Syncing MarsEdit between multiple Macs using MacDropAny

I just started getting into blogging again, and I rediscovered the fantastic app MarsEdit by Daniel Jalkut at Red Sweater Software. MarsEdit is, in my opinion, the best blogging software out there. It makes the blogging workflow so easy, and I appreciate all of the time and care he puts into the app. I have an iMac at home, and I take my MacBook Air practically everywhere I go. When I write a draft of a post using MarsEdit on one computer, a problem arises because that draft is stored locally on the one machine, and the other machine never sees it because there is no built-in syncing system in MarsEdit (yet!). There are a lot of ways to do this, most of them involving command line foo, but I really like the app MacDropAny by Zibity.

Macdropany main screen

There is really nothing wrong with using the command line, but if you prefer a graphical interface or if you are not comfortable with command line (so that there is no question as to what you just did), MacDropAny will serve you nicely. MacDropAny essentially will take any folder on your Mac and sync it with Dropbox (sort of…it actually makes a symbolic link, which creates a reference to the folder on Dropbox, but the original folder remains outside of Dropbox). MacDropAny also works with many other syncing solutions – go to the website to check it out. It is “donation ware,” which means that it is free to try, and if you would like to support the developer (who is a student at Princeton University), you can make a donation via the app. This is well worth it, so that we continue to see great things come from him!

The first thing that you must do is to turn off syncing on ALL computers with which you want to sync MarsEdit. On Dropbox, for example, you can easily pause syncing using the menubar app. Other sync solutions will have similar mechanisms to pause syncing quickly. Once you are certain that all computers have stopped syncing, you can start MacDropAny.

Macdropany start screen

The interface of MacDropAny attempts to make the process as easy as possible, even for novice users. Just follow the steps! First, you have to choose a folder on your hard drive that you would like to sync. In our case, you want to dive into your user “Library” folder like so: /Users/<Username>/Library/Application Support/MarsEdit, where <Username> is your own user folder. You may have to hold down the “option” key in the Finder’s “Go” menu to access the Library Folder. In the MarsEdit folder, you will note the following structure:

Marsedit file structure

The four folders that you need to sync are: LocalDrafts, PendingUploads, Posts, and UploadedFiles. I may be missing something crucial, but so far this sync solution seems to be working great with these four folders synced. (Sorry, Daniel, if you are reading this and rolling your eyes). Now that you know the folders to sync, let’s get to it! We will start with the LocalDrafts folder. Press the “Choose a Folder” button in the MacDropAny interface, and navigate to the MarsEdit folder in the user Library as above. Choose the LocalDrafts folder, and go to step 2. Make sure that MacDropAny is set to sync with Dropbox (unless you would like to use another sync service that MacDropAny supports). MacDropAny will then set up a folder in Dropbox with which you can sync the LocalDrafts folder. By default, MacDropAny suggests a folder in the main (top level) Dropbox folder. 

Macdropany ready screen

You can either accept the default, or you can use the “Set Folder Name and Location…” button to sync LocalDrafts with a different location in your Dropbox folder. I keep all of my app syncing solutions in a folder called “Apps” in Dropbox, but you can do whatever works for you. When you are sure that everything looks right, press the “Sync” button in the lower right corner of the MacDropAny screen, and you are all set!

Success

When you sync a folder, MacDropAny creates a symbolic link in Dropbox that looks like this (note the folders with the arrows – I have my Documents and Downloads folders synced between my computers as well):

Dropbox folder structure

This folder serves a reference to the original LocalDrafts folder that still resides in the user Library. If you delete or move this folder, the link will be broken, and syncing will no longer occur. In fact, this is exactly how the help section of MacDropAny suggests to stop syncing. If you make a mistake and put the linked folder in the wrong place using MacDropAny, all you have to do is delete the linked folder and go through the steps in MacDropAny as outlined above. This bears repeating: Do not move a symbolic linked folder, or the link will break. Delete the folder and start the process again. 

Now all you have to do is repeat these steps with the remaining three folders: PendingUploads, Posts, and UploadedFiles. To keep things organized, you can tell MacDropAny to place the linked folders in the same folder as LocalDrafts. You are now done with your first computer.

Now you have to repeat the process on the second (and third, etc) computer that you would like to sync. Just make sure that the folder in Step 1 is one of the four folders that you want to sync (located in your user Library folder), and that the location of the linked folder is the exact same folder in your syncing solution (eg, Dropbox) as for the first computer. To clarify, if your symlinked folder in Dropbox on the first computer is in /Users/<Username>/Dropbox/LocalDrafts, make sure you choose the exact same folder path on the second computer. It will be as if you are choosing the same folder again, but remember that this is what you want. If you get an error stating that the folder already exists, the most likely reason is that you forgot to disable syncing on all of your computers prior to starting the process. My advice at this point is to start over at the beginning.

That should be it, and your MarsEdit instances now should be synced. You may have to push “Refresh” on the main MarsEdit interface to see your posts, and they will all be there. Good luck and have fun! 

If you have any questions or feedback, please contact me at @imichaelhenry on Twitter. Until next time!

My PlayHome Hospital is a fun, immersive journey through life in a hospital…and it’s fun for kids too!

As a physician, my life is filled with paperwork, medical equipment, and (to a child) a whole lot of neat-looking machines. My 6-year-old daughter always jumps at the chance to come to the medical offices where I see patients. She loves to see firsthand the patients, the medical workers, and the environment where healthcare is administered. My PlayHome Hospital, an interactive “hospital dollhouse” app from PlayHome Software Ltd, allows you to explore the inside (and outside!) of a hospital in quite a unique and immersive fashion. I occasionally let my daughter play too.   🙂

As soon as you stroll through the main entrance of the hospital, you are greeted by the front desk staff, who can be moved to anywhere in the room. If you place a staff person on a chair, he/she sits down. You can have them answer the phone and accept faxes from the machine in the corner on the left. You can move new people from the top of the screen into the scene – you can place the kids so that they are standing on the desk – just like they do at a real doctor’s office!    🙂

Hospital Lobby

The yellow arrows on the screen direct you to other areas of the hospital, such as the examination room. The interactive elements in this scene are quite remarkable, including the paper towel dispenser, height measurer, and chairs. The sink can be turned on and off. The otoscope and ophthalmoscope (yes, I spell-checked that word!) on the wall can be taken out of their holders and thrown around the room (just like in a real doctor’s office)! Patients can be placed on the examination table (or on top of each other), and the stethoscope on the bookcase can be used to listen to a patient’s heart and lungs. There are bandages in the cupboard beneath the sink, and they can be placed on patients (and the doctor himself). The medications above the sink can be consumed. And yes, the fax machine works.

Doctor Office

Further exploration around the hospital takes us up the elevator to a patient room. Just about anything in the room is interactive. If there is a patient in the hospital bed, the telemetry monitor springs to life. The TV on the wall turns on and off and features a (live and moving!) aquarium scene. When the drapes are closed, the room darkens so that the patient can get some much needed rest (which, if you have ever been admitted to a hospital overnight, you can attest that this NEVER happens). The IV pump also works! These fine details are demonstrative of the time and dedication that the developers took to build this app.

xray

Back down the elevator and down the hall from the gift shop, you will find the emergency department, complete with multiple patient bays. An ER nurse is currently in bed 2 receiving two units of packed red blood cells – and she is still smiling! The computer screen next to the refrigerator shows multiple, clickable screens of patient information. Whoops, it looks like someone left the blood component refrigerator door open! 

ED

Elsewhere in the hospital, you can explore the radiology suite, which has a moving machine – I think it is fluoroscopy, but I cannot be entirely sure. 

xray

What completely blows me away about the details in this app is the animations. For example, when the you place a patient in the bed in the radiology suite, the room darkens, and the machine turns on. When the machine is moved, the computer monitors behind the glass divider indicate what body part will be x-rayed, in real time When the x-ray is taken, a “film” prints out and is available for viewing. A little old school, but still very cool:

x-ray movie

When you walk outside the front door of the hospital, there is an ambulance waiting. You can turn on the lights and sirens and drive away as fast as you can flick the ambulance off the screen! The good news is that the ambulance always comes back slowly to the front entrance, ready to take the next patient somewhere. To the left of the front entrance, you can walk down the path to the My PlayHome School, which is another app in the My PlayHome series. Nice integration there.

lights and sirens

There are several other interactive rooms in the hospital that I have not discussed so that I do not ruin the surprise of discovery. This is a solid app, and I unconditionally recommend it for any child in the 3-8 year old range. The app is available on the App Store for $2.99. The other My PlayHome apps, My PlayHome ($3.99), My PlayHome Stores ($2.99), and My PlayHome School ($2.99) are also available, and they are all universal apps, which means that you make one purchase for both the iPad and iPhone versions. Considering the depth of content and detail in these apps, that it is quite a deal. There is a also a free “lite” version of My Playhome, which has limited functionality, but it serves as an introduction to the platform. The Android version of the apps are available on the Google Play Store, and as of the time of this writing, the My PlayHome Hospital app for Android is not yet available. Please see the developer’s home page for more information.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to go play this game some more and heat up some muffins in the break room   🙂

Let’s try this again…

So, now that I have gone through what seems like sixteen WordPress themes and customizations, I finally settled on something of which I was proud. And it was not WordPress. I gave up. I just could not find the right theme, and I do not know PHP to do some tweaking. That’s not to say that I won’t be tweaking things in the (near) future, but at least I have something with which to start.

I almost joined the Kirby ecosystem, but I ran into the same problem with PHP. Sure there are a few templates available, but I wanted to make this blog my own. I do like Kirby a lot, though, because the flat file system (i.e., no database) was an attractive option. Along those lines, I even dabbled in Octopress and Pelican for a bit, but my lack of knowledge in Ruby and Python (respectively) made for a steep learning curve. Another contender was Qards, but it proved to be a little too cumbersome, especially if I want to use a specialized text editor such as MarsEdit or Desk to edit my posts.

So, I settled on Squarespace. Not sure why I did not go with it from the start. It is elegant, beautiful, easy to use, and I was able to come up with the clean-looking blog I was seeking. So there I was, markdown and all.

And there it sat for 10 months…idle. So, after all this time, I am back to WordPress with a theme that I really like. I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts with you as I learn web and iOS development as I poke around in design as well.

There is a coffee shop where I sometimes go with my laptop to do some coding or to read development blogs, and one of the staff usually comes up to me and says, “Whenever I see you here, all you do is work. Put the computer away and relax!” My response to him is always, “Trust me, this is NOT work. This IS relaxation.” As he walks away bewildered by my response, I think to myself, “I love my hobbies.”