Turning inner space into outer space

September 14, 2023

The bad news about news

A quick relief from anxiety is to remind yourself of the here and now. For most of us, most of them time, the here and now is just fine. You just have to tune into it.

The news, on the other hand, is always about something that happened somewhere else. And often it's something that happened in the past. Or it's a warning about something that could happen in the future.

If you read the news, you take a risk. You move yourself out of the here and now.

Let's take an example.

Let's say there are forest fires nearby, and a lot of smoke has blown into town. Visibility and air quality are poor. This is not a great situation, but if you're relaxing on the couch in your house, you're fine.

Now let's add news to the mix.

You read an article where a prominent scientist is quoted as saying forest fires are getting more intense and more frequent due to climate change. This trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

OK, now you're in future where things are really bad. Summers are filled with smokey days. There's no escape because there's fires all over the place. And who knows what else.

I'm on another news-cation — one of a few I've been on since 2020. The here and now is good. I might make this one indefinite.

August 7, 2023

Re-writing headlines so they make sense

Sometimes when I look at the news, everything that doesn't address climate change seems like a waste of time. With an world-wide life-and-death emergency going on, why are we not totally focused on this one thing?

So I took some of today's world headlines from CBC and updated them so they make more sense.

August 3, 2023

Facebook and Google no longer linking to Canadian news? Good riddance!

So Google and Meta have decided to retaliate against Canadian online news legislation by not linking to Canadian news stories.

I say, fuck 'em.

Not because I think the legislation is any good. It's too little too late. The erosion of local news in Canada may well be beyond repair.

No, it's because there are plenty of other news sources to choose from that are just as good if not better.

In fact, as far as Facebook is concerned, thank God they're getting out of the Canadian news business. When you get a link to "news" on Facebook, it could be coming from anywhere. Unless you're vigilant, you could find yourself going down all kinds of misinformation rabbit holes.

A world without news on Facebook is a better world.

And as for Google, please try to remind yourself that there are other search engines that also have news tabs.

Duck Duck Go not only provides you with news, but also respects your privacy. This article at Search Engine Land lists no less that 21 alternatives.

I've been using Ecosia, and helping to raise money to plant trees with every search.

Search on Google is going downhill anyway. It's been so thoroughly gamed by advertisers that it's almost impossible to find meaningful results.

So, yeah, let's call their bluff. If Google stops providing news links — in other words, actively makes its service even worse — switch to a different search engine.

You'll be glad you did.

July 17, 2023

The best social media alternative is no social media

There's been a lot of controversy lately at Twitter and Reddit, resulting in plenty of articles about alternatives. I've tried some of them, and I have to say they're just fine. Mastodon is a fine alternative to Twitter. Lemmy is a fine alternative to Reddit.

But I've been thinking there might be an even better alternative.

That's because I still find myself getting sucked into worrying about issues I have no control over. I know they exist, I wish they didn't. I don't, for example, need reminders about climate change — all I have to do is look out the window.

What I really need are alternatives that help me chill for awhile. Or at least only be involved in things I do have control over. And those alternatives are not social media. Here are a few that work me.


If you're used to scrolling and scanning, then reading a book will take some adjustment. But hang in there — it's worth it. I just finished a 350-page novel that left me floored with the twists and emotions at the end. The payoff was much more satisfying than a bunch of memes.

Even better, I'm reading this as part of a book club, so I get to discuss it with them later. And no, you don't need an app for a book club. Some friends or co-workers will do just fine.

As a change of pace, I'm delving into a non-fiction book, and I'm already three chapters in. Believe me, this was not an easy transition. You can't scroll and scan a book. You have to read and comprehend pretty much every word.

For some reason, book authors have largely escaped the huge dumbing-down created by social media. I know they're under pressure to crank out a blockbuster series because publishers don't think they'll make enough money from a standalone book. Despite this, there are a lot of great writers today who easily stand shoulder-to-shoulder with great writers throughout history.


You might be thinking you need Facebook or Instagram to keep in touch with friends. Technology does make this easier, but there's no need to upload all your personal data in return for a free app. Instead, use email with this one simple trick — contact groups.

I use the Contacts app that comes with all Macs, but I'm sure there are plenty of other apps that do something similar. If I want to contact everyone in the club I belong to, I drag and drop the name of the contact group into the "To:" section of my email app, write my message and hit Send. People who want to respond to the group use "Reply All".

Nobody needs to sign up for anything. Nobody needs instructions.

RSS feeds

You'll need an app for this, but there are free ones that respect your privacy. For Mac users, I recommend NetNewsWire.

With RSS, you can subscribe to whatever news sources you want. It doesn't even have to be news — you could subscribe to newsonaut if you were so inclined.

You can arrange the feeds however you want, and read them in chronological order. They're all treated equally — same size heading, for example — so you can decide for yourself which is most important.

With some configuration, you may be able to read the entire article in the app without visiting the website it come from. In other words — no ads!

RSS is not great for breaking news, but ask yourself: other than idle curiosity why do you need to know right now about something that doesn't affect you? It can wait. And if it does affect you, you'll find out soon enough.


I wish I wrote more, because it really is a good way of getting things out of your system. It's sort of like going on stage. You're nervous as hell right up until the time you step out — then everything is fine.

My writing outlet is is this blog. I coded it myself and host it on a shared server. While I certainly advocate this over Facebook because it puts you are in charge of your own content, I realize it's not that easy for many people.

So if it needs to be Facebook, the go for it. Just try to make it a little more in-depth, a little more original. And remember there are other alternatives such as Tumblr and WordPress.

Or maybe, just maybe, an IRL journal.

The best advice I can give on writing is to put down the words, and keep putting them down, until they make you happy.

May 8, 2023

The other places to find free Mac apps

They say nothing in life is free, but I've done my best to create a collection of Mac apps that are indeed free. At thriftmac, I'm closing in on 300 apps that can be used forever with all their features and no strings attached.

It would be more accurate to say that few things in life are free. In this case, I can think of only two other sites with collections of free Mac apps, and both also have paid apps.

The best of the two is It claims to have 800+ menu bar apps, with a collection of about 350 that are free. I like the fact that it's curated — not just a dump of every Mac menu bar app in existence.

The site is ad free, which is refreshing and perhaps a little suspicious. I know people might wonder why there are no ads on thriftmac. The reason is because it's a hobby that I've enjoyed over the years. Also, I don't like ads on other sites, so why would I foist them on my visitors? does collect analytics but that could be just curiosity to know who's visiting. I've done the same myself.

The other site offering a collection of free Mac apps is MacUpdate. Under Recently Updated, click on See All, then choose Free under Price. You can further refine your search by category, when the apps were updated, popularity and downloads. As of this writing, you start off with 4,873 apps.

There will never be thousands of apps on thriftmac. I select the apps that I think are well crafted and will be widely appreciated. I currently have a list of about 30 candidates that I'm not sure about adding.

Yes, my selection is biased, but it is my site — and I'm happy for people to make suggestions.

December 26, 2022

How to sign up for a free trial without fear

A truly free app in the App Store is a rare thing. Most have in-app purchases. In some cases, you have to sign up for a free trial right away if you want to use the app at all.

Yes, it's scammy, but this is the world we live in. The thing I fear most with a free trial is that I will forget to cancel before it ends and wind up with a charge on my credit card. These charges can be pretty expensive — over a hundred dollars in some cases.

So how do you sign up without fear? Right after you sign up, go straight to your list of subscriptions and cancel. The free trial will keep going for as long as it would have, and it will end automatically without you getting charged a cent.

Don't worry, you'll get plenty of reminders continuing past the trial. Apps may be hit and miss about reminding that you're about the be charged, but there's no doubt you'll get reminders about un-cancelling.

December 11, 2022

Three-finger dragging is awesome

It was sore fingers that finally convinced me to try Apple's Magic Trackpad. Now I wish I hadn't waited so long.

With a few deft swipes and taps, the trackpad can do anything a mouse can do — what a revelation! You don't have to grip it, move it around or click it. I can't believe how easy it is.

The thing that really blows me away is three-finger dragging. I sometimes have to highlight, copy and paste a lot of text, and didn't relish the though of clicking and holding while pulling down. Three-finger dragging comes to the rescue.

With this enabled, you just move your cursor to where you want to start, then drag with three fingers until you have everything you want highlighted. Some instructions say you need to click at the start, but you don't even have to do that.

System Settings > Accessibility > Mouse & Trackpad > Trackpad Options. Enable dragging and select three-finger drag.


November 19, 2022

I was wrong — Twitter is useless for news

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how you can use Twitter for news even if you don't have an account. It was my attempt at making it easier to delete your account if the only thing holding you back is breaking news.

I was wrong.

With Twitter getting ever more toxic, searching a subject for news has become useless. You'll get news, but it will be mixed in with an ugly mess of hate and misinformation. Unless you're someone who enjoys watching barroom brawls, it's not a pretty sight.

And it's not just my imagination that things are getting worse. Researchers at a digital civil rights group have found an increase in racial slurs. It's probably because the moderation system has fallen apart.

The thing about the misinformation is that is doesn't always come from trolls. Often it's just ordinary people repeating rumours they hope are true. They find evidence that their side is winning and want to share it with the world. Sometimes they will warn that it needs to be backed up, but you can still find yourself going down a rabbit hole that leads nowhere.

I haven't deleted my account, but I have deleted the app. And I have joined Mastodon.

As for the news, my advice as always is to find an RSS feed reader and subscribe to news sites you trust. Breaking news might take a day or two longer to get to you, but at least you'll know it comes from a reliable source.

November 5, 2022

You don't need a Twitter account for Twitter news

One of the main reasons many people stick with Twitter is that it offers a stream of breaking news. If you can't wait to know about the latest developments in, for example, an election, Twitter news updates are as good as it gets.

But if that's the only reason you're maintaining a Twitter account, feel free to delete it. Go to and log out. You'll be left with Explore and Settings. Explore has a News tab with links to trending news developments. Chances are, the news you want will be one of these. If it isn't, use the search bar. This works even for local news — just search the community you're interested in. Adding a hash tag can be helpful.

This is where I'm at right now. I haven't deleted my account, but I'm logged out. Whether I go ahead and delete the account is up to the new owner. I'm keeping a close eye on what Twitter turns into.

July 2, 2022

Unread 3 makes it a pleasure to read your RSS feeds

For several years, RSS has been my main source of news. And for several years, Reeder has been my RSS app of choice.

But then I heard about Unread 3 and decided to give it a try. It is slick! I feel disloyal for saying this, but I'm pretty sure I'll never go back to Reeder.

What's so great about Unread? Let me tell you.

Most impressive is the interface. I find myself using it even when I'm not that interested in the latest news. I just love the way everything looks and feels.

The app makes extensive use of swiping left or right. This means the feeds take up all of the viewing area on an iPad. Each article has a nice big heading, a picture and a full-paragraph summary — it's never truncated.

And if you tap to read the full story, you automatically go into reader mode — a presentation of the article without the ads or cruft commonly found on websites.

It really does make reading enjoyable.

There is one drawback, though — no Mac version. I almost always opt for my iPad to read the news, but there is the odd occasion when I want to read it on my Mac.

This means syncing with Reeder for Mac is a bit of a problem, but it can be overcome. I've been using Unread's own cloud service for syncing, but of course this only works with Unread. To get around this, a person could instead opt for one of several third-party services such as Feedly.

I've used Feedly in the past and don't recall any issues with it, so it's something to keep in mind.

One thing that took some getting used to with Unread was long presses. For example, if you want to remove an account or open it in a new window, you need to long press the name of the account.

In a way this is a good thing because it takes advantage an interface action unique to iOS. So I consider myself educated.

There's no real disadvantage to downloading Unread and trying it out. It's mostly free. A subscription gets you widget customization, article actions, caching, custom app icons and premium support.

Article actions include sharing articles via email. I'm not sure why, but I'm able to do this with a long press despite not being a subscriber.

If you do subscribe, it's $20 a year. Reeder, on the other hand, has up front pricing without a subscription ($10 for Mac, $5 for iOS). They ask you to pay again for a major upgrade. In the past, I've happily done this because it's an app I use a lot and I want to support the developer. I may wind up subscribing to Unread for the same reason.