robinadr

Posted in Software

If you haven’t signed up for a VPN service yet, you need to. I’ve been a customer of Private Internet Access for more than a year now, and the annual $40 has been more than worth it.

Here’s a quick list of what I’ve used it for:

  • Tunneling torrents through it
  • Connecting to IRC networks that don’t use SASL and/or mask your IP
  • Watching Netflix outside the US1
  • Connecting securely to public wifi

Especially that last one. Every time you sit down at a Starbucks, a public library, or anywhere with a publicly available wireless network, there could be someone listening in on your wireless transmissions. It doesn’t require much knowhow to pull off either.

Note this matters even more when you log in to websites that aren’t using a secure connection (http://). Your credentials transmit in plain text. That should scare you.

So get a VPN account, set it up, and start browsing securely.


  1. This goes both ways: sometimes you want access to the US catalog from outside the country, and sometimes you want access to another country’s catalog (e.g. Canada’s) from inside the country. 

Mailbox logo

I got into the Mailbox for Mac beta today, and gave it a try. I’ve tried the app before on my iPhone, but it never seemed useful enough to be worth the trouble of using it instead of the built-in email client.

I tend to use my inbox as a to-do list, so at first Mailbox seems like a perfect solution for me. I strive to take care of these tasks in my inbox, and my work doesn’t finish until it sits empty. This philosophy goes by the name of Inbox Zero, as made popular by 43 Folders.

What I’ve learned from first trying Mailbox on my iPhone and now on my Mac is that I’m not an email power user. I’ve never received so many emails and had so many “tasks” sitting in my inbox that I felt overwhelmed. At most, I have fewer than 10 items waiting for me.

Now that I’ve realized this, I see how Mailbox would be a godsend for a lot of email power users. The ability to quickly swipe left to delete or archive, or swipe right to deal with it later would be great if I had to deal with hundreds of emails every day.

The Verge’s review agrees with this. With this in mind, I still think Mailbox serves as an excellent email client even for a light email user like myself. Ever since Sparrow sold out to Google, I’ve been using Airmail but it’s always felt bloated and clunky to use.

My biggest problem with Mailbox when the iPhone app came out was needing to hand your IMAP credentials over (now to Dropbox) in order to use the service. It seems for Google they’re using the OAuth setup, and I assume for iCloud they’re using the same token setup Sunrise uses.

This limits the services you can use to Gmail and iCloud email, but I assume more providers will be added in the future. This ensures you only ever enter your Google credentials on a Google website, and that they don’t have to store your iCloud credentials. I’m going to try using Mailbox as a simple email client and see how it goes.

I also have three “betacoins” to give out…

I’ve switched to Sublime Text 3 as my text editor for coding on both Mac OS X and Windows. It’s a bit of a pain to set up in that all the preferences are in JSON files, but I’ve managed to put this config together:

The names of the settings should explain themselves. I’m using the Soda Dark theme with the Tomorrow Night color scheme. I highly, highly recommend installing Package Control as it will make your life a lot easier when it comes to finding and installing packages.

Here’s what my editor looks like right now:

Sublime Text 3

As a loyal user of the Sunrise calendar app for iOS, it was a little alarming to realize last week that they have a somewhat questionable way to dealing with iCloud credentials:

Upon first launch, Sunrise invites you to create an account, then asks you to add a calendar. The first option, “iCloud Calendar”, brings you to a screen where the Sunrise app itself, in its native interface and code, solicits your Apple ID (iCloud) email address and password.

These credentials are then passed along to their servers, according to their response to this issue:

When you type in your iCloud credentials, they are sent to our server only once in a secured way over SSL.

On Thursday, they announced a new version that uses a local method to generate the iCloud token, so your credentials are never sent out at all. You could make the argument that they should never have been transmitted in the first place, but I have to hand it to the Sunrise team in that they heard the outcry, and fixed it. I’ve actually emailed their support email about other issues before, and gotten a direct response from Pierre, their CEO.

Great app, good people behind it, great price… get it now before they wise up and start charging what it’s actually worth.

After I discovered a way to watch Twitch without Flash, I’ve been using it to watch streams on Twitch. But manually opening a new window and going to the new HLS URL is tedious, so I made a JavaScript bookmarklet to automate it. Note that it requires Safari on OS X to watch the HLS stream. I’m not aware of any other browsers that support HLS at this time.

Install it by dragging this to your favorites bar: Twitch HLS.

Use it by clicking the bookmark whenever you’re on a Twitch stream page. It does two things: pauses the Flash stream, and opens a popup with the HLS stream.

The code is available on Github. More details are there too.