Backing Up an iCloud Drive Folder to DropBox

Yesterday, I posted about making the switch from Ulysses to Pages. Today, I’m posting about doing something wicked cool—at least from the perspective of someone who really doesn’t know what she’s doing.

I wanted my Pages documents stored in my iCloud Drive, since that’s what makes it so incredibly easy for me to work with those files, no matter where I’m working from or on which platform. But I also wanted the peace of mind that comes with having those documents backed up by Dropbox.

I didn’t want to work very hard for those backups, however.

I didn’t want to have to save a file in two locations every time I made a change, and I didn’t want to have to keep track of which files had and hadn’t been updated.

So, I did some reading, and came across mentions of something called “rsync”. If you—like the poor, ignorant me who existed several hours ago—have no idea what rsync is, keep reading, because that’s about to change:

It’s a command, run via Terminal on the Mac1, that syncs folders. The ins and outs of it don’t really matter too much for what I wanted to do, so I can’t tell you more than that. There’s plenty of information on the internet, though, and I’ll even help out with some handy links in just a bit.

WARNING:

You should try this out by working with files and folders that don’t matter to you. Please, please, please, don’t risk your nearly-finished 90,000-word manuscript based on my instructions! They’re bad instructions! Bad! I played with folders created just for sussing out what I was doing, and made sure that worked before trying to sync what I actually wanted to sync. (I also made sure I had a separate backup of my Pages documents before trying to sync them for the first time. You should do so, as well.)

Because my knowledge of the subject consists solely of what I needed to know in order to do what I wanted to do, I’m going to get right to it.

In Terminal, on your Mac, type the following:

rsync -avztcp filepathforfolderyouwantsynced/ filepathforfolderyouresyncingto

(Note the trailing slash at the end of the first file path. Without that slash, the folder, itself [rather than just its contents], pops up inside the folder specified by the second filepath.)

You’ll have to “escape” any spaces inside either filepath with a backslash. For example:

/Users/setup/Desktop/sample folder

becomes

/Users/setup/Desktop/sample\ folder

Hit the enter/return key, and whatever files you have stored inside the first folder should be synced to the second folder.

But it’s still a lot of work, having to remember the “-avztcp” bit (especially if you aren’t sure what that means)2, but also having to copy, paste, and modify the filepaths every time you want to sync.

I made a TextEdit file of the entire, properly formatted thing, from the command to the end of the second filepath, so that all I’d have to do is copy and paste once per sync, but that’s still an awkward workaround.

I toyed with Automator a bit, but found it to be too complicated for what I wanted to do.

Especially when AppleScript makes it super-easy!

Poking around a bit online led me to “do shell script”. That particular bit of AppleScript lets you run Terminal commands from the application or script that you’re creating in Script Editor. Follow it up with whatever it is you want to run in Terminal (within quotes, please, thanks), and you’ve reduced your workflow to double-clicking an icon on the desktop.

Theoretically, anyway.

The problem is that AppleScript wants you to escape your escape, so anywhere you’ve escaped a space by adding a backslash, you need to add another one:

/Users/setup/Desktop/sample\ folder

becomes

/Users/setup/Desktop/sample\\ folder

The entire thing in Script Editor should look like this:

do shell script "rsync -avztcp filepathforfolderyouwantsynced/ filepathforfolderyouresyncingto"

Or:

do shell script "rsync -avztcp /Users/setup/Desktop/sample\\ folder/ /Users/setup/Desktop/sample\\ folder2"

Run the script. Make sure it does what you want it to do, then save it to your Script Editor folder in iCloud Drive.

Once that’s done, export the script to your desktop as a run-only application. This will be your happy little sync button, just waiting to be double-clicked!

Find an awesome icon to go with the awesome thing you’ve just created, just to make clicking it that much more fun. (I went with the Ghoul icon from Anthony Piraino’s Creeps set.)

After that’s done, it’s time to strut around the house quoting Vanilla Ice to your SO:

If there was a problem
Yo, I’ll solve it

Then go give a look to all of the the articles and posts below, because you’ve taken enough advice from someone who’s unqualified to give it:


Chriswrites.com – How To Sync Files and Folders on the Mac

Ask Enrico – Data: Copy or sync?

StackExchange – Unix & Linux – How to rsync over ssh when directory names have spaces

Oracle.com – Handling Special Characters

Stack Overflow – Java – Expected “”” but found unknown token

Alvin Alexander – AppleScript application – How to save a script as an application


1. Or however you access a command line on other systems, I suppose.
2. I lifted it from the linked Ask Enrico page. I know that it doesn’t delete my files, and I’m good with that.

So Long, Ulysses! Hello Pages? Maybe?

Yesterday, my favorite writing app converted to a subscription model.  The announcement post on the official Ulysses blog was accompanied by an explanatory post on Max Seelemann’s Medium. And I spent most of the day—when I wasn’t doing housework or feeding my growing Tales to Terrify addiction—reading reactions to Ulysses’ new direction, wondering when Scrivener 3 will be released, and moving my copious collection of incomplete texts from Ulysses to Apple’s own Pages.

I’m not a fan of the software as a service model (SaaS). I loved AutoDesk’s Sketchbook Pro. I still have Sketchbook Pro 6 installed on my Mac. But I didn’t, haven’t, and probably won’t ever sign up for the subscription version of Sketchbook.

That said,  Sketchbook at least offers regular brush downloads for the subscription version of their software.

As someone who purchased both the Mac and iOS versions of Ulysses, the only thing I would get out of converting to Ulysses’ subscription model is… drum roll, please… the chance to pay more for software I already own? As I understand it, there are no changes to the software’s functionality, other than the conversion to a subscription model and a redesigned icon, so I’m having a really hard time seeing what my motivation might be to make the switch.

(For those of you who’ve only purchased the Mac version, or no version at all, there is a potential benefit: The subscription version of Ulysses includes both the Mac and iOS versions. The cost of a year’s subscription is less than I paid to buy both versions of the non-subscription software.)

(Yay, you.)

So, while I’m waiting for the release of Scrivener 3 (because who wants to buy an app that’s soon to see a major update), I’m feeling my way around Pages. And I’m finding that, despite my reluctance, there are some benefits to actually using my Mac’s built-in word processing software:

  1. It’s built-in. Done paid for. Came with the system.
  2. It doesn’t feel as heavy and awkward as it used to. I don’t remember why it used to feel that way. Maybe it’s just a difference between using it on my wife’s ancient MacBook Pro and our aging-but-beefy iMac. Truly, I don’t care why.
  3. I can work on the same files on my iMac, my iPad, my iPhone, or any computer or device that will give me access to iCloud via browser.
  4. One of my favorite features of Ulysses was the ability to password protect the app. Pages allows me to password protect, or not, each document. I think I prefer this path to security, since not every bit of text is password-worthy.
  5. The odds are slim that Apple will convert Pages to a subscription model.
  6. Pages handles comments in a manner that is more useful, in a visual sense, than Ulysses handles notes. I was surprised by this. It made me wish I’d played around with Pages more than I have.

The real downside of Ulysses changing horses mid-stream isn’t that I’m abandoning my favorite writing software—actually, one of my favorite pieces of software, ever, regardless of purpose. I’ve found myself with a new enthusiasm for certain pieces of my own unfinished work. I found myself willing to miss a bit of sleep, last night, just to re-read and make small edits to story bits I haven’t looked at in months.

So the change, itself, appears to be a positive.

But, despite the breath I’m holding for Scrivener 3, I’m also casting a bit of side eye toward its developers, Literature and Latte; not because of anything they’ve done, yet, but because I’m wondering when/if the subscription model will come for them, too.

And I’m feeling a whole lot more reluctant to pay more than a few bucks for software when it’s becoming more and more likely that those bucks will multiply in perpetuity.

Fire-Breathing Foo Dragon?

Fire-Breathing Foo Dragon drawing
Fire-Breathing Foo Dragon drawing on 8×8 watercolor block.

I started this drawing on June 26th, and finally finished it yesterday. I used an array of materials, but this piece is a direct result of picking up my first batch of Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pens in colors that aren’t grey, black, or white. Playing around with these pens hearkens back to my childhood, when cheap watercolor markers from a dime store or big box were my go-to tools.

But PITTs are filled with India ink. These are high-quality pens with high-quality inks, and they’re just as much fun as those dime-store markers were way back when.

(Pro-tip: PITT Artist Pens are not alcohol markers. They are not the same thing as Copic markers. They don’t blend in the same way that alcohol markers do, and—thank Tao—they aren’t the instant headache that alcohol markers are.)

PITT pens aside, I also used Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils on this drawing, along with Winsor & Newton inks, a Derwent Graphik Line Maker (or two), and maybe even a Caran d’Ache Luminance 6901 pencil.

I used a T-square when I was setting this drawing up, which was, stupidly, a new experience for me. Use your T-squares, people, and your compasses, too!

The whole mess happened on a Fluid 8×8 cold press watercolor block.

(Watercolor blocks, by the way, regardless of brand, are neck and neck with smooth Bristol in the race to be my favorite work surface. They’re great for exploring wet mediums, in particular, as long as those wet mediums aren’t also especially sharp. For me, pretty much everything except for my metal-nibbed dip pens are good to go on a watercolor block.)

And, in the end, I’m still not sure what I’ve drawn.

Is it an off-brand dragon?

Mutated foo dog?

If you could see me as I write this post, you’d see me shrugging.

I don’t much care what it is, because what it was was a whole lot of fun!

Dw i eisiau canu.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I Duolingo in the bathroom.

Regardless of where it happened, I’m happy to share that I just learned the Welsh verb for “to sing”.

It’s important to note, though, that I learned it right before getting into the shower.

And my brand new song goes a little something like this:

Dw i eisiau canu,
Dw i’n hoffi canu,
Dw i’n mynd canu

Except that I’ve used variations in the contractions for the “dw i”/”dw i yn” bits, so the song sounds more like this:

Dwi eisiau canu,
Dw i’n hoffi canu,
Dwi yn mynd canu

My apologies to any Welsh-speakers offended by my mangling of their language.

Further apologies to any neighbors wondering who the hell “Connie” is.

Bravo, Vivaldi!

I’ve been using the  Vivaldi browser on my Mac for two or three weeks now. There are plenty of things that I love about Vivaldi, but there are also a couple of reasons that I’ve been hesitant to trust the browser enough to blog about it or to make it my default browser. They are as follows:

Vivaldi browser Chrome Safe Storage popup
2nd Vivaldi browser Chrome Safe Storage popup

The second of these messages only appears once I’ve clicked “Allow” for the first. They would go away, entirely, if only I would click “Always Allow” on both pop-ups, but frankly, these messages skeeve me out a bit, and I haven’t worked up the gumption to give the browser permanent access.

But it seems that Vivaldi has at least one security leg up on Chrome, a feature that it shares with Apple’s Safari, and sorta-kinda shares with Firefox (once its user has tweaked one about:config parameter).

What I’m talking about is Punycode. I’d never heard of Punycode until the 14th of this month, when Wordfence posted about phishing attacks where domains are made to look not just similar to, but identical to other, trusted domains.

As pointed out in the Wordfence post, Internet Explorer and Safari browsers aren’t vulnerable to this type of domain spoofing. Firefox is vulnerable, but also easily fixable. With Chrome, however, you get to wait for Google to roll out a fix.

I assumed that since Vivaldi is based on Chromium, it, too, would be vulnerable to this type of spoofing.

Nope!

You can take my word for it, you can read the forum post which corrected my assumption, or you can test it out via Wordfence’s “epic”1
(har, har) proof-of-concept domain for yourself (see link four paragraphs up).

Regardless of source, the point is that Vivaldi is, in this instance, a more secure bit of bytes than Google’s established browser is. And if that helps me justify my preference for a still-baking browser which changes colors to match whatever site I’m visiting and provides me with a well-organized internet experience, all while providing a better extension experience than Safari and being miles more on fleek2 than Mozilla’s present offering?

That’s a reason to post.


1. As an aside, my wife has made three trips to the real Epic’s campus in Verona, Wisconsin, this year, and is currently completing her certifications in a whole bunch of stuff that I barely understand. Mazel tov, honey! (This footnote will only make sense if you read the Wordfence article, BTW.)

1. Get off my lawn. And off my slang, too. Damned kids.

Many Happy Returns

I used to have nightmares all the time: ghosts, devils, demons, vampires, holocausts, extraterrestrials with evil intent… Then I started getting stuck in my dreams, aware I was dreaming, and trying, but unable, to wake myself up. The latter type of dream was, generally, more terrifying than the former.

I don’t have either of those dreams, anymore. I don’t have them because my mom spent a few years suffering with dementia, and then she passed away, and nothing in my experience—not even my imaginary experience—has been worse than that.

My “nightmares”, these days, reflect that reality.

Typically, I dream that I’m in California with my wife (I am), but that I left Mom in Missouri to come out here. (I did not.) I dream that I’m on the phone with her, but can’t get to her, and she isn’t making sense, and apparently, no one back home is looking out for her. She’s on her own and unaware that she’s unable to take care of herself.

Or I dream that I’ve gone to visit her in Missouri, and the situation is the same, except I’m trying to convince her to come to California with me, and she is refusing.

I don’t wake up afraid to ever sleep again. Not like I used to.

I only wake up heartbroken and guilty, and maybe afraid that my waking reality isn’t what I think it is; maybe there’s some reality where what I’ve dreamt is true.

I understand, now, why some people insist that (a) higher power(s) exist(s), and that the(se) higher power(s) ensure(s) a pretty swanky afterlife built around being reunited with loved ones previously passed.

And my own understanding, my own wishful thinking, makes me more certain than before that it probably isn’t the case.

Meanwhile, I have flowers delivered on holidays. I keep flowers on the memorial that my wife helped me to build in our dining room, too. It’s where I keep the small portion of my mom’s ashes that were separated out to stay with me.

I light a flameless candle every night, and say “Good morning” every morning.

I am vigilant, having missed only two nights—excepting the trip that my wife and I took home to have Mom’s funeral and to bury the larger portion of her ashes in the cemetery next to my dad—lighting that candle in the three years since the ashes were passed to me outside Anaheim’s own Melrose Abbey Mortuary.

I don’t think I’m grieving correctly.

I don’t think I ever will.

I have trouble with letting go. But that’s not why I’m writing this.

I’m writing this in part because I had one of those dreams just a couple of days ago.

I’m writing it, now, because today is my Aunt Bessie’s birthday.

Aunt Bessie was one of my mom’s two sisters, and they were close. They shared an inherent forthrightness I haven’t seen much of since moving to California, and I wonder, sometimes, if that’s why it’s taken this state—this neighborhood that I live in—so long to feel like home.

I was close to Aunt Bessie, too, despite being hundreds of miles away when she passed.

And if I’m wrong—if there is some sort of family-reunion style afterlife, and that afterlife has internet access—I’d just like to say happy birthday, Aunt Bessie! I love and miss you!

Tell Mom that I love and miss her, too!

Triggered by On Writing

I’m reading Stephen King‘s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

I’ve been reading it forever. That’s admittedly hyperbole, but I’ve been reading it for a very long time.

I was book poor, not too many years ago. Along with being food poor, and rent poor, and well… You can extrapolate from there. Now, I have what (falsely) feels like access to ALL THE BOOKS (!), and I tend to try to read a bunch of them simultaneously.

It’s a wonderful problem to have, but it’s a horrible approach for reading to done.

I just got to the part where Stephen got the call about the paperback rights to Carrie going to Signet Books.

(No spoiler, there, right? You knew Carrie was a paperback?)

I ended up having to read it through tears.

Dude, I felt your relief!

I really didn’t expect to be reading a book that I picked up for writing advice—something I hoped would be closer to text-book than autobiography, I guess, despite the contradictory subtitle—as a human interest story.

And I didn’t expect to like Stephen King more in response to his non-fiction than I already did for writing things like The Stand, Bag of Bones, and Revival.

Thanks, universe, for that lovely literary surprise!

Thanks, too, for presenting it at a time when I can most appreciate it!

A Poodle on the Parkway!

Updated on March 31st, 2017. See footnote below.

My wife and I had a quiet Sunday morning planned: Our big dilemma was choosing between taking Nena for a stroll around Pearson Park, or heading to Costco, where only we humans would exercise. Either way, Nena would have to take her morning constitutional, so we decided to do that in lieu of making an actual decision.

Stray poodle on the parkway
What a cutie!

When we got outside, we spotted a small, white dog sitting on the parkway next to one of the buildings in our development. At first, I thought it was Kennedy, one of our neighbor dogs. But this dog was both too big and too curly to be the tiny Maltese. Besides, Kennedy would have run to Nena, and this dog didn’t approach us, at all.

She didn’t want me to approach her, either. If I got too close, she’d run away. Then she’d stare back at me, once she’d reached a comfortable distance.

We eventually got close because she wanted to get close to Nena, and because my wife is apparently less threatening than I am.

I’ll skip over the long, slow process of getting Nena upstairs while keeping the stray downstairs, getting the new dog harnessed and leashed, photographed, and offering (refused) food. But all of that happened. I’ll skip, too, over walking the neighborhood, ringing doorbells, talking to neighbors and the folks at the nearest grooming parlor, crating the dog, and taking her to the closest vet for a (non-existent) microchip scan.

Stray poodle in our lobby
Not only is she a cutie, but she’s also well-mannered enough to pose for this picture!

I’ll get right to the point:

If not for the gracious presence of one Miss Nena Patina Woodfin-Mah, this little lost dog would probably be hanging out at our condo while we sort of half-assed look for her people. But we are graced with that presence, and Nena enjoys being da bombdiggity solo dog, yo.

We ended up taking the dog to OC Animal Care, where, in a few of days, she’ll be eligible for adoption. The folks there think she’s about 3 years old and 12.5 lbs (that’s twelve and a half, y’all, not one-hundred-twenty-five). She isn’t spayed, at the moment, but will be before she’s available. If you’re interested in adopting this cute, smart, energetic, curious, miniature poodle (poodle mix?), check out her page at OC Animal Care you’re too late!1


1. On March 30th, the little dog was moved to OC Animal Care’s “Happily Ever After” page!

I just deleted my only “story” from Medium.

I had been considering moving it here, anyway; but, this morning, I read how Medium has begun offering subscriptions, and that solidified the decision for me. Medium is a lovely platform. But $5/month buys me a Duotrope subscription, and if my writing is going to be on a sub-based site…

Well, I’d like to get something out of it.

I suspect that the subscription model wouldn’t have any effect on access to my post, anyway, even accounting for a model which limits how many stories a non-subscriber can access.

But that really isn’t the point.

The point is ownership.

And as the owner of said content, I want you to be able to read it for free, if you’re so inclined. (Or to pay me, if someone is getting paid.)

Now, you can do exactly that right here.

The “read it for free” part, I mean.

The “pay me” bit still only exists in my head, in some far-distant future, uncluttered by fluff.

A Few Pointers On Choosing a Web Host

A fellow Zazzler recently posted to the Zazzle forums about how the site she’d had for years was, due to the actions/inactions of her host, no longer working for her. She wanted to know where she should host her site, was willing to pay a significant amount for hosting, but didn’t want to spend too much time learning new things. This led to several pages of discussion on the forum, a misfire based on what seemed outdated information, and—as far as I know—no real resolution.

The problem with getting hosting advice like this is that even a fantastic host will be ill-suited to some sites—and some users—and there’s enough subjectivity involved in a hosting decision that making a blanket recommendation is, generally, a bad idea.

There are a few conditionals which hold temporarily true, though, that can help you to decide, for yourself, which host might best suit your needs.

  1. If you aren’t technically inclined, and you lack the desire to learn, but are willing to pay, and would like to easily build a clean, beautiful, mobile-friendly site with SSL, check out Squarespace. They are a niche of their own: high-quality, easy-peasy site-building. You don’t need to know anything about PHP, CSS, or HTML. Squarespace support has always been both prompt and helpful, and they offer a 14-day free trial. (You don’t need a credit card to start that trial, either. It really is risk-free.) Two weeks is plenty of time to see what Squarespace can do for you, what you can do with it, and if those two things make for a good fit.
  2. If you aren’t technically inclined, but are willing to learn, NearlyFreeSpeech.net is a great host. With a basic NFS account, you will not get standard support. You can post and search the support forums, or look through the various articles posted to the site (including a detailed pair on setting up WordPress), but don’t expect to open a ticket when something goes wrong. Don’t expect NFS to solve the problem for you. (NearlyFreeSpeech offers accounts with more traditional support, but I haven’t used it, so I can’t speak to its quality.) Other things you shouldn’t expect at NearlyFreeSpeech include cPanel, file managers, and installers. But you can expect SSL (if you want it), SSH, SFTP, and WP-CLI. I’ve gotten real cozy with my Mac’s Terminal since hosting at NearlyFreeSpeech, and I’ve come to see the learning as part of the service. I’m pretty sure I’d miss that aspect if I were to move to a typical host. I recommend joining the free bandwidth beta if you go the NFS route, and getting yourself a quality SFTP app.1
  3. If you want your site built on WordPress, but not at WordPress.com, look for a host with WP-CLI installed. WordPress.org maintains a list of hosts with WP-CLI installed by default. That makes this bit of advice easy to follow! I know that some folks aren’t comfortable working from a command line–I wasn’t, either, initially–but WP-CLI is great for installing and maintaining a WordPress site. I don’t think I’d ever want to go back to working with WordPress without it.
  4. Your site should mobile-friendly and secure.  The former will probably be determined by platform, and by decisions (i.e., themes, templates, design) made within that platform, while the latter is more host-specific. Don’t host your site where it can’t be made mobile-friendly, by whatever means; and don’t host where you can’t install certificates, also by whatever means.
  5. Your site should be portable. If you’re coding it yourself, bravo! Do what you will! But if you’re working through any sort of other-built CMS2, you should be able to export content into a format which can then be imported to a different platform. If your posts will export to XML or TXT format, that’s great! It won’t necessarily make changing hosts/platforms easy, but it can make it a hella3 less painful than moving everything by hand.
  6. If you’re braver than I am, check out Digital Ocean. I’m curious about those “droplets”, but I don’t feel like I have the background to make a sound decision about hosting a site there.
  7. If you have the technology at hand, hop into a time machine, and jump back to that glorious time when TypePad was still owned by Six Apart, and Six Apart had yet to cross paths with Video Egg.
  8. If you don’t have the technology at hand, understand that #7 in this list is here to illustrate that time changes both technology and hosts, programming languages evolve, platforms become obsolete, companies are bought and sold, and that great hosting advice given today may be horrible advice tomorrow.

1. See more about my experiences with NearlyFreeSpeech here: MAC BACKUPS AND LOCAL WORDPRESS: A READING LIST and here: THESE AREN’T RESOLUTIONS.
2. Content Management System
3. As a non-native Californian, I feel obligated to start using this word.