Advanced Preferences & Settings in Arduino IDE 2

The Arduino IDE 2 has been out for a while, and I’ve gotten used to it. Surprise, it’s another piece of software based on Electron. If you don’t know what that is, it probably doesn’t matter. Just keep going…

The important thing is, if you’ve looked at the preferences for the IDE, you’ll see… not a lot. There are a few things you can change, but wait, there’s more! It’s just hidden.

On macOS hit Command-Shift-P (on Windows it’s probably Window Key-Shift-P, and Linux same, but whatever you folks call the GUI key there.)

Anyway, after hitting those three keys you should see a scrollable and searchable list of stuff. You can scroll and click on something or type in something to filter it a bit more. If you type “User Set” you’ll see “User Settings” and you can click on it.

And Bingo! You’ve got access to the full list of stuff you can change and adjust. Neat!

You can also search for things, like “font” or whatever. I seriously think the greatest advance in software in the past lustrum has been searchable preferences. Anyway, I hope you find this useful.

Oh, and one more thing… If you don’t like any of the (limited) themes in the Arduino IDE you can add your own. See this Personal Themes thread. You can find themes in the Visual Studio Code Marketplace because VSCode also uses Electron. Two words of warning though, some of the themes in the “marketplace” are commercial, or at least “nagware” and will bug you about paying for them. (Which is fine, just making note of it.) The other thing is, I can only assume installing a VSCode theme in something besides VSCode, or just using the “Visual Studio Code Marketplace” for non-Microsoft software violates some Microsoft terms of service or license or such. Because face it, Microsoft still sucks in many ways.


Affinity Photo

Let me start by saying that I’ve used Photoshop for the past thirty years. That’s three decades of using an application. I actually cannot think of an application I’ve been using longer than that. My Photoshop abilities probably helped me get my first real job. That said, my days with Photoshop might be numbered.

As you may know, the world is moving to 64 bit computing. Apple’s latest OS will no longer support 32 bit applications. Since I am not a fan of renting software, I still run Adobe Photoshop CS5 on my Mac OS X 10.12 and 10.13 machines. In 10.14 it will not run. A friend of mine at Adobe told me to “join the cloud” and that I would see lots of new and amazing features, but to be honest, with what I use Photoshop for these days, I don’t need the new and amazing features…

So I’ve got a copy of Affinity Photo, and I’ve been using it, and it’s pretty good, and at some point I’ll dump Photoshop completely (probably when I upgrade to 10.14) though I’ll still use Photoshop if working at places that use it. (And yeah, I rarely trade PSD files with others, though if I need to, Affinity Photo can read & write PSD files.)

I tried Pixelmator years ago but it never really grabbed me and made me feel like it could be my everyday editor, but I’ve actually been very impressed with Affinity Photo. It’s close enough to Photoshop but has its own personality. There are a few things I’m still getting used to, but I am trying to use it anytime I would normally launch Photoshop in an effort to train myself.

With all new software (let alone something you’ve used for decades) it’s often a matter of getting used to things that are slightly different. Like using Windows when you’re used to a Mac, or Canon when you have a Nikon… I’m getting to memorize some of the key commands, and I find a few things annoying, like not putting the focus on the first value in a dialog so I need to remember to hit the tab key before I start typing. Little things, nothing big… The important part is, I can do nearly everything I want to (or need to) do with Affinity Photo that I would have done with Adobe Photoshop.

While I am a huge fan of open source, I’ll also pay a reasonable price for non-open source software if it fits my needs and there is not a viable alternative in the open source world.

If 2020 has done anything so far, it’s introduced me to a lot of new software (and services) through my various jobs and projects this year. I’ll probably post a bit more about software in the future, as it’s been a long time since that’s been a regular feature around here.


*nix is the new *nix


Hey there… Dan Gillmor moved to Linux and it’s even better than he expected!

As for me, I’ve been using Mac OS X pretty much since it came out, and before that I used System 9, 8, 7, etc… Operating systems created by Apple. I’ve also used FreeBSD in the past (though mainly on servers) and I’ve been using Linux in some form or another for close to 20 years. Along the way I’ve also used Windows, though always for work, never for fun.

I’m going to call out a few things Dan mentions, just so I can comment on them.

…here I am, writing this piece on a laptop computer running the Linux* operating system and LibreOffice Writer, not on a Mac or Windows machine using Microsoft Word. All is well.

Luckily you can use LibreOffice on Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux. You can also use OpenOffice on Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux. And hey, you can also run NeoOffice on Mac OS X (sorry Windows and Linux users) which is what I did years ago before OpenOffice ran on Mac OS X.

This brings up a point I’d like to expand on, that even if you run Mac OS X (or Windows) you can almost always lean towards the open alternative that is available. This might mean LibreOffice instead of Microsoft Office, and it may mean Thunderbird instead of, or Firefox instead of Safari.

Other software I use includes jEdit, Arduino, Processing, Fritzing, Inkscape, Audacity, OpenSCAD, and yes… those are all available for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux. You might also notice that (almost) all of the websites listed end with .org, which is telling.

The applications you use all depend on what you do with a computer, and what you use a computer for. I tend to use computers to make things, and luckily the specific things I like to make fit in well with the software I use.

Some of the applications listed above rely on Java. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Java, but it does help a lot of software run on multiple platforms. One of the applications listed relies on an X11, or more specifically, XQuartz. used to be distributed by Apple, but they abandoned it, but that’s okay because XQuartz exists.

One application I use that is not available for Linux is Evernote. I should say “not officially available”, since there is Nevernote and Geeknote. Yeah, often you can find an unofficial client for Linux that might work.

Of course if your work demands you use specific software, you may not be able to exclusively run Linux. Oh well…


No one should ever have to open a command-line window and type “sudo apt-get update” or other such instructions.

I tend to cringe when I see things a computer user should never have to do. I mean, if you want to do X, you may have to learn Y, right? Now, personally, great power comes from being able to open a command line window and type commands. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, though sometimes it is the easier thing to do, if you have the knowledge. If you don’t want to open a command line window and type things, chances are good you won’t have to. (But you should anyway, if you really want to harness the power of your computer. As long as it’s running *nix, I mean. Sorry, Windows users!)

And then…

It’s almost certainly too late for Linux to be a hugely popular desktop/laptop operating system, at least in the developed world.

Maybe, I don’t know… I have seen Linux change over the last two decades, and I’m still excited about what I see.

Dan did say “desktop/laptop operating system”, but let’s look elsewhere. Linux is used on servers, and appliances, and things. What do I mean by “things”? Well, every Raspberry Pi project runs Linux. Here’s 400+ projects running Linux. Here’s a few more projects and some tutorials, all using Linux. I even use Linux computers at work (building exhibits) that just play sounds. Using Linux on a Raspberry Pi makes sense for this, and lots of other things.

Anyway, Dan’s post is good (though it’s strange it’s posted on Medium instead of his own web site, because, freedom and all that) and I’d urge anyone who is not familiar with Linux to take a look at it. It’s pretty awesome. So is open source, and freedom, and the command line.


DokuWiki Yak Shaving


Yak Shaving is described as “any seemingly pointless activity which is actually necessary to solve a problem which solves a problem which, several levels of recursion later, solves the real problem you’re working on” or something like that.

I’m not 100% sure this would be considered yak shaving, but I’m working on something that requires random pages to be served from DokuWiki, just like the built-in function that MediaWiki has. (I used to use MediaWiki, but switched to DokuWiki, and like it much better. We also use it for the Milwaukee Makerspace wiki.)

There is a random page plugin for DokuWiki, which did not work. So I took the existing code, poked at it a bit, mainly by comparing to other plugins that did work and making simple edits, and got it working. (YMMV obviously.)

Because I’m a believer in “doing the right thing” and helping other people in their quest to not reinvent the wheel and stay DRY, I figured there was more to do…

So I emailed the original author of the plugin. I’ve not gotten an email back yet. Also, he (or she) appears to be French, and I’m a stupid American who can’t read French. (I’m not even sure why I mentioned that part.)

Anyway, I was happy that I fixed something so I figured I’d toss it on the old GitHub in case someone else was looking for a random page plugin for DokuWiki that (seems to) work.

Oh, and not content to not mention something I did, I posted the link on Google+, which was picked up by Nils Hitze who mentioned it to Andreas Gohr, who happens to be the author of DokuWiki (who I follow anyway, because he’s a RepRapper too) and he suggested I adopt the (possibly orphaned) plugin.

tl;dr → I fixed the Random Page plugin for DokuWiki. You can grab it from GitHub.

Also, this is how the f’ing Internet works!


3D Modeling Update

3D Model

In the last month I’ve made some progress in my 3D modeling education, so I thought I’d provide an update. (Besides my last post, I got some good feedback on Google+) Oh, and just a reminder, my interest in 3D modeling all has to do with creating objects I can produce with a 3D printer like the MakerBot or the RepRap.

So what am I using (or not using) now? Here’s the list:

Google Sketchup
I’ve made some good progress with Sketchup. A few tutorials (and a lot of playing around) has me creating actual 3D models. You’ll want the STL Importer and STL Exporter to deal with STL files. Sketchup is nice, and I’m sure I’ll end up using it more as time goes on, but it’s not the end of my 3D quest.

Urgh… I’ve made no progress with Blender. Haven’t even tried. I may just wait until we do a Blender class at Milwaukee Makerspace.

Still no Mac OS X version.

3DTin and Tinkercad
I talked about 3DTin last time. I haven’t used it since, but it still seems like a great way for kids to get into 3D modeling. As for Tinkercad, it seems like a more advanced version of 3DTin. Make: Live covered Tinkercad in Episode 17 if you want to check it out.

Say what!? Inkscape is a 2D drawing application. I’m still using it. I’ll often open vector files (SVG) and export them to DXF files and then extrude those to 3D files. Here’s a great Inkscape to OpenSCAD dxf tutorial that explains it all.

I’m still just barely using OpenSCAD, mainly in conjunction with Inkscape as mentioned above. I need to dig in a bit deeper, as time allows.

So what else is there? Well, I found Pleasant3D, which isn’t exactly modeling software, but it’s what ReplicatorG might look like if it were a full-on Mac OS X application. I’ve found it useful on a few occasions.

The other one worth mentioning is MeshLab, which may have some uses when it comes to converting or transforming files. I haven’t created anything with it yet, but it sure looks impressive.

So that’s my 3D modeling software update… Anything new to report from your desktop?