Author Archives: Peter Foti

About Peter Foti

Software engineer by day, budding entrepreneur by night.

Getting Started with Alfred

If you’re reading this, then chances are you’re interested in becoming a bit more productive on your Mac. Luckily for you, Alfred is one of the easiest programs you can add to your computing arsenal, and in my opinion it can make one of the biggest differences with regards to productivity. Before we get into the nuts and bolts of Alfred and what it can offer, you’re going to have to download it onto your machine. There are two ways that you can do this: through the Mac app store, or from the website. Technically you could download it from either place and be up and running in very little time. However, due to the Apple sandbox Alfred cannot run totally free unless you download it directly from their website. Moreover, the Alfred PowerPack which we’ll touch on in a bit can only be used on the version downloaded directly from the website. Bottom line; download Alfred from the website.

alfred app logoAlright, so now that you’ve got the app downloaded and installed its time to poke around and learn the basics of Alfred. For users of Spotlight you’ll feel right at home in terms of how it presents itself, but the comparisons between the two largely stop there. Alfred is not on
ly faster (much faster) than Spotlight, but it also has a plethora of features that Spotlight does not, nor will it ever, and we’ll cover those a bit later. Anyway, once you’ve got Alfred up and running the first thing you need to do is pick a hot key that you’ll use to bring up Alfred. The most natural seems to be the CMD+Space combination, and thats what I use. One thing to note is that Spotlight uses that combination by default so you’re going to have to turn that off. To make that happen head over to your System Preferences -> Spotlight -> Uncheck the box next to “Spotlight menu keyboard shortcut:”. Doing that will allow Alfred to take over that hotkey. Something you’ll notice after doing that however is that the Spotlight icon is still present in your menu bar. If you’re like me and prefer to keep that as tidy as possible then you’ll want to remove it. In order to make that happen you’ll need to open up your Terminal from /Applications/Utilities and paste in the following: sudo chmod 600 /System/Library/CoreServices/Search.bundle/Contents/MacOS/Search press return, then paste the following and hit return as well killall SystemUIServer. If you decide at some later date that you’d like to get the icon back you can simply run the following two commands: sudo chmod 600 /System/Library/CoreServices/Search.bundle/Contents/MacOS/Search return, and then killall SystemUIServer return.

If everything worked out for us the way that it was supposed to after that last paragraph, you should now: 1. Have Alfred installed and running 2. Be able to call it by pressing CMD+Space 3. Not have to see or deal with Spotlight anymore. All good? Alright, lets move on to how we can use Alfred to help us be more productive.

Opening Applications
The main usage point for Alfred is as an application launcher. What does that mean? It means that instead of dragging your mouse to an applications icon, you can now press CMD+Space and type in the name of the app, press enter, and have it launched for you right away. Even for those of you who’re not able to type at a blistering rate, you will be faster using this method. Go ahead and give it a try, how does it feel? Another thing that you can do is use Alfred to switch between applications on your machine. I personally stick to using one desktop and then rely on a combination of Alfred and Alt+Tab to switch between everything. As you can imagine, I’m running 10+ programs simultaneously more often than not so Alt+Tab tends to get pretty cumbersome pretty quickly. For that reason, if I want to access Spotify (which is already open) and Safari is my top most window, I can Alfred into Spotify without having to cycle through all of the other apps that may be open at that time.

Custom Web Searches
I am not sure the last time I went to to type in a search, or even typed in a search in Safari. When I want to search Google for something, all I need to do is pull up Alfred and type in whatever it is I want to search for. So long as the thing that I’m searching for isn’t also the name of an application on my machine, this is a great way to efficiently search the web. Alfred lets you do more though, they’re called custom web searches and they’re pretty awesome. Basically you can take any website that has a search functionality, and integrate it with Alfred. When you download Alfred it comes with a number of these searches built in, and honestly I haven’t had to add very many. The ones I use most often? Amazon {query}, gmail {query}, youtube {query}. What am I doing there? Well, pull up alfred and type in amazon (space) and then the name of something you’d like to search for in Amazon, press enter, and see what happens. Wasn’t that cool? What kinds of websites do you frequent that you’d like to mimic that behavior with? There is a lot more that we can do with web searches, but for now I think that this is enough to get your feet wet.

Calculator/System Commands/And more
The last of the major (basic) features that I want to touch on are the calculator/system commands/ and a few other minor switches. The calculator is something I use at least once per day, I’m not sure it’ll work for those of you doing calculus but for quick calculations theres no way to get to a calculator faster. Moreover, you can actually copy the result of your equation by pressing enter. This is incredibly helpful for relaying the result of your problem to whomever it is you need to relay it to. For system commands, you can say things like: lock, empty trash, shutdown, sleep, etc. Theres no reason to reach for your mouse when you want to accomplish these sorts of things, and with Alfred you don’t have to. Lastly you can run terminal/shell commands if you’re a 1337 h4cker and thats your thing. You can also find contacts, and use the built in dictionary to check spelling or grab definitions.

We’ve come a long way in 1,100 words. At the beginning you were a mouse wielding human, and now you’re a keyboard mashing super human. Nice! There is plenty more that you can do with Alfred once you’ve got the power pack, things like workflows can save you exponential amounts of time. You can also directly integrate with iTunes, 1Password, Recent Documents, and even sync your settings via Dropbox. Would you like to see a post from me detailing the use of the power pack? Let me know in the comments below, or email me and ill be sure to make it happen.

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh Book Review

delivering happiness by tony hsiehThe second week of my 52 books in 52 week journey ended on Monday after I finished the outstanding book by Tony Hsieh titled Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose. I had been meaning to read this book for quite some time but never really got around to it. After embarking on my 52 week journey this year however I knew I wanted to read it right away as I had heard so many positive things about it from friends, family and business colleagues. After I began reading the book it didn’t take long for me to realize that the title should’ve been “Path to Culture, Risk Taking and Happiness”, and I mean that in the best of ways. Im going to talk about each of those three things below and give you all a better idea of what I mean and of course what I learned in the reading of this book.

While it takes a little bit for it to get going, the end of the book is all about the culture of Zappos, how it was formed, what it means and why its important. For me, working as a sole proprietor at a desk by myself with no physical employees to speak of the term “culture” never really meant much to me, although it had been something that i’d heard in the past. Anyone who has ever order a product from Zappos or called their customer service can tell pretty quickly that this is not your typical company. In fact, if every company embodied the values set forth by the Zappos culture the business world (and entire world for that matter) would be a better place. Unlike most companies, Zappos doesn’t time their phone conversations nor do they give their customer service agents any kind of script to work with. They want you to talk to a customer like you’re talking to a friend as you help them resolve whatever issue it is that they’re having. The book goes into great detail about what the culture of Zappos is all about, and for me it all boiled down to making your customers, employees, vendors, buyers, etc. all as happy as possible. Whether its a surprise upgrade to free overnight shipping, paying more severance than is required after a round of layoffs, or paying for dinner with the likes of Steve Madden, its all apart of what Zappos such a great company to work for and deal with. I could go on for days (and so could Tony) about how important the culture is to Zappos, what it means and how it was created, but I won’t. Rather, if it sounds like something that is of interest to you (and it should be) I would advise you to read the book.

Risk Taking
A short while after graduating from college, Tony was employed at Oracle, a job that most of his peers would’ve killed for. What he realized however that sitting at a desk all day running tests as an engineer didn’t really interest him, and so he left, taking the first major risk of his life to start a company with a co-worker and former college roommate. The company, “LinkExchange” would be a primate startup by todays standards, but after working tirelessly on their product they were eventually bought out by Yahoo for $165 million dollars. For most people that is the end game, never again would you need to work to live happily and its time to pack up your things and start traveling the world. For Tony however that wasn’t the end game, and while the book goes into more detail the long and the short of it is that he and a friend launched a venture capital firm “Venture Frogs” and began investing in startup companies in the Bay Area of San Francisco. Then one day a man approached him with an idea for an online shoe store that he’d started; he had a website to take orders, and was selling shoes out of his home. He knew that it was the next big thing and ultimately Tony did as well. It didn’t take long for Tony to fund the startup and become the CEO. What then happened however was a resistance from Sequoia Capital and other venture capital firms in terms of investment. Over time this amounted to Tony eventually selling all of his worldly possessions and putting (literally) every dollar he had into what became Zappos. Their were times wherein he and the company almost went broke, but he believed in what he was doing and we obviously know how it turned out. The moral of this story is simple, don’t be afraid to think big and take bigger risks. For more information in regards to the story of Zappos you should of course read the book.

Towards the end of the book Tony talks quite a bit about what it means to be happy. Theirs a pretty interesting chart that talks about the three biggest things that people want to achieve in life. They include; growing a company, getting a great job, finding the perfect soulmate, and being healthy. In the chart it goes through a condensed version of what each leads to for instance if you grow a company you’ll get to retire early, spending more time with the family and it ultimately leads to happiness. If you are healthy, and can run faster and then ultimately run a marathon whats it all for? So that you can be happy. If you get a great job, and make a lot of money and someday buy a home whats its all for? So that you can be happy. I think you get the idea. He then talks about how happiness is really about perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness, and vision/meaning. The end result of all this is to help you realize that if you want to be happy you really need to do something that has a higher purpose beyond just money, profits or being number one in a market. Tony talks about some of his happiest moments in his life and surprisingly none of them revolved around money, for instance he talks about climbing to the summit of Mount Kilamanjaro and just being overcome with emotion and thats just one of the many things he delves in to.

Beyond those three things I highlighted a few passages from the book that I thought were pretty educational and interesting.

“I walked away from that experience with the lesson that sometimes the truth alone isn’t enough, and that presentation of the truth was just as important as the truth”. Full story on page 19.

“I thought about how easily we are all brainwashed by our society and culture to stop thinking and just assume by default that more money equals more success and more happiness, when ultimately happiness is really just about enjoying life.” Full story on page 53

“Never outsource your core competency.” Full story on page 130.

While the book might sound like a hip hip hooray type of journey, its actually super informative and takes you inside the mind and thought process of one of the worlds best entrepreneurs. I would HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who wants to run their own company, as you’re sure to walk away from it with a greater understanding of what it means to have a good company culture, what it means to be happy and why takings calculated risks is sometimes worth it.

To purchase this book and read it for yourself, simply click here

Next weeks book is Through My Eyes by Tim Tebow and Nathan Whitaker. Im only 4 chapters into this one and I can already tell that its going to be a great book from start to finish.

For those of you that have read the Tony Hsieh book, what were your thoughts? Id love to converse a bit about the book, its teachings and whatever else you found interesting. Please feel free to leave a comment below and lets chat!

WillPower by Roy Baumeister & John Tierney Book Review

willpower book reviewI have always been a huge proponent for reading books, for me they’re the bridge to the gap that was created when I decided not to attend a University any longer. It is my opinion that one can learn all of the nuts and bolts being taught at college by reading comparable works and saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process. Last year however I didn’t read as much as I wanted to and finished the year with less than 10 completed titles under my belt. This year i’ve decided to embark on a 52 books in 52 weeks journey, and yesterday marked the end of both week 1 and book 1. With that end came the start of what is to become my weekly book review. Its my opinion that writing down a brief summary/review of the previous weeks work will help to further reinforce the knowledge gained from the reading.

Week ones’ book was titled, “WillPower” and was written by world renowned psychologists, Roy Baumeister and John Tierney. I wanted to kick off my year with this mainly because I had heard such glowing reviews from several people that I respect greatly in my industry. Furthermore, I couldn’t help by realize that reading a book on how to increase your willpower would only be of further benefit to me as I attempt to accomplish some rather lofty goals that i’ve set for myself this year (more to come on those later). For now however lets jump right into the book.

For starters let me just say that the entire book at a very “Freakanomics” feel to it in that he proposed different situations and helped you to understand them in a way that you’ve never thought of before. For instance ill bet you didn’t know that the best time to go for a parole board hearing in Israel is first thing in the morning, or first thing after lunch did you? The reason, is based on a central concept of the book and that is the fact that your brain uses glucose whenever its trying to make a decision. Upon eating you’re body has its highest levels of glucose present and consequently you’re more apt to making a good decision. In the case of the Israeli prisoners, those that saw the judge first thing in the morning (after he ate breakfast) or first thing after lunch were exponentially more likely to receive parole than those who saw him after his glucose had been depleted (later in the day).

The book talks about some main concepts, with glucose depletion being one of them. Another one however that I found rather interesting was the concept of decision fatigue, and the example that is uses is that of Elliot Spitzer. When people are in positions of power (like Spitzer was) their job is to essentially make decisions all day long. Each time you do that of course your glucose level drops a bit and by the end of the day you’re “brain is fried” and thus you’re more apt to making poor decisions just as Elliot did. As a New York state governor (or normal person for that matter) a non fatigued brain would’ve never purchased hookers using a government expense account, but he didn’t think that like when making his poor decisions. The decisions that he had made during the day depleted his willpower at night and allowed him to join the likes of Bill Clinton and countless other politicians that let their secondary desires ruin their careers.

Another primary concept of the book is the idea of ego depletion which was first introduced by Freud many moons ago. Roy Baumesiter however adopted the term and in essence it is the definition for when peoples ability to regulate their thoughts, feelings and actions becomes deteriorated, or its capacity is greatly diminished. Basically if you use energy by exerting your willpower then eventually you’re going to fail. This is a very dense concept one that while discussed at length in the book probably has entire books written about it already. Before this book however I had never heard of ego depletion but the science behind it all made a ton of sense to me. For instance if you are trying to lose weight and someone offers you a cookie early in the day and you decline you’ve just used willpower. Then suppose you have to make the decision at lunch whether to drink a soda or a water, when you choose water you’ve further depleted your willpower. By the end of the day you’re much more likely to make a poor decision if your ego has become depleted.

The last major concept that I wanted to touch on was that of the hot-cold empathy gap which is basically a nice way of saying that everyone is a hero in their own mind. Most people when they’re home and in their cozy confines will tell you that if they were ever in a situation wherein someone was being raped that they’d jump in, assault the rapist and call the authorities immediately. Or they might say that if they were ever walking along on the street and saw someone drop a $100 bill that they’d give it back without thinking twice about it. The book makes the point however that when you’re actually in those situations you’re much more likely to do the opposite of what you see. You might run away from the rapist in fear of being assaulted. You might keep the $100 and justify it by saying that the lady had a $500 Gucci purse so she couldn’t possibly need the money to live and that you’re not hurting anyone. Those are extreme examples and the book uses some more interesting ones, but I won’t ruin them for those who’d like to read it in the future, which by the way, I recommend in a big way.

I have every intention of reading this book again at some point in the future, because while it was only 300 pages it contained a plethora of information that I want to read over again. Its my personal recommendation that if you haven’t already, you purchase this book TODAY. While its titled WillPower, this is not a self help book perse and I think that everyone would benefit in some way shape or form from reading it.

For those interested, next weeks books is Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh.

Why PeerFly Rocks

Before I get into the business of why exactly PeerFly rocks, I want to go ahead and wish everyone a happy new year. I’ve set several goals for myself going into this year, and I am looking forward to it being my most prosperous yet, I hope you are as well. With that aside, lets rewind about a week or so to why my favorite affiliate network PeerFly, sent me a Christmas “gift basket” that literally and figuratively blew my socks off. For starters let me just say that in all likelihood I am more of a pain in the ass for PeerFly than a legitimate affiliate. For one, I only have two affiliate/seo projects going on at the moment, as 90% of my time is tied up with my main project that is Nonetheless they were still kind enough to send me this package to wish me a Merry Christmas and I cannot express how thankful I am in a single blog post.

Really dude? You’re getting this excited over some cookies?

YES. Listen folks, you can count on a single hand the number of legitimate and caring affiliate networks out there, and my boys at PeerFly just so happen to be on that very list. The fact that they would go above and beyond the call of duty to send one of their smallest affiliates such a gift is not only impressive but it shows that they care about their affiliates which is something that many companies fail at. I won’t name any names but I did more revenue last year with at least one other company, and I didn’t receive so much as a Merry Christmas email from them this year. Guess what. I don’t work with them any more.

Onto the gift basket (and some pics).

When the package first arrived I had no clue who it was from or what it contained. I obviously wasn’t expecting anything from my network, nor had I ordered anything for Christmas from around that time. Regardless I swiftly ripped open the box to see what was in store for me.

peer fly package unopened

The tin that it came it said PeerFly which I thought was super cool (again, above and beyond) and once I saw it I knew it was some sort of Christmas gift.

peerfly tin unopened

Once I saw the contents any hope that I had of maintaing some healthy eating over the holidays quickly went out the window. The cookies were amongst the best i’ve ever had (super soft, just the way I like em). Im a sucker for chocolate covered pretzels, and their was some kind of little mound of chocolate with crunched up pretzels inside that also tasted amazing. Oh, and the white chocolate covered oreos were solid as well, I need to find a spot to buy those at in the near future.

peerfly tin opened

Take a look at that box of goodies and tell me you didn’t wish your affiliate network was as awesome as PeerFly 🙂

At this point I would like to again thank the guys at PeerFly specifically Luke and Corey who i’ve bugged repeatedly in the past year whether it be for an offer inclusion, pay bump or tip on running offer XYZ, they’ve been awesome.

The best part about all of this is that I am again motivated to work on my SEO projects which involve PeerFly offers, which is exactly what I plan on doing here very very soon.

Want to be apart of this amazing network? I figured you did. Go ahead and click here to get yourself signed up. The registration process is relatively painless so get up and start making money with one of the best networks in the business.

Once again, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

P.S. Stay tuned to in the near future as i’ve got some plans for this site in hopes of reviving it as best I can.

iOS Development Progress

Back in November I decided that I was going to learn how to program for iOS devices (iPod touch, iPhone, and iPad). After becoming successful with PHP I figured that was sort of the “next step” in the development food chain. Most people (myself included) believe that mobile is the way of the future, and with Apple gaining such traction why development for any other platform? In any event, I ultimately teamed up with an old high school buddy but after things went astray around January I gave up for a while. Luckily I am back, and with any luck I will document my entire progress here on I realize that I have said time and time again that I am going to rejuvenate this blog to no avail, but I think this time around could be different.

For learning I prefer video tutorials and luckily between iTunes U and their are plenty of them to go around. When I first got started back in November I bought a few books, but I just find it so difficult to follow the illustrations and what not in the texts so I have opted for videos. For the better part of the last month I have been watching and working through the iPhone SDK Essential training title from from Simon Allardice. I had watched his Objective-C essential training video before I started it and I am a huge fan of the way he teaches (I really love all the people for that matter).

Once I finish with Simons’ tutorials I plan on working through the entire Stanford iOS course from this past fall. I had started this course a while back, but it simply moved to quickly for me. It was developed for Senior computer science majors who were required to already know Java and C++. While the two languages dont have a ton in common with Obj-C they are similar in some respects, and very little like PHP.

Once I finish the Stanford courses I hope to release some kind of app to at least get my feet wet, and perhaps even offer up development services to companies who want to go mobile. However the end goal is be able to develop iOS games which require a great deal of knowledge of both the SDK, Obj-C and the graphics behind it all. That is an entirely new area of learning, but something I hope to tackle in the future.

Im not sure when ill write again, but hopefully it’ll be sooner rather than later.

Thanks for reading