Control Google Play Music in Chrome with System Wide Hotkeys Using Alfred

If you use a Mac and don't already use Alfred then download it now. Seriously, stop reading this and download it now :). A Mac without it is unusable for me. This is especially true since the release of Version 2 with the Powerpack add on.

At its core, Alfred is an application launcher that replaces OS X's Spotlight. It has come after earlier generations of similar products including Quicksilver and Butler among others. However, Alfred is much more than an app launcher. A lot of the power comes from the Powerpack add on ( £15) which allows to create complex workflows (which can be download from the Alfred community).

On my favorite workflows is controlling Google Play Music in Chrome (but also supports Safari) with hotkeys - download here. Thx to Steven La for creating it!

Below is a screenshot from Alfred and the hotkeys I've set. I'm now able to use hotkeys to go to previous/next and play/pause system wide. I don't have Google Play Music as the active tab in Chrome or even have Chrome as the active app. Also with Google's Notification Center (requires Chrome 29 beta) you'll get the nice system wide track info alerts as well (screenshot below). 


Alfred Preferences for Workflow

Chrome Beta 29 Notification Center

Shipped: StoryBots Learning Videos for iPhone and iPad


I'm really excited to have been product owner on my fourth StoryBots app Learning Videos. The previous apps I worked on include Tap & Sing, ABC Videos and Share Timer.

Learning Videos is an universal app (iPhone and iPad) that will be the central hub for a our video library. It's the place where StoryBots customers will be able to watch our videos on iOS for years to come.

Building this app was a lot of fun and something I'm really proud of for a version 1.0. First and foremost, we implemented our newest design/UX changes. We've been hard at work in building a brand style guide to ensure design and UX is consistent across all apps (and soon to be website). As we move fast building out a library of apps to support the subscription business model we needed to ensure we invested the time in building brand consistency. This app is a great first step in that direction.

As far as challenges, the biggest was the integration with our content template server. Since we're releasing videos every couple of weeks we wanted to make sure we could deliver new content independent of app updates. While we had the architecture for content delivery established with our Starring You® Books iPad app we wanted to take the learnings from that two year old system and build something new. The result was something pretty cool. Content (and how it's organized) can be delivered into the app in real time as it's made available from our server. We can also update existing content within the app so if an update to a thumbnail is made the app will update itself on next connected session.

If you have children ages 2-7 download the app and let me know what you think. If you don't have kids there are some pretty funny dancing animals, which everyone loves :).

Here are some screenshots of the main screens in the app: 

Home Screen

Content Viewing

Backpack Feature (Favorite Videos) 

Clean Up Your Mac's Menu Bar with Bartender

I've been a loyal Bartender user for a while. It's a great way to hide Mac Menu Bar items for things you might not use on a regular basis.

Bartender gives you a single item in the Menu Bar that provides access to the Menu Bar items you place in it. In addition, it allows you to dynamically create rules so items placed in Bartender are temporarily displayed in your Menu Bar when there is activity related to them. For example, if you have Dropbox in your Bartender you can choose to display the Dropbox Menu Bar item in your Menu Bar when there is activity (such as the upload or download of a file). After the activity is complete, the item goes back into Bartender.

It's a $15 app and totally worth it.

Before Using Bartender

After Using Bartender

Bartender menu collapsed.

Bartender menu open.

Bartender Settings

Jerry Colonna on This Week in Startups

I've watched This Week in Startups hosted by Jason Calacanis since episode one. It's an invaluable resource about startups and entrepreneurship. It's also great as Jason is always able to get great anecdotes out of his guests. This episode was no different.

Guest Jerry Colonna was truly amazing and probably the most inspirational episode I've watched. It tops my list of other great guests including David Heinemeier Hansson (which I read the news on), Chris Sacca and Gary Vaynerchuk.


The Podcasts I Listen To

I'm a avid podcast listener. Whether in my car, walking to work or in the shower (bluetooth shower radio ftw) I've got a podcast playing in Instacast

My podcasting habit started in 2005. That was the year that two of my favorite podcasts debut: This Week in Tech and Diggnation. Although Diggnation has since been retired I still enjoy TWiT to this day.

Below are the current podcasts that are in my core rotation (that's an official podcast listener term :). There are many others that I sporadically listen to based on the guest or topic of the episode.  There are also others that I loved but didn't include as they have been retired (such as Diggnation, Hypercritical and Build and Analyze to name a few).

Joshua Foer Quote on Monotony

An awesome quote by Joshua Foer...

“Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it. You can exercise daily and eat healthily and live a long life, while experiencing a short one. If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next - and disappear. That's why it's so important to change routines regularly, and take vacations to exotic locales, and have as many new experiences as possible that can serve to anchor our memories. Creating new memories stretches out psychological time, and lengthens our perception of our lives.”

Apple's Product Philosophy

I just had a chance to watch Tim Cook's D11 interview which took place the other day. In it Cook had a wonderful quote which truly captures Apple's product philosophy:

We think the customer pays us to make certain choices on their behalf. (1:01:56)

I thought it was a great way to succinctly describe Apple's approach to building products.

Tim Cook, D11 Interview on May 29, 2013

Tim Cook, D11 Interview on May 29, 2013