Franz – one app to view them all: What’s App, Telegram, Messenger, Twitter, LinkedIn, GCal etc

Screenshot 1453
I started using an application called Franz recently to help me view an unwieldy load of messages on several platforms for multiple projects. I had used Adium before but it died in 2017 with macOS High Sierra, I think.

Note that this is a desktop application only. 

I love that Franz includes GCal, because scheduling meetings are critical with working groups, volunteers, committees, and recently, reunions. Technology and a soft, persuasive touch help get busy people together, and switching to a person’s favoured platform helps. After all its to help protect the environment and promote harmony!

Switching between services is a keystroke away – I’ve arranged it as Cmd-1 (What’s App), Cmd-2 (Telegram), Cmd-3 (Facebook Messenger), Cmd-4 (Twitter) etc.  Franz can handle emails too but those are much more scary so I restrict those to mail programs. 

Franz is available on multiple platforms at meetfranz.com. 

Franz is multi-platform

 

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Turning off Office Intelligent Services to prevent data access (macOS)

Microsoft Office 365 introduced Office Intelligent Services at least as far back as 2016, These are cloud-enhanced features on the Office applications Word, Outlook, Excel and PowerPoint meant to aid the user. I only noticed this last month, i.e. September 2018, when Office 365 updates on my Macintosh each flashed a window about turning on “Intelligent Services”. I dismissed those but went on to check.

With the Office Intelligent Services option turned on, it appears that document content would be accessed by Microsoft. Even if it is Microsoft policy to not use this data for other purposes, this poses a problem for confidential data. I have kept that data off any cloud service, including the ones provided by NUS. This option, however, circumvents that control of privacy with any Office document.

Happily, Office Intelligent Services can be turned off within the preferences settings of each of the Office applications. Just go to Preferences > Privacy (in earlier versions this is “Security & Privacy”) > unselect Enable services, like so:

Word preferences

Office Intelligent Services

I process student data intermittently, so I keep this option turned off. After checking in on colleagues, a couple of Mac users had this option turned on, without them being aware of having opted in or of its significance. This is a problem, so I’ve suggested to NUS IT that they explain this to users.

It was suggested that I might be prompted every now and then by Office 365 to turn Office Intelligent Services back on. That would be terrible, but it’s been two months since, and not word from the suite!

Switching to macOS Mojave on my MacBook Pro (15″ early 2013)

Time to make the jump to macOS Mojave 10.14 on my early 2013 15″ MacBook Pro. It’s a pre-TouchBar, pre-USB-C 16GB RAM MBP so I am nursing it as long as I can. I’ve made a couple of visits to an authorised Apple Service Provider Care over the years, the last in July to change its battery.

If you were not prompted to update, visit Apple’s Mojave page. See Gizmodo’s “14 Things You Can Do in macOS 10.14 Mojave That You Couldn’t Do Before” [link]. I look forward to the cleaning up of many cluttered desktops amongst my students by Stacks!

My MBP specs
mbp-highsierra

Mojave popularises dark mode; our eyes sure need a rest!
mojave

Back after the jump…

Update: It took an hour

Reduce blue light impact on eyes – at least with Night Shift and F.lux

After reading Lifehacker articles about methods for improving sleep for high-stressed desktop warriors, I used F.lux to reduce blue light at night. It is automatically triggered from sunset to sunrise based on your location. This is available on all platforms.

Well, adjusting screen brightness is important too. And ultimately for a good night’s sleep, stop using a device in bed.

Besides a better snooze, there was also research about harmful effects blue light could cause to the eye. And when I got new spectacles recently, blue filters were already a default provision in the new lenses.

Last week, new research further highlighted the possibility of permanent, irreversible damage to the eye – “Blue light from mobile phones and computers can cause irreversible damage to eyes: Scientific Reports study” [link]. The brief advice there was to “avoid looking at cell phones or tablets in the dark, and wear sunglasses that can filter both ultraviolet and blue light.”

Well, with that, all Mac users should now be keen to trigger Night Shift on their devices – on both iOS and macos). Go to Settings/System Preferences > Display & Brightness/Displays > Night Shift:

Night Shift on iOS
ios-NightShift

Night Shift on macos
NightShift-macos

We will review our use of devices and cut down on mindless scrolling, I hope. But younger users, with long years of exposure ahead of them, will demand better solutions from device manufacturers. Notice has been served.

Reviving my upgraded MacBook Air mid-2012

With my five and a half year old MacBook Pro in the shop for the third time, it was time to revive my mid-2012 Mac Book Air (MBA) which was on hiatus last semester. Having maxed its RAM at purchase to 8GB, and having changed the battery last year, it is in reasonable shape.MacBookAir-revived

The internal hard disk is a fast SSD but small at 500GB. So my most immediate files are on the cloud in Dropbox, GDrive or iCloud (and at work, nBox or the office server). I’ll survive with some discomfort and that will spur me to replace the faulty 1TB SSD I got from from OWC (I bought the kit below). Once I get my replacement, the MBA will be ready for some heavy lifting.

1TB OWC kit

Back up happens by virtue of working on cloud drives, and a background programme, CrashPlan Pro. And just in case, for the most current presentation, I have an emergency 200gb microSD card.

This mid-2012 Mac Book Air has a few ports: one thunderbolt, two USB3 and an SD card port. And I pack thunderbolt adaptors for VGA, HDMI and ethernet with it so that makes it functional in most places.

Some archives are residing on external 4TB and 5TB drives and must be backed up to Crash Plan Pro. Their subscription includes  unlimited backups on multiple devices including external drives, so less e-waste at the user’s end eventually. I tried retrieval off files and its not bad. Important when pulling out relevant photos or videos from a field site ages ago!

If you have old Mac laptop and want a second life with it, check your model (Apple venue > About), and then examine your options at the OWC upgrades page. If your unit is DIY-capable, there are videos to guide you through the process. With the SSD HD and battery upgrades (and some repairs), my laptops are soldiering on in their sixth year and the iMac is doing well in it’s ninth year.

Native Blog Editor, Mars Edit 4.0 to maintain multiple blogs

MarsEdit is a native macOS blog editor which I have used since 2007 to maintain multiple blogs on WordPress (including NUS Blogs) and Blogspot, some with multiple authors.

Webpage editors on desktop and phones have caught up immensely and are useful for a quick fix, but MarsEdit still reigns supreme for heavy duty work.

MarsEdit can switch between rich text and HTML which I had to use with my first blog engine. While I use system-wide Typinator html shortcuts, MarsEdit does provide for this with “Formatting Macros” (Format > Customise).

The SweetSetup has a detailed review of the Dec 2017’s ver 4.0 by Red Sweater.


MarsEdit handles multiple blogs simultaneously, switches between HTML and rich text and has a pre-publication preview.

Don’t panic, your files on Google Drive are safe (only the desktop app retires)

Google really scared us when it announced it was retiring the Google Drive desktop app. Many did not see the original announcement but the many headlines by tech sites which more dramatically suggested that “Google Drive dies!”

Even I blinked when I encountered that with sleepy eyes, so I shared the tweet, asked the question in my mac meetup LINE chat and left for class. When I checked my Facebook thread for responses later, a few friends were upset – was this yet another service which had collapsed?

As it turns out, most friends are not sync-ing files to desktop but only using Google Drive on the cloud. Really then, all of us could have simply ignored this announcement, which Gizmodo explains was really meant to “move enterprise users over to the new Drive File Stream app”.

To summarise:

  • Google Drive on desktop (for those who used this) – retires by March 2018; can be replaced by “Backup and Sync
  • Google Drive mobile (iOS and Android) – unaffected
  • Google Drive (on cloud – unaffected

I wonder how Google Backup and Sync will affect the Singapore-based company Insynchq, which has provided a Google Drive client for file backup all these years.