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Tag: mac

Manage your Mac Apps with homebrew-cask

A while ago I became interested in automating the setup of my Macs. I started my journey with chef-solo, however this wasn't really practical for me, so I switched to homesick to manage my dotfiles.

Unfortunately that left me without a solution to install my apps automatically.

Not any more. homebrew-cask to the rescue!

Take a walk

Image Source: Flickr/megoizzy (CC BY-SA 2.0)

What is homebrew-cask

homebrew-cask is a Homebrew extension that allows you to install your apps like this:

brew cask install evernote

How to install homebrew-cask

If you already use homebrew, installing homebrew-cask is really simple:

brew tap phinze/homebrew-cask
brew install brew-cask

If you have Alfred installed you should also configure it, so that it recognizes apps managed by homebrew-cask.

brew cask alfred link

Using homebrew-cask

Using homebrew-cask is simple. You install apps using the brew cask install command. Evernote for example, you would install like this:

brew cask install evernote

Create a little script to install your Apps

I store all my apps in a file called ~/.brew. In order to install the apps I just have to run it.

This is how you create your own:

touch ~/.brew
chmod +x ~/.brew

Now fill it with the Apps you want to install across all your Mac's.

For me this looks like:

brew cask install google-chrome  
brew cask install rubymine  
brew cask install charles  
brew cask install mou  
brew cask install bit-torrent-sync  

I have this file on GitHub and symlink it with homesick. When I am on a new Mac I just have to run


That installs all my common apps.

Create own casks

There are over 300 casks available already. You can view a list with

brew cask search

If your favorite app is missing it is really simple to add it.

In the example below I create a Cask for Soulver.

brew cask create soulver

An editor opens with the newly generated cask.

class Soulver < Cask  
   url ''
   homepage ''
   version ''
   sha1 ''
   link ''

You just have to fill in the download URL of the app, the apps name, the version, the sha1 checksum of the download and it's homepage.

class Soulver < Cask  
  url ''
  homepage ''
  version 'latest'
  link ''

In Soulver's case the download URL does always refer to the latest version. So in this case I used no_checksum, so that this Cask will not break in the future.

Now audit your cask:

$ brew cask audit soulver
audit for soulver: passed

Now you can install Soulver. And don't forget to open a pull request 😉

Before you do — check the latest contribution guidelines.


I am really happy that homebrew-cask exists now. It closed a gap in my configuration management. I can set up a new Mac in no time. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Create lorem ipsum text with TextExpander and lorem

Often I need dummy text to fill out a form.

I use a combination of TextExpander and the Lorem Gem that makes this
super simple.

Step 1: Install the "lorem" gem

Install the gem lorem using

sudo gem install lorem

It's simple to use:

# For 1 paragraph dummy text
lorem 1 paragraph

# For 140 chars dummy text
lorem 140 chars

Lorem is a Unix tool - you can combine it with other commands:

lorem 140 chars | pbcopy

Copies 140 chars into your clipboard.

Textexpander + Lorem

I dont want to go into my Terminal, whenever I fill out a
form in Chrome, so I created a TextExpander snippet, that executes lorem
for me and fills in the dummy text.

lorem %filltext:name=paragraphs:default=1%

A nice additional feature is that it asks you how many paragraphs of dummy text you want.


Sometimes simple hacks like this save you a lot of time. I hope you find it as useful as me!

How to setup your Mac automatically with chef

Recently I joined a team that practices DevOps. That's why I had to learn Chef:

With Chef, you write abstract definitions as source code to describe how you want each part of your infrastructure to be built, and then apply those descriptions to individual servers.

Since I regard my iMac as part of my infrastructure - I decided to give Chef a shot. In this post I explain how I did it.

Bootstrapping chef

Before the first Chef run, you have to prepare youre machine.

I store my cookbooks on Dropbox. So after installing the OS (manually), I download and install Dropbox.

After Dropbox finished syncing I run :


mkdir ~/tmp  
cd ~/tmp

# Install GCC + Git

curl > GCC-10.7-v2.pkg  
    sudo installer -pkg GCC-10.7-v2.pkg -target /

# Install chef

sudo gem install chef

# Prepare Directory for Homebrew

sudo mkdir /usr/local  
sudo chown -R $USERNAME /usr/local  

This installs a compiler, Homebrew and some dev-tools like GIT on the machine.

Last but not least installs Chef itself.

Installing apps & packages

I have my standard set of tools. Instead of installing them manually I wanted to use Chef.

Luckily there are already cookbooks that can install dmg's and apps within zip files.

You just have to download them and then you can specify which apps to

dmg_package "Google Chrome" do  
  dmg_name "googlechrome"
  source ""
  action :install

zip_app_package "Mou" do  
  source ""

dmg_package "Virtualbox" do  
  source ""
  type "mpkg"

For all my Unix tools I use the Homebrew cookbook.

This way I can specify all the packages I need in my node.json - the configuration file I use to run chef-solo.

  "run_list": [

  "packages" : [

  "homedir" : "/Users/shostakovich",
  "user" : "shostakovich"


I store most of my dotfiles on my Dropbox.

When i set up a new machine i symlink them into my home directory. Last but not least, i change some defaults - for example to move the Dock out of the way..

template "#{node['homedir']}/.vimrc" do  
  source "vimrc.erb"
  owner node['user']

execute "set dock to be on left" do  
  command "defaults write orientation -string left"
  user node['user']

execute "relaunch dock" do  
  command "killall Dock"


How can you get started?

I highly recommend giving it a shot! It's a good way to learn chef.

For a kick start with chef-solo, watch RailsCast 339.

If you have problems setting up chef-solo on a Mac, have a look at how to fix solo.rb.

If you need further ideas, have a look at the workstation setup of pivotal.

The end

I used this a couple of times already. Its kind of boring, to watch chef setting up your dev-machine. But hey - you can drink coffee in the meantime.

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