Mac Pro! Huh? What Was I Thinking?

So last week I did something dumb and bought a refurbished Mac Pro. I bought it knowing full well that these systems are already a bit dated and likely due for an update. I thought about getting the iMac, but I’m not an all-in-one system type. My wife currently has the 5k iMac and the screen is amazing, but it’s just not for me. So as I said, I went out and bought this thing at a fairly decent discount. So far it’s been working great. I’m no gamer, so having workstation graphics cards to me is no big deal. The system is really quiet and I like it.

But I can’t help but feel like I should have waited until after WWDC to buy this thing. I have this feeling that we’ll see the Mac Pro updated soon (at least I hope we do). So I’m asking myself, should I return this thing or should I hold on to it? The fact that I’m asking this question is likely all I need to make the decision…

Update: I’ve got a sick feeling the update is coming.  I’m returning it.

Learning Keyboard Maestro

So after posting my opinion on the state of Smile Software and the situation with TextExpander.  I decided that I would back up my big talk with an expedition of trying out some alternatives.  aText is now installed and running fine.  The learning curve on that is literally nothing.  If you’ve used TextExpander, you can can use aText.  Very, very similar.

I’ve also started messing around with some text replacement functionality in Alfred, which I’ve been using for quite some time.  I like this program quite a bit and getting to the hotkey is second nature to me.  Setting up the snippets are really just a matter of setting up simple workflows.

I also bought, downloaded, and installed Keyboard Maestro.  This one is a bit more challenging.  I can see the obvious capabilities, but I’m still trying to get the hang of this one.  There is a lot to learn and I’ve been reading the documentation and watching a lot of Youtube videos.  My first macro was a simple script that logged me into my website via ssh.  It basically just prompted me for my username, opened iTerm, then copied the ssh command with my username.  Pretty simple.  I’m going to keep poking away at this one.  I think this could be a fun one.

TextExpander Changes

There have been some really great posts about Smile Software’s change to a monthly billing model for TextExpander. Like many other who have posted, I share the opinion that this isn’t a business model that I’m interested in and I’ll be discontinuing my use of their software. Quite a few companies have adopted this billing model. I think for many users, frustration is starting to peak and it’s starting to reach the tipping point. We’re only willing to pay so much and if more and more companies pursue this model, their users will start to do as I (and many others) have and seek out alternatives. For me, TextExpander is a utility and renting a utility doesn’t seem like a wise choice of where to spend my money.

Smile has motivated customers to consider alternatives. Many of those customers would not have done so under normal circumstances. I beleive the good word-of-mouth advertising they’ve gotten from customers in the past is going to erode and they’ll find these same customers now recommending offerings from their competition. Of course, Smile has the ability to change this strategy (and I somewhat expect they might), but a lot of damage has already been done.

Fortunately, I still have an active license for aText that purchased some time ago that’s still current. I’ve already removed TextExpander and have migrated my snippets over.

If you’re interested in other alternatives, Gabe at Macdrifter has put together a nice short list to check out.

Migrating Away from Dreamhost

I’ve been on Dreamhost since 2006 and they’ve always been perfect for what I’ve needed.  And they still are.  I would recommend them to anyone looking to get a website launched.

However, I’ve had an itch to learn more about hosting a Linux server that I would setup and maintain on my own.  Over the past few months I’ve set up several VPS at Digital Ocean.  I’ve built up, configured, torn down, rebuilt, reconfigured many servers and think I’m finally getting comfortable enough to host some of my personal sites.  So today, I’ve migrated two of my websites from Dreamhost.  They all run on a single VPS and are set up as virtual hosts in Apache.  Both sites are basic WordPress sites and were quite simple to set up.  The biggest challenge is getting all of the DNS configuration correct.  On the server, getting the system secured was a challenge.  Fortunately there are a lot of good sources on Digital Ocean’s website for figuring all of this out.  I will say that it is a bit frightening to look at the access log files on the server and see how many attempts to break into the server there are.  It’s crazy and honestly, a bit frightening.

I have another idea for a project that will allow me to build an application that is a bit more involved on the database and backend data processing.  All of this is intended to support what I do in my day job so it really isn’t all that interesting to most people.  But it’s a fun journey and I’ve learned a lot already.

Update: All of my sites are now running on the new VPS and seems to be working really well.  I installed Webmin for some simple stuff, it’s ok but can be a bit wonky when it comes to configuring virtual hosts on Apache.

Finding a Project

Picking projects is hard for me.  I’m not a professional programmer, this is just a hobby.  I love database programming and scripting, but for some reason it’s hard to find a project that I want to work on.  Something I can be passionate about.  So the question is this: what do I love to doing on the computer?  I like to game a bit.  I’m not hardcore or anything.  I’ve played MMOs for the longest time.  I’m not great, I’m ok.  I’m no longer that into the genre any longer.  While spending quite some time over the past years making fun of Minecraft and those who play the game, I’ve actually finally sat down and played it.  I enjoy it much more than I thought I would.  Building is fun, but a Minecraft PVP server is pretty exciting.  So let’s put that down on our list: Minecraft.

What else do I like to do?  Telecom has been my job since I was 18.  Now I run routing and spend quite a bit of time doing analysis work trying to find areas of improvement.  I’ve built an internal website that is used to manage the configuration of our routing.  The site runs on IIS and it written primarily with C# code behinds.  The site has data hooks into a SQL Server database that drives most our configuration and routing.  One of our primary management tools is an Access database.  I’ve been wanting to mothball that behemoth for quite a while.  Deployment and configuration of this tool is a complete nightmare due to all of the ODBC connections that are required.  Creating a native Windows application or making it web based might be just what I need to do for my job and would also fit the bill of ‘side project’ quite nicely.  Noted:  Routing Management Database.

What else?  Should I try to write an app of some sort for a mobile device?  I’d like to, but honestly, I don’t even know what I’d like that would be on my phone.  I’ll need to incubate this one a bit longer…