Lifehacker: Top Ten Email Productivity Boosters

Read-Only Financial Accounts Please

remote-login-with-sshI was just reading A Two-Step Plan to Stop Hackers at the NYT in the aftermath of 1.2 billion username-password combinations possibly stolen by Russian hackers.  The article covers strategies in place by major financial institutions and suggestions we’ve all heard.  The literal bottom line:  change your password frequently.  Good advice, but not enough.

Here’s something I’d like to see:  Financial institutions granting us two sets of credentials.  One would grant read-only access to information like account balances.  The output would be masked enough to shield my full account numbers and name while letting me see my balances.  Using these credentials I would not be able to make any changes to my accounts or transfer funds. I started thinking about this when I was considering using Intuit-owned mint.com.   Mint is an incredibly convenient tool with one giant drawback:  You have to trust Intuit with the usernames and passwords to all your financial accounts.  As a Mint user you have to rely on both your bank and Mint to protect your information.  Once you’ve shared your sacred information with Mint you can get your entire financial picture on one website.

I’m frequently asked about various services and how secure they are.  My stock answer is that they’re all using similar security technology.  The problem is that the systems are complex and subject to errors committed by the human administrators.  This is true with any sort of password protected account you have on the Internet.

I trust that Mint has a plan to keep my information secure, just as the big banks, gmail, and Dropbox do.  But they’re susceptible to mistakes, and any of them could be the next headline detailing a mainstream cloud provider that’s been hacked.

So banks, if you’re listening, how about some read-only credentials that I’d probably be able to use 80% of the time?  And a full-access credential set for when I need to shift some money around?   I’ll give the read-only credentials to Mint and worry less.   I’ll be very careful with my full-access credentials, and employ the tools covered by the NYT.

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Deleting Duplicate Files with Tidy Up

Recently a civilian asked Murphy about finding duplicate files on their computer.  Folder names had been mangled and made no sense.  Files had been duplicated over and over again, many of them with different names.  It was a mess.

I remembered writing up a Mac app a long time ago and dug deep into the Murphy Mac archives, where I found Tidy Up.  As soon as I watched the screencast I remembered being impressed with the results of the app, and its power, despite not truly having a need for it.  Because Murphy files everything just so.

Anyway, I decided to take a look at some tools for finding duplicates and asked the developer for an updated version, which I received.

One thing that really impresses me about Tidy Up is the safety features designed to prevent deletion of the last copy of a file.   For example, if a search finds six copies of foo.jpg there’s an option to display all but one copy.  Then you can delete the five duplicates from within the Tidy Up interface.

Let’s run through an example and look at one way Tidy Up might help you achieve your goal.   Let’s say you have two folders that both have files.  Some of the files have duplicates with different names.  Sometimes the dupe is in the same folder with the original, sometimes it’s in the other folder.  And sometimes the dupe has the same name but it’s in a different folder.

Take a look at the screenshot showing our example files.

files

Click image for larger version

The files are in two folders, named here and there.   My goal is to end up with one file for each airport code.   Also, notice there are three files containing the code mia.   Additionally, I’d prefer to end up with the files that don’t have the word “copy” in their name.  Think of it this way:  Maybe you have a bunch of files and you named some of them with a convention like winter2011 001.jpg, winter2011 002.jpg and so forth.  But you have duplicates of those files with names like DSC001.jpg and DSC002.jpg.    You might prefer to have the DSC files eliminated as the duplicates instead of the winter ones.

The first step with Tidy Up is to add the two folders we want to search for duplicates.  In our case, the folders named here and there.   In the screen shot below the folders are shown in Tidy Up after we simply dragged them in from Finder.

The two folders we want to search for duplicates

 

Once we run the search Tidy Up presents us with a list of files that have duplicates.  There are a number of containers we can choose from to limit which files are displayed, but the default is to show all copies of any file that has a duplicate.   Files without duplicates in here and there are not displayed.  Screen shot below.  Notice that the mia file has three copies, and two of them have the same name.

The full list of duplicates. Each file is color coded red or yellow to indicate its folder location.

 

Remember, we wanted to preserve files that didn’t have the word copy in the name if possible.  To do this, we’re creating what Tidy Up calls a Smart Basket to identify all the files with the word “copy” in their name.  Then we’ll use Tidy Up’s label feature to mark these files with the blue label.

Take a look at the next screenshot.  Notice the container selected is called “has copy in name”.   That’s our smart basket.  We’ve selected all the items in the basket and applied a blue label to them.

A blue label has been applied to every duplicate file with the word “copy” in it.

 

We could have just deleted all those files there, but instead we’ll go back to the container called All Items Found and verify that our labels were applied as we expected.  In that container we’ll also sort by label, so all the blue label items are listed first and are easy to select.

The search results have been sorted by label, resulting in all the files with “copy” in the name listed first.  Notice that cdg doesn’t have a file without the word “copy” in it.

 

One of the great things about about Tidy Up is that it tries to prevent you from accidently deleting the last copy of a file.  In other words, when you’ve performed a search and selected files to delete you may have selected all copies of a particular file, as is the case in the previous screenshot with regard to cdg.   When we use the delete tool within Tidy Up we’ll get notified that one file was not deleted because it was the last copy.  See below.

Tidy Up warns when you’re about to delete the last copy of any of your search results. That’s good.

 

If we look at our search results now there are only two files left.  Remember, we told it to only delete selected files, and we only selected files with “copy” in the name.  So our mia duplicates still exist.  We could continue on and delete any remaining duplicates from here. Let’s take a look at the Finder to see what we’re left with after running our delete job.   Notice below there’s one file left with the word “copy” in it, but that’s because we only had files for cdg with the word copy in them.   Notice as well that we have two copies of mia.  That’s because we didn’t bring the full power of Tidy Up to bear yet.  More on that after the screenshot.

Our situation has improved. There is still one duplicate to be dealt with. And one file is left with the word “copy” in it. But both of those things were to be expected.

 

There’s one other feature of Tidy Up I should mention.  Even if you only search one folder there’s a very powerful feature.  Tidy Up has the ability to show all but one file for each set of duplicates it finds.  In the two screenshots below there’s a file in the search results that has nine copies.   When we select All Items Found we see all nine.   But when we select All But One Item of Each Duplicate Group we only see eight.  The ninth is being hidden from view so we can safely delete the eight and still have a copy left.

All duplicates displayed

 

Only eight files are displayed. The last copy of the duplicate set is automatically not shown so we don’t delete it.

 

There’s a lot more to Tidy Up.  It has special features for iTunes and iPhoto.  It has all kinds of options for dealing with very granular file details and customizing your search extensively.  There’s no shortage of tools for this task, but Tidy Up makes it very straightforward.   The interface is clean and makes it easy to see where your duplicates reside.

Here’s another Murphy Mac post about Tidy Up, including a screencast.

Tidy Up is available for $30   There’s also a thorough user manual (pdf).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If This Than That For AppleScript Kickoff

For a long time I’ve used scripts that were kicked off by incoming mail on my Mac.  As long as the mail was from me and the subject matched a keyword the script would run.  There are plenty of tools enabling remote control of your Mac.  But for some things I still find it easier to kick off a script than to manually take control of the Mac.  SSH takes longer, and so do remote desktop apps.

There were some problems with the Mail.app scripts.  Sometimes Mail wasn’t running.  Sometimes they didn’t kick off for some unknown reason.  When things don’t work every time you tend to stop relying on them.

I’ve got a new way to kick off scripts by sending a text message to If This Than That.   IFTTT receives my message and writes a text file to my Dropbox account named after the message content.   My Mac sees the file and a Folder Action script runs, performing whatever task I requested.

There are a couple I use frequently:

  • Mute my Mac
  • Launch iTunes
  • Reboot my Mac
  • Kill and restart EyeTV
  • Turn on Require Password in System Preferences

I’ve assigned a one letter code to each of those things.  When I send the letter in a text to IFTTT I’m done.  My Mac goes silent or iTunes launches for my Apple TV or whatever it is I need happens.  Less steps than SSH or some kind of remote desktop.

My mind is starting to go so it’s hard to remember which letter does what.  Every once in a while I text #m to IFTTT and they text me back a canned text message I prepared with the key to my commands.  Their reply to #m looks something like this:

a. mute b. iTunes c. restart EyeTV

The thing I don’t like about this method is giving IFTTT access to my Dropbox account. Not that I have an issue with them specifically. I’m just hoping that the protocols to allow interaction between various online services become more granular so you don’t have to grant so much access for whatever you want to do.

I’ll post some more information over the next few days detailing the AppleScripts themselves.

 

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Export Full Quality Video from iPhone Without Computer

acrobat.com

Acrobat.com on your iOS devices allows you to upload camera roll content from Safari.

The other day I found myself wanting to extract full quality, uncompressed video from my iPhone.  I didn’t have a Mac or PC handy, and I wanted to move the video to my iPad so I could work on it with iMovie.

I looked for apps first.  Transfer Big Files was most prominent in my searches.  It got mixed reviews and I never got around to trying it.   I moved on.

Then I stumbled into something by accident:  Acrobat.com.    From http://files.acrobat.com in Safari on my iPad or iPhone I can upload items from my camera roll, including uncompressed video files.  The web interface is clean and simple to use on an iOS device.  You’ll need a free Adobe account.

I tried to do the same thing with Dropbox.  On my iPhone I couldn’t navigate the desktop version of Dropbox.   On my iPad Dropbox only offered to upload a compressed version of the video.

Box.com let me upload uncompressed versions of video files the same way Acrobat.com did.  I had to load the desktop version of the site in iOS.

Once the video was uploaded from my iPhone to Acrobat.com I opened the Adobe Reader app on my iPad.  The app let me save the video file to my camera roll.  Using this workflow I can shoot video with my iPhone and wirelessly transfer the uncompressed full quality file to my iPad for further processing with something like iMovie.

It’s not an exercise for the impatient.  If you’re doing this kind of stuff a lot I’d look into another solution, like the USB camera connection kit.  That link has other solutions as well.

 

Notes:

Acrobat.com has a file size limit of 100mb.  You’ll get there fast with uncompressed iPhone video.

The free version of Acrobat.com provides 5GB of storage.

This Adobe document says you can’t upload .mov files.  But I’ve been able to.  Maybe they can’t be shared.

The 31 second uncompressed video I uploaded was 68MB.

I only tried Safari, not other browsers on iOS.

Acrobat Uploader

Uploading uncompressed video with Safari

 

 

 

 

 

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Extended Apple Wifi Networks

Murphy has been keeping an eye on threads in Apple Discussions about firmware updates to Airport base stations. Problems with the 7.6.3 update aren’t universal. It seems the people who are having trouble are using more than one Apple router.

The issues are somewhat varied. Some report basic connectivity problems and many report a significant slowdown on their network.

But the main reason I’m posting is to point out a couple of Apple Support documents I’d never seen before, referenced by Vijay S on the Apple Discussions support site. The articles address setting up a roaming network. Roaming means you have multiple base stations, and your devices automatically connect to whichever one has the best signal without your intervention. Vijay points out that setting up a roaming network might not be as intuitive as you’d expect. I’d have to say I agree.

When I extended my wireless network I referenced a book I reviewed a long time ago, Taking Control of Your 802.1n Network by the incomparable Glenn Fleishman. If you’re interested in fine-tuning your Apple-based network you should grab this book. The latest edition includes updates covering changes to the Airport Utility and Mountain Lion.

The two Apple documents referenced by Vijay are :
Extending the range of your wireless network by adding additional Wi-Fi base stations
and
Setting up and Configuring a roaming network (802.11 a/b/g/n)

One point that gets some emphasis: If you can use Ethernet cable to extend your network you should. When we had our kitchen renovated last year I finally got an Ethernet cable running to the back of the house. My main Airport Extreme base station was upstairs toward the front of the house. Now I have coverage in the back of the house as well via an Airport Express wired into my network.

The key thing I learned when reading the Glenn Fleishman book was making sure your wireless networks have the same ssid name, password, and security settings. The only exception in my case is that I’m running both 5 and 2.4ghz networks. The 5ghz networks have different names than the 2.4 ghz networks because you probably have a reason for picking one over the other.

Some people prefer to lump their 5 and 2.4ghz networks into one name; you can read up on that in this Ars Technica article. Personally I agree with this comment so I can easily identify which band I’m connected to.

With two base stations serving up wireless networks named and secured the same way my wireless devices can roam from one base station to the other without the user noticing. It’s great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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