How to Get Better Battery Life on a MacBook Pro

We all know that lowering the brightness of your display increases your battery life dramatically. Here’s a truly awesome little free app that has actually doubled the battery life of my MacBook Pro. Yes, doubled.

Its called gfxCardStatus

“Graphics Card Status” does one thing and does it very, very well. The 2008-2011 MacBook Pros have two graphics cards. One takes up a lot of juice but makes your graphics pop. The other is much more efficient. How much more efficient?

Well, I had never gotten 5 hours out of my MacBook Pro, and at the time of this photo, I’ve been on battery life for a good half hour. Here is the beauty of this app:

  • When your MacBook Pro is plugged in, use Dynamic or Discrete graphics.
  • When your MacBook Pro is unplugged, use Integrated.
  • Oh, and change them automatically when I unplug.

This works so well. Now, if you’re doing something like Photoshop or video processing, you’re likely to see a difference. But if you are a sysadmin doing video processing then just plug in your power cord – this is the least of your worries. Here’s the menubar:

You’ll want to go into Preferences and make sure that you have it set to automatically switch when you unplug:

Download gfxCardStatus at codykrieger.com

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How to Quickly Insert Passwords Anywhere

There are a lot of great tools out there for snippets, passwords, and clipboard management. But this topic is going to address one specific use case:

quickly inserting a password.

Sure, 1Password is an awesome password manager and I use it to store all of my passwords. But 1Password’s best (and sole) integration is in the browser. And I work in more than just browsers.

Enter CopyLess and CopyLess Lite

This guy rocks. CopyLess, at its core, is just a clipboard manager. You copy something, and CopyLess saves it in a list. While this is nice, and worthy of another post, the real draw here is in using the Favorites feature with hotkeys.

Copy a password, then open CopyLess and mark it as a Favorite by clicking the Pin icon. Repeat for all of your passwords until you have a list with the passwords you most use on the Favorites tab. It will look something like this:

When that is done, you can rearrange the order if you like. The first one in the list is “Favorite item 1”. Now you just need to open the preferences and set hotkeys for each password:

Once it is setup, from inside any app, even when you’re on SSH on a production box, you can just hit Command 1 (or a combination of your choosing) to insert the password. I use this thing all day every day, and it makes getting around a breeze.

Of course, the normal security warnings are relevant here: you’re storing your password in plain-text in an app that requires no password and has no encryption, so use security measures on your machine with production passwords.

Until 1Password implements a similar desktop equivalent, this is a very handy way to get around.

If This Then That

This one isn’t unique to sysadmins. But as a sysadmin, you have a lot of online accounts that sit in silos across the web. Silos are bad. Imagine if you could someone get all of those accounts talking to one another so that something you do in one silo triggers something else in another silo.

Enter If This Then That

This is one of those genius concepts that most of us saw and immediately said to ourselves “Why didn’t I think of that?” and “Why has it taken mankind this long to come up with something this perfect?”

Confidence in mankind has been restored.

Some terms:

  • Channels – these are the online accounts you want IFTTT to use.
  • Tasks – connecting A to B is done with a task. For example, if I star an item in Google Reader, IFTTT sends me an email with the link.
  • Recipes – these are just Tasks you’ve made public for the rest of the world to use.

After setting up some Channels, you can start creating Tasks to get your accounts to do what you want them to do. You don’t have to write any code, read any API docs, or anything else. When I get tagged in a photo on Facebook, it adds it to my Flickr account. Another task copies it to my Dropbox.

Here’s one I’ve been using recently: if I star something in Google Reader (which I normally do from the Reeder app on my iPhone) send me the link in an email.

Grabbox for Screenshot Sharing

If you’re not already using some sort of cloud screenshot sharing tool, you’re dead to me. Being able to quickly snap what is on your screen and paste the link into a chat window or email has become commonplace, and if you’re still attaching screenshot photos to email, shame on you.

There are a ton of screenshot tools that do this job (my favorite up until recently has been Cloud). But Cloud doesn’t work perfectly for one simple reason: the url it gives you is for the image’s webpage, not the image itself. Not helpful when you want to quickly paste the graphic into a document or in Propane for Campfire.

I looked at a few options that would work with S3, like TinyGrab, but none of them would put the public url of just the image in the clipboard.

Enter Grabbox.

Grabbox, like other cloud upload utilities, sits in your menubar and waits for you to use the default screenshot hotkeys. When you open the preferences, you are given minimal options, but they do what you’d expect, and work the way you want them to work.

Grabbox uses the “Public” folder inside your Dropbox account. The nice thing about this is the files are stored locally in your Dropbox folder, so the process is super fast. You don’t have to wait for the file to upload, since Dropbox will upload it in the background, and the url can be crafted ahead of time. But its also nice that you have all of your public images right there in Dropbox if you want to change them or delete them.

Grabbox works with your existing screenshot hotkeys (CMD – Shift – 3 and CMD – Shift – 4). You can have it prompt you for a filename or have it generate a random filename. By default, it starts at 0.png and increments on each new capture.

And the best part (for me) is that I can capture a screenshot and immediately paste it into Campfire or Adium. Oh, and it’s free.

Note: the Dropbox link above is a referral link and if you use it to sign up for a new Dropbox account, I’ll get 500MB of additional storage. Please do.

Keep Chrome Bookmarks Organized with SuperSorter

I’ll admit, I’m guilty of Googling something today that I just read yesterday. I’m not very good about using the bookmarks that I have, and all too often the bookmarks manager window looks like a mess. One tool that I’ve found really helps too keep my Chrome bookmarks effectively organized is called SuperSorter.This little extension has a button next to your address bar, or can be set to run automatically. It has a few options, but the big feature that I like is alphabetical sorting of all of my bookmarks. A nice option that I like is “Put folders before bookmarks”.

This little extension has few features, but manages to do it’s thing perfectly. Here’s the options window:

 

Another very useful tool when you are trying to clean up your bookmarks is the last item: Find all duplicates now. It has a well-thought-out interface that has the duplicates grouped, showing which folder they are in, and allows you to check the first in each group, check the last in each group, and a few others for fast deleting of duplicates:

 

A Git App for Sysadmins

I’ve tried a lot of different Git apps. And let’s be clear about one thing: when I say Git, I mean Github. Our shop works exclusively with Github, and as a sysadmin, I regularly need to compare different branches both locally and remotely. A sysadmin’s need for a Git app might be slightly different than a developers need. In my case, I’ll work with 20-30 different repos in a week. Where a developer might only work inside one or two. Different apps for different needs. But this app in particular rises to the top when you need to answer the question: “What the fuck is going on with this branch?”

Enter GitX

In my opinion, this app is the GUI that should come default with Git instead of gitk. Sure, you have all of these features available to you at the command line, but GitX helps when there are a lot of changes in the diff. Here is a screenshot of my most-used feature, comparing branches. With the develop branch checked out, you can right click on any branch, local or remote, to easily see the diff between the two.

I really like the way diffs look in GitX too. A lot of apps get this wrong:

This is great when branches already have been committed. But GitX also works really well for developers who haven’t made commits or staged changes yet. The developer that introduced me to GitX says that he pulls up GitX before every commit just to get one last visual before committing changes to the repo. Check out this staging viewer. So awesome to be able to see unstaged and staged changes quickly in a single view, then commit staged items in one fell swoop:

Show Images in Adium with the Adinline Extension

How many times a day do you get a jpg or animated gif in Adium, then have to click the link and open a browser window just to see the image? Life’s a bitch right? Well no more…

That’s right – this free Adium Extension is called Adinline (add inline) and does just what it says: adds messages inline. Note: a few folks have said that clicking the link gives an error. If so, just search for “Adinline” at AdiumXtras.com.