in this state's history. Wow.

Recent Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate include Michele Nunn (Sen. Sam Nunn's daughter), who would have been fine but didn't sufficiently inspire the Dem electorate, and that idiot Vernon Jones who was recently seen crowd surfing at a Trump rally. Somewhere in the past decade or two we had a white centrist candidate who admitted having used crack. Winning combination! But I digress.

And now Ossoff is on the cusp of victory it seems. Most of the uncounted votes should only enlarge his current 16,000-vote lead. I'm not ready to put the champagne on ice yet, but it's not looking bad. There will be recounts and demonstrations, of course, and all kinds of bullshit from the Republicans. But it's looking like we just might pull this off.

From being "represented" in the Senate a sleazeball dollar-store magnate and a trophy-wife whose "career" is based entirely on her husband's wealth, we're now going to have one of the nation's greatest voices from the modern Black church and a young progressive Jew.

This is Georgia, 2021. We still have Republicans in control at the state level, and it will take continued hard fighting to hold on to these Senate seats and the Congressional seats we've flipped in the last two election cycles. But we have a fight we can win. And we have a lot of new, excited young, Black, Brown, Asian, and progressive voters of all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages who are fired up to keep on fighting.

This is Georgia, 2021. From DeKalb County: Thank you, and you're welcome.

How about some love for Nse Ufot?

Don't get me wrong. I love Stacey Abrams. After all, I changed my avatar to her photo a couple of months ago. But in all the well-deserved praise for Ms. Abrams, sometimes we overlook the many thousands of other hard-working Georgians who are changing this state. Another of the inspiring women who've stepped up to help harness the power of Georgia's emerging Democratic majority is Nse Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project.

Here she is in an NPR segment from a couple of days ago:
CEO Of New Georgia Project On 'Aggressive' Voter Participation Efforts
So we've run essentially our traditional campaign, but on an aggressively truncated timeline, right? So in the immediate aftermath of the November 5 general election, we immediately went into what we call ballot curing, right? So there are tons of people with provisional ballots and mail-in ballots that were on the verge of being rejected for a number of reasons. And we would knock on their door and say, hey, we have reason to believe that your ballot is going to be rejected if you don't take your ID down to the county office, if you don't fill out this affidavit, if you don't go there and find your envelope, et cetera.

And then, immediately after ballot curing, we went into voter registration and registered about 7,000 young people and people of color across the state. And then after the voter registration deadline on December 7, we immediately went into sort of get-out-the-vote mode because early voting started December 14. And as it has been reported now across the country, we have blown through all kinds of turnout records for participation in runoff elections in Georgia. So we've been a little busy...


UFOT: ...Trying to make sure that as many people as possible show up again to vote in these runoffs.

We are looking at something like - we've cracked the 30% threshold for Black voters. Over 30% of the people who've shown up to vote early are African American voters. I would also add that we are looking at 115,000 people who voted in the runoff who did not vote in the 2020 general election. And over half of them are people of color. And about half of them are voters under the age of 40 - so between the ages of 18 and 39. So those are folks who did not vote in November.

The segment is well worth 7 minutes of your time: https://www.npr.org/transcripts/953073942

From her 2019 bio on shethepeople:
Powerhouse lawyer turned top voter engagement strategist, Nse has been the force behind changing the political landscape in Georgia and she does it with such pizazz -- art shows, video game competitions. She makes voting fun -- all the cool kids are doing it. Thatís why sheís on a mission to reshape the political landscape of Georgia, one voter at a time. In her role as the executive director of the New Georgia Project, she leads an ambitious effort to register 800,000 new voters of color and young people while cultivating civic engagement among through an innovative blend of technology, art and culture. In November (2019), the organization hosted Game Jam, a 72-hour video game contest focused on voter protection and engagement. By combining gaming and voting, they hope to increase black and brown youth participation in the civic and electoral process.

Nseís experience as an immigrant from Nigeria has prepared her to fight for the American Dream to become a reality for everyone. She wants to know what Georgians care about, their hopes and aspirations and what keeps them up at night. Staying focused on people and their communities is the focus of New Georgia Projectís work in 2020. They plan to register 100,000 people of color to vote, help Georgia flip the State House from red to blue and make sure there is a full and accurate census count in the state so that hard to count populations have their needs met.

This video from 2016 gives you some idea of the New Georgia Project's attitude and energy:


As a long-time Georgia resident, I'm accustomed to preparing to swallow the periodic bitter pill at election time. And I'm certainly not over confident this time. But we have a fighting chance, a good chance. And the great work and positive spirit of Nse Ufot and her organization are among the big factors.

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