Nerd Corner #61

Octopus, Espanso, and more!

Hi All!

Greetings from San Francisco! The smoke finally cleared last week and we’ve had some amazing days.


What I am reading 📚

I've spent the past week reading all that I could find from Bertrand Russell. If I had to guess he's one of the most prolific writers of the 20th century. I'll do my best to condense what I've been reading about him and provide a summary of what I think is his best writing. But for now, I'll continue digging in.

I don't usually watch TV but over the weekend I watched a fantastic documentary “My Octopus Teacher”.

It tells the (crazy) story of a South African filmmaker who started free diving every day in the Kelp Forest in the Western Cape and he befriended—literally— an octopus 🐙.

Since I don't want to spoil it for you—it is an awesome film, you should watch it—suffice to say that through observing the octopus in his habitat and observing how the underwater ecosystem behaved, the protagonist became more aware of the world around him, and as he says,

"I learned to be in the world not on it".


Nerd Corner 🤓

As I've been playing with Roam Research (really the best note-taking and TODO app I've tried in a while) I found myself constantly copy/pasting the same blocks of text into my notes. And while I have plenty of automations and snippet expansion shortcuts in Vim (my go-to text editor), I didn't have a way to automatically input snippets of text on other apps like my Browser (Roam is just a web app, for now at least).

While we should always try to Stop Optimizing and Start Living, the tasks were getting so repetitive (open a new note -> open a "Metadata" note -> copy relevant block -> paste it into a new note) that I decided to look for snippet or text expansion apps.

As expected, I'm not the only one with this problem. There are plenty of apps to choose from. I surveyed the space and reviewed some of the popular options:

  • Alfred. An all-around and powerful automation tool for macOS. It can do much more than just expanding snippets of text. Costs around 38$.

  • KeyboardMaestro. Another powerful tool that supports text expansion and some other keyboard automation tasks. Costs around 36$.

  • TextExpander. This might be the most popular snippet expansion tool. It only does one thing and does it pretty well. A yearly subscription costs around 40$.

  • Espanso. I discovered this by chance browsing Reddit and I'm glad I did because this is the app I've settled with. Why?

    • It's open-source and free. You can start using it right away. And, if you find yourself using it a lot I'd encourage you to support the developers by donating to the project.

    • It's written in Rust (we're getting deep into Nerd territory now) so it's pretty fast!

    • Configurations are stored in YAML files. They're readable and easy to configure.

    • It's cross-platform so you can take your snippets with you to any major OS.

Now, if I weren't such a nerd, I would have gone for either Alfred or TextExpander, which seem the most mature apps I reviewed.

What about you, do you use any of these tools? I'd love to hear more!


Cool Finds 🤯

  • This video restored my faith in humanity. Whatever you do, do it consciously and with purpose. Enjoy it.

  • This article tells the story of how a random person on the Internet managed to get the passport number and other details of Australia's former prime minister Tony Abbot just by using information he shared on an Instagram post! When it comes to privacy, the best bet is to share nothing on the Internet.

  • One of the reasons I love F1 🏎 is the seemingly absurd amount of tech and engineering that goes into it. This article traces the story and evolution of F1s driving wheels. In any given race drivers are not only speeding as fast as they can but also tweaking more than a hundred settings on their onboard computers 🤯.


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Have an awesome week!

Alberto