Leatherman Squirt PS4

I’ve been carrying around the Squirt PS4 all summer. The knife, pliers and wire cutters have all been getting a work out and have held up fine. The screwdrivers and scissors are also very well built for their size. I’ve had larger Leatherman tools and smaller multitools, but this is the sweet spot for me in size and functionality. Red, Blue and Black colors are available. Amazon sells them for $25.

The PS4 fits in my watch pocket with plenty of room to spare. It measures 2.25 inches long (closed) and is about half an inch thick.

If you prefer needle nose pliers with a great range of wire strippers, but the same form factor as the PS4, consider the ES4.

Great Mac Software

Here are some of the apps I use frequently.

Productivity

  • LittleSnapper is my favorite screen capture app. Like many similar apps, it stores a library of your captures and has hot keys for common use cases.
  • Things is a todo app from Cultured Code. It’s a little expensive (you have to purchase the desktop, iPhone and iPad apps separately), but it adds the right amount of structure without getting in the way.
  • Soulver is a tape-based calculator with the edit-ability of a spreadsheet. Watch the video before you put your $ down. If you find yourself making a lot of calculations for a project and you want to see them all at once – Soulver might be exactly what you want.
  • DropBox is great for sharing files with other people, other computers and even your iPhone.
  • I use Acorn for image editing (including creating the image at the top of this post). I like it, but I know some prefer Pixelmator and others, Photoshop. They are all great options.
  • Fantastical sits in your menu bar, showing today’s date. Click on it to get fast, interactive access to your iCal calendar. I use it most for it’s large, drop down month view.

Utilities

  • Boom at http://www.globaldelight.com/boom/index.html is a fantastic utility that nearly doubles the volume of your MacBook. It’s incredible for listening to podcasts, music and video when the sounds is just a little to quiet. A recent software update fixed my only concern with Boom – it no longer crashes.
  • I prefer VMWare Fusion over Parallels for running Windows apps on my Mac. Historically, it eats less battery life, in my experience.
  • iStat Menus puts CPU utilization, memory usage and other computer-health metrics in your menu bar, along with a very nice calendar.
  • Stock Menulet shows one or more stock prices in your menu bar.
  • Hyperdock emulates some of Windows 7’s best features. Drag a window to the side of your screen and it will snap-resize to fill exactly half of your desktop. Move your mouse over an app’s icon in the dock to see a preview of the windows owned by that app.
  • DaisyDisk: if your hard drive fills up quickly and you find yourself cleaning out media files or downloads frequently, DaisyDisk can help. Like many other tools, it helps you visualize where all your space is going, but it’s much more fun to use than its cousins.

Development

  • xScope provides awesome tools for measuring distances and areas on screen. Magnifying glass, guide lines, etc. I use this a lot.
  • Hues replaces your color picker with something much more useful. Save more custom colors, work with more color formats – it even has better copy/paste and an eye dropper!
  • Transmit is great for FTP, S3, etc.
  • iTerm 2 is a great replacement for the built-in Terminal. Split panes, colored output, scriptability. Good stuff!

Music to Learn to

When writing code, I can throw on headphones, crank the volume and listen to music from MIA, Mumford and Sons or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. But when I’m learning – reading books or watching instructional videos – I find lyrics distracting. My collection of instrumental music has grown over the last few months while I’ve been digging into Objective C and Ruby on Rails. It plays in the background on low volume. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Beastie Boys: The In Sound from Way Out! (itunes)
  • Beastie Boys: The Mix-Up (itunes) [Yes, these two Beastie Boys albums are instrumental]
  • Jim Guthry: Sword and Sworcery LP – the Ballad of the Space Babies (itunes)
  • Ramin Djawadi: Game of Thrones (Music from the HBO Series) (itunes)
  • Hans Zimmer: Black Hawk Down (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) [This one has lyrics, but they are in a different language, so they do not distract.] (itunes)

9/17/2011…

I dreamt about a bee the size of a cat, with feline features. I woke up to our cat, Flower, snuggling with my feet.

Multitasking Accessories for Smartphones and Tablets


Often, while using an iPad or smartphone, I want to multi-task. I don’t mean ‘fast app switching’ or running something in the background, I mean I want to see two applications at one time. That’s not possible with today’s smartphones, so I’ve been experimenting with using two devices at once. 2 screens = 2 apps.

In many settings, this kind of experience is easy. Sitting at a table, you can prop up one device and hold the other in your hands. In other settings, it’s very difficult. On a train, in a comfy chair, in bed, it’s difficult to use 2 smartphones or other multimedia devices simultaneously.

To solve that problem, I’ve tried a number of solutions to fix two or more devices together. I’ve focused on non-permanent techniques, since on device is always my phone and I need to be able to carry that alone.

Attempt 1: Use Shapelock (a plastic substance that melts and re-hardens easily and can be molded by hand) to create a case that holds two devices. That was not successful at all. The Shapelock is just too hard to coax into the desired shape.

Attempt 2: Velcro devices to a metal ruler. This works extremely well. The devices can be rotated to any orientation and the ruler can be bent to put the devices at an angle to one another. Unfortunately, the velcro gets gummy and dirty quickly.

Attempt 3: Combine rubber bands, a small clipboard and those grippy dashboard pads to hold multiple devices in place against a plastic plate (the clipboard). Too complicated. I used it twice, but it was difficult to get the devices situated.

Attempt 4: 3D printed clips that connect two or more devices. I modelled these in Google SketchUp and had a little trouble getting the fit right. The first batch of these that have the right dimensions to grip my iPhone 4, iPad and Droid X correctly just arrived today. I have several more clips coming from Shapeways over the next week or so. It’s too early to say if this approach will be successful, but there are a lot of reasons to believe it will be. The clips are small – they are pocketable. The clips grip well enough to feel confident that nothing will fall (except for the iPad clip-it needs to be a little tighter) if I’m reasonably careful. The clips are modular. Though I have to order a new clip for each device (each device has a different thickness), they aren’t very expensive. The nature of the clips makes it possible to have extenders or angled connectors to get exactly the orientations you are looking for.

In a few weeks, once I have the dimensions cleaned up a bit, I’ll post the final models you can use for printing – at your own risk, of course. If you desperately want the models AS-IS to make your own prints before I’ve had a chance to refine them, let me know in the comments and I’ll send you the files.

Below are a few photos. First, the clips themselves, alone. They look like Tron Recognizers… Second, 2 pieces holding an iPhone 4 and iPad together. Third, a Droid X and an iPhone 4. The multitasking shots are a little contrived (researching Star Trek while watching it; reading techmeme while watching a movie). The more likely use cases involve email, feeds (MobileRSS!!), Twitter, etc. The last picture shows several more clips and adapters that haven’t arrived, yet.

[If 3D printed iphone accessories are your cup of tea, also check out the Glif (although the Glif is now injection molded).]