Macintosh Blog Posts

October 15, 2021

Luminar AI

This week I purchased Luminar Ai. I finally decided to upgrade from Luminar 3 to Luminar Ai - so that I could take ordinary photos and make them look extraordinary.

Luminar AI makes it quick to do image touch ups, which can easily be done in Affinity Photo, but I am more likely to apply when I am in a hurry.

Brief Description of Luminar Ai

The first image editor fully powered by artificial intelligence. With Luminar AI, creating striking photos becomes surprisingly easy and fun. Unlike traditional photo editing, which is boring and time-consuming, Luminar Al is all about the result, not the process.

Luminar Al is designed for visual communicators, everyday people, and professional photographers alike. It's made for those who rely on images to communicate important messages, create new opportunities, and grow their reputation: bloggers, entrepreneurs, educators, marketers, small and medium-sized businesses, and many others.

Luminar Al automates common manual tasks and reduces complexity so you can tell your story with rich and expressive images like never before.

Clock

Five things I am excited about

Templates - Luminar Ai comes with 22 templates right out of the box. These are a great starting point to see how quickly a photo can be made better. Sometimes this is all that's needed to touch up a photo. You can alway buy other templates in various categories.

Sky Changer - Change the Sky. Add more clouds, more sunshine whatever you want! Changing the sky can really change the mood of a photo. Luminar AI makes the process simple

Augmented Sky - Luminar AI has the ability to add objects in the sky such as Moon, Balloons, and fireworks. This is a cool way to spice up a boring sky. You can even add your own custom objects, such as the Deathstar, and use all the settings as you can do with any included object.

Lens Distortion Fix - I can set up a template to quickly fix the GoPro lens fish eye. This will make it easy for me to make GoPro photos look awesome. To make things easy, I can create my own GoPro Template to fix lens distortions in one click.

Portrait Mode Touchup - I can easily touch up people in pictures. I can whiten teeth, fix skin marks, color eyes, and much more.

Next Up

Next week all blog post images will be touched up using Luminar AI. As I learn more about the application, I'll be sure to share some tips and tricks.

In the meantime, you can download a trial version of Luminar AI.

October 8, 2021

BBEdit Clippings

BBEdit Clipping allows users to add their own pre-defined bits of text into any document. There's no size limit and you can add special substitutions.

Creating Clipping

It's easy to create a snippet, in BBEdit simply select a text and right-click and then choose Save Selection As Clipping. It really is that easy.

Activate Clipping

You can activate a clipping by typing a shortcut or by assigning a key combination. The key combination is more powerful as you can apply the clipping to the selected text.

Example

This clipping snippet will apply a specific paragraph class to the selected text.

#SELECT#

Popular Clipping Substitution Placeholders

These are the five placeholders that are most useful to know. You can find all the placeholders in the official BBEdit Manual.

#INSERTION#

Marks the place where BBEdit will place the insertion point after inserting the item; if multiple #INSERTION# placeholders are used, the second and subsequent occurrences are replaced with a placeholder <##>, which can be used with Go to Next/Previous Placeholder in the Go menu. Useful when you apply a snippet via typing and you want the cursor to appear within the snippet.

#SELECTIONORINSERTION#

If there was a selection when the clipping was expanded, it will be put at this position; otherwise, the insertion point will remain here. It is useful when you want to use a clipping as a keyboard shortcut or activate it when typing.

#CLIPBOARD#

Contents of the current clipboard. Useful when you want to use the clipboard as part of the clipboard substitution. For example, if you want to use a GitHub branch name.

#SELECT#

The selected Text. Useful when you want to wrap the selected text around tags.

#SYSTEM shell_script#

Given the full path to a shell command or script, BBEdit will run that command or script and insert the result. This is a pretty powerful way to apply external commands with your BBEdit clippings.

Shell Script Example:

#SYSTEM uptime#

This will tell me the current uptime on my computer. I save the clipping as uptime and anytime that I want the computer uptime, I just type uptime. (Not something I would do often but a cool example.)

October 1, 2021

DBeaver

The past few months I have been doing a lot of database work. I was looking for a good application that I could use that wasn't limited on the type of database. I was recommend DBeaver - the free Universal Database tool.

DBeaver

Five Reasons Why I Like DBeaver

  1. Database Support - The application pretty much supports any database you need: MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite, Oracle, DB2, SQL Server, Sybase, MS Access, Teradata, Firebird, Apache Hive, Phoenix, Presto and more. (A total of 89 different database connections are available out of the box!)
  2. SQL Generation - You can easily moved text between tables. Simply select a bunch of rows, right-click and select Generate SQL. You'll get a copy of the SQL statements as insert statements. Useful when you want to delete a row and reinsert it again to test triggers.
  3. In Grid Editing - Easily change data in the grid - just like excel. DBeaver makes it so much easier to manipulate the data. Once you make all the changes, simply commit it.
  4. SQL Views - Very easy to create/modify views. In one of my projects, I didn't use many database views. When using DBeaver, it was easy to create and modify SQL views.
  5. SQL Scripts - Create and Save SQL Scripts for various projects. Makes it very easy to reuse past queries. You can even search through SQL Scripts for code - making it a great resource to reuse SQL commands.
September 24, 2021

Skitch

It's been a while since I used Evernote. As I have moved to different note taking apps - BBEdit Notes and Google Keep.

As a results, I haven't installed Evernote or Skitch apps on my new computers. Skitch is a screen capture tool that saves images into EverNote.

Skitch Annotation Tools

Skitch has several tools to add annotations to an image. There are arrows, text, shapes, pen tools, stamps, pixelate, marker, highlighter, and crop.

The one tool that stands out from other screen capture tools is stamp annotation.

Stamp

Stamps Annotation

In Skitch's stamp tool, you can set the mood, direct the arrow, and then add a message to the annotation.

There are five stamps: Rejected, Attention, Question, Approved, Perfect. (You can't add a custom one.)

Skitch's stamp tool makes it easy to call out certain areas of an image. I think its better than what Snagit or what Monosnap has.

Skitch Development

One risk of using Skitch is that was last updated on June 25, 2020. I am not sure that Evernote will be still supporting the application in future macOS versions.

September 10, 2021

Roxio Audio Assistant

Roxio Toast includes an Audio Assistant application. The application lets users record audio, split up an audio track, play tracks, delete tracks, edit tracks, apply filters and export the tracks.

Product Description

Toast- Audio Assistant lets you capture audio from a variety of sources. You can then edit the audio, break it up into tracks, add effects, and export it to iTunes or burn it on disc.

Roxio

Filters

These are the filters that come with the application - they are part of the Apple AudioToolbox framework. There are no special filters offered by Roxio

  • Apple: AUBandpass
  • Apple: AUDynamicsProcessor
  • Apple: AUDelay
  • Apple: AUDistortion
  • Apple: AUFilter
  • Apple: AUGraphicEQ
  • Apple: AUHipass
  • Apple: AUHighShelfFilter
  • Apple: AUPeakLimiter
  • Apple: AULowpass
  • Apple: AULowShelfFilter
  • Apple: AUMultibandCompressor
  • Apple: AUMatrixReverb
  • Apple: AUNBandEQ
  • Apple: AUNetSend
  • Apple: AUNewTimePitch
  • Apple: AUParametricEQ
  • Apple: RoundTripAAC
  • Apple: AURogerBeep
  • Apple: AUReverb2
  • Apple: AUSampleDelay
  • Apple: AUPitch

Five Thoughts on Roxio's Audio Assistant

I have heard about this application for a long time, and the only way to try it was to actually purchase Roxio Toast. Here are my thoughts from playing around with the application for a bit:

This is a very bare-bone audio application. The free Audiacity application has a lot more power. Note: The application and documentation's last copyright date is 2015. This tells me that the application is several years out of date.

I found it difficult to split the audio. Rogue Amoeba Fission has easier tools to split the track.

I couldn't find any way to balance the audio - none of the filters seem to work for me.

The application crashed when I had multiple splits and I was trying to enter in a title

You can use Gracenote/CDDB service to search the audio database and have the audio properly labeled. Which is done using the Auto-define link in the toolbar.

Overall Thoughts

I would certainly avoid this application. You'll be better off learning Audiacity and Rogue Amoeba Fission.

I was hoping for something cool - that didn't happen. Instead, I got frustrated trying to use the application.

Feel free to check out the Toast Audio Assistant User Guide [PDF] for more information.

September 3, 2021

Burning DVDs - Final Cut Pro

If you're looking to create DVDs from a Final Cut Pro project. It's pretty simple. The good news is that you don't need applications like Roxio Toast to burn the basics. If you want fancy menu selections, then ya - you'll need Toast.

Final

Simple Steps

  • Export the Project media using the DVD... settings.
  • This creates an IMG file - which is basically a digitalized version of a DVD.
  • In the Finder, right click on the Disk Image and select Burn to Disc... If you don't have that option, you don't have a DVD burner connected to your Macintosh.
  • You can basically keep the default options. (Always verify the burned data!)
  • Click Burn and wait.

That's it!

The one downside that I encountered is that you can't set the number of duplicate discs you want. There is an easy workaround, simply repeat steps 3 and 5 for each disc you want to be created.

Another alternative is to get a DVD duplicator: PlexCopier 24X SATA 1 to 5 CD DVD duplicator Burner Writer Standalone Copier Tower ($249). This is a good investment if you need to do a lot of DVDs. The amount of time it saves you would be worth it!

August 27, 2021

PhotoScape X Blog Tools

Photoscape X has a lot of great graphic tools. This makes it a must have application for blogging or social media posting. Here are three creative things that you can easily do in PhotoScape X.

Single Color Image

Easily make one color stand out in your image.

Photoscape
I used the effect to only show the green in this photo

Under the Adjustments section, select Point Color / Emphasize Color (Its 8 options down on the left.) Use the color picker to select what color you want to keep. Use the Background Saturation picker to select if the non-color should be Black/White or have a slight color.

Miniature Effect

This transforms a landscape image to look like a miniature. This is a creative way to change a boring landscape into something that pops.

Miniature

  • Open up an image that has a landscape.
  • Select Miniature from the regular Tools menu, its just below the Resize option.
  • Use the selector to adjust the focus area. Make sure the circle isn't too small. For most situations the default value has the best effect.

Cloud Background

Generate a unique sky for your background.

Photo
Simple cloud image in PhotoScape.

  • Create a new image in the size you want (Example 1920 x 1080)
  • Set the background as any shade of blue
  • Select Edit then the Light menu at the top
  • Select Nature
  • Scroll down and select any Fog pattern

Creative Tip: After you select a Fog Pattern, You can go back to the Light menu and select another fog pattern. (Be sure to check out the Smoke patterns.)

August 20, 2021

Office Layout

Over the past year I have been working hard to get my desk in productive shape. I have multiple monitors - which is great. The thing that I have been struggling with is getting it all to work.

After playing around with different configurations, I finally got something to work. Here's my current monitor setup.

Home

MacBook

This computer is my Slack headquarters. The only application that I have open on this display is Slack. This way I can easily respond to messages and see what is going on with various teams.

I know I could just enable notifications to see alerts, but I find it easy to have the application open so that I can keep an eye out.

Applications Used Here: Slack. (Occasionally I'll park Cypress task window so that it's not in the way.)

20 - Apple Cinema Display

This is my primary monitor. When I am working on automation or graphics this is where I am working. It's not as big as the Thunderbolt display, but it seems to be the perfect size to stay focus.

I'll have Chrome open with various tabs pinned to work-related responsibilities - such as email.

Applications Used Here: Chrome and BBEdit.

27 - Thunderbolt Display

This is my overflow display. Here is where I'll do some development work or browse around the Internet. This computer is wide and I usually have multiple apps open to get things done.

There are times when I use this computer to watch the Chrome console while automation runs. It's great to have windows side-by-side. Having my daily goals up on this display makes it easy to stay on track. I find that I tend to stay focused more on my goals.

Applications Used Here: Affinity Designer, BBEdit, DayOne, Notion and more.

August 13, 2021

Panic Nova

Last month, I thought I would experiment with Panic's Nova application.

Nova is a modern text editor that focuses on being the best Macintosh text editor. It's built for developers and design for the Macintosh.

Nova

Five Things I Liked

  1. Minimap - Great way to get a high level visual of a code.
  2. Split screen - Ability to see different files anyway that works best for you.
  3. In Product Preview - You can add preview to the split screen. When you save a file the preview window refreshes and you see your change instantly.
  4. Remote Access - You can easily load up connected remote files. This made it easy to open up multiple files and make changes. You can break down destinations to different directories. In my case, I was able to separate public_html and secure_html - making it easy to see what's in what section.
  5. Extensions - There are a lot of extensions written by loyal Nova users. If you don't see what your looking for, you can always create your own.

Four Things I Didn't Like

  1. No Shortcut Commands - I didn't find a way to apply HTML Anchor to the selected text. The closest functionality would be the Wrap Selection in Tag
  2. Saved Search Queries - There wasn't a way to save common search/replace queries.
  3. Wrap Selection in Tag - In my test I found it difficult to apply a style sheet to an object while using the Wrap Selection in Tag. I would see my classname being entered in the closing part of the tag.
  4. Expensive - Hard to justify spending $100 for another text editor. I already purchased BBEdit and use it as my default text editor.

In Summary

For now, I am not going to purchase Nova. It's a pretty cool application, but I think the tools in BBEdit are good for me.

I'll keep an eye on updates, especially since September 23 is the one-year anniversary of the launch.

August 6, 2021

Art Text 4.1 Update

Last week Belight Software updated the popular Art Text Tool with some cool new features.

What's new in Art Text v.4.1

  • Vector drawing tools: Pen, Move, Convert Anchor Point, Reverse Path Direction.
  • 20 new badge and logo design templates.
  • 300 new vector icons and shapes.
  • 137 shapes for badge design.
  • Export to vector images for graphics with no raster effects.
  • Introducing Convert to Shape that lets you edit text using vector drawing tools.
  • Various other program improvements.

Art
Graphic made possible by Art Text 4.1 update!

What Does All this Mean?

Here's where you can discover all the changes in v.4.1.

Vector Drawing Tools - These are located in the '+' in the bottom of the main window. Simply select the Shape option. You'll see the 'Pen Tool,' 'Move Tool,' 'Convert Anchor Point Tool.'Reverse Path Direction.' These are great when using existing vector designs.

Badge and Logo Design Templates - These are located in the Design Gallery. On the bottom of the main window, click on the icon to the right of the plus sign. Once the gallery opens, click on the category called Badge Logos. There are lots of great designs to help inspire the imagination.

New Vector Icons ahd Shapes - These are located in the content panel, which is the left side of the main window. On the top bar, click on the icon that has a circle and a square. You'll see the 17 new categories - Animals, Architecture, Arrows, Business, Flora, Food, Leisure, Media, Music, Nature, People, Science & Technology, Signs, Stars, Symbols, Tools, and Transport & Travel.

Shapes for Badge Designs - These are also located in the content panel, which is the left side of the main window. On the top bar, click on the icon that has a circle and a square. Look for the Badges category. There are 137 options. Wow, great collection of badge designs. Better than some packages I have seen on CreativeMarket.com.

Convert to Shape - Now you can convert your text to shapes! Simply right-click on any shape, and select the Convert to Shape option.