The Robservatory

Robservations on everything…

 

Keep authenticated WordPress sites up to date

I have a couple of WordPress sites that live behind HTTP basic authentication—they're family-related blogs that I don't want publicly accessible.

Everything works fine behind the authentication except for automatic updates (and other WordPress cron tasks). This bugged me a bit, but never enough to do anything about it until today. To fix the problem, you can either modify some code (which I generally don't like to do) or use a plug-in (easy and quick). I chose the plug-in.

If you'd prefer the customization solution, though, just follow these instructions. I haven't tested them myself, though, so I can't say for sure that they still work (they are five years old).

For the plug-in solution, install WP Cron HTTP Auth. Go to its Settings panel, and enter your HTTP Authentication credentials, and that's that—WordPress cron tasks, including automatic updates, will now work again. Hooray!

A full history of macOS (OS X) release dates and rates

Updated and republished for macOS 12.6; skip it unless you really really care about all the macOS releases. Originally published on November 14th, 2005.

Below the break is a table showing all major releases of macOS (previously Mac OS X) from the public beta through the latest public version, which is 12.6, as of September 12th, 2022—the 172nd release in total.

Note: Click the ⓘ symbol to read Apple's release notes for a given update.

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Using NUT to monitor a CyberPower UPS in pfSense

This post is probably of interest only to me, and I'm posting it just because I'm getting tired of remembering where I stored this tidbit on my Mac.

Our home router is a Protectli box running pfSense firewall/router software; the Protectli box is connected to a CyberPower UPS. Within pfSense, you can install the Network UPS Tools package (called NUT in pfSense) to monitor and report on the UPS; here's how it looks in the overview screen:

After recently updating to a newer Protectli box, however, all I saw was a message that read "Cannot communicate with UPS" (or something close to that). I knew I had a fix for this issue somewhere, but I couldn't remember where. Today I found it, so also today, it goes on my blog so I'll always know where it is…

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Search sites from anywhere via shortcuts, version 3.0

Yes, it's the return of the return of Web Search via Shortcuts, now at version 3.0 and much better than either of the previous versions. This is my Keyboard Maestro macro that lets you easily search web sites via a pop-up menu and an abbreviation:

The above would search DuckDuckGo for the theory of everything, and open the results in your default browser. Here are the highlights of the 3.0 release:

  • The input dialog appears much more quickly—over 4x faster than in the 2.x series.
  • All customization is done within the macro itself; there's no need to muck about in the Keyboard Maestro editor.
  • You can modify (shortcut, description, URL) any search site, including the default sites.
  • A list of 80+ search sites is included, and you can activate any of them with a few clicks and the creation of a shortcut word for each site.
  • All updates are tracked in two small text files on your drive, which means future updates will be completely automatic.

Read on for the details, or if you'd like to get started with Web Search via Shortcuts version 3, download the macro now. (Current users can use the check for updates macro to download the new version directly from version 2.x.)
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Convert epoch time to human-readable time in Terminal

This is a stupid-simple Unix tip, posting more as a reminder to myself than anything truly insightful—I keep forgetting these details, so by doing the work to create a post about it, I'll never forget them again…

I've been using unix time from the unix side of macOS quite a bit lately, as it's an easy way to get timestamps for things. Getting the epoch time is easy:

$ date +%s
1641735529

The thing I always forget is how to convert an epoch time back into a human-readable format of my choosing, despite it being shown in the man page. It's simple; use the -r option, like this:

$ date -r 1641735529
Sun Jan  9 05:38:49 PST 2022

And, of course, you can format it how you like using a strftime formatted format string, i.e.

$ date -r 1641735529 "+Today is %A, %B %e, and it's %I:%M:%S %p"
Today is Sunday, January  9, and it's 05:38:49 AM

Related: Yes, I wake up early; it started with macosxhints.com and needing to update the site before I left for my real job each day, and it persists 20 odd years later.

Search sites from anywhere via shortcuts, version two

Jan 14 2022: Version 2.5 is out, with a bug fix and a new check for updates button on the help panel. Download the macro, or get the update by manually running the Update check macro within the 2.4 release.

Jan 14 2022: Version 2.4 is out, with an optional "no text" input dialog, a default mode to search a favorite site without a shortcut, and faster processing of search terms.

Jan 9 2022: Version 2.3 is out, with a new download verification feature (which will be useful starting with the next update), a much simpler update checker, and some minor bug fixes.

Jan 4 2022: Version 2.2 is out, with a fix for an annoying bug I introduced in the update checking code that could cause the macro to quit after being invoked. Sorry!

Jan 2 2022: Version 2.1 is out. The most-obvious new feature is shown at right—a live-filter option for the list of shortcuts in help.

But there's lots more—check out the release notes to see the full list, including the newly-added shortcuts.

A week or so ago, I published the first version of Web Search via Shortcuts, my Keyboard Maestro macro that lets you, well, search the web from anywhere via shortcuts—you can type rob macros, for instance, to search this site for entries related to macros.

I was very happy with how the macro worked, but behind the scenes, it wasn't all that good. What started as a small project (make it easier for others to customize the list) turned into a near-total rewrite. So…introducing Web Search via Shortcuts, version 2.0:

If you need more general information on how the macro works, please refer to the original post; there's a lot there I'm not repeating here.
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Search sites from anywhere via abbreviations

Note: This post is no longer updated. Please see the version 2.0 post for current details and download links. This post remains because it has a fair bit of information about the macro in general.

Nearly five years ago, I wrote about my simple Keyboard Maestro web search macro that let me search many web sites from anywhere within macOS. While it worked well, it felt a bit cumbersome—I had to scan a pop-up palette of sites, and then press the proper key to select the site I wanted to search (so I had to keep the list relatively short). Then I'd wait for a new prompt to appear, type the search terms, and press Return.

Because of my macro's convoluted interface, I found myself using our own Butler most of the time, as it offers an interface similar to SafariKeywordSearch (which works in Safari as an extension; I was reminded of it due to a recent post by @danmoren on Six Colors). Both it and Butler do keyword searches, so you can type d best home vacuums to search DuckDuckGo for best home vacuums, or gm Tokyo to search Google Maps for Tokyo.

I decided to rewrite my macro to work like those apps do, but with an added feature: I use a number of browsers, and there are times I want my search to run in something other than the default browser. Using my rewritten macro, I can now optionally specify a browser in which to run the search. So when I activate the macro, I can use one of two different formats for the search command:

Both of those searches will search the Apple Movie Store for movies with the keyword disaster; the one on the left will use my default browser (currently Safari); the one on the right will use Edge.
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Simplify VPN connections via TunnelBlick

I use a VPN on our home router, which runs pfSense. When I'm on my laptop, I connect to the VPN for two reasons. The first is security when using unknown wifi connections. The second is for ease of access to my home Macs and network—when on the VPN, my laptop appears as part of the local network, so screen and file sharing are simple and 100% reliable.

To access the VPN, I use TunnelBlick, which runs as a menu bar application. Launch the app, activate its menu bar item, choose your VPN connection profile from the list, enter your password, and you're connected. But doing this several times a day gets annoying quite quickly. Thankfully, TunnelBlick includes AppleScript support.

Using that support and Keyboard Maestro, I wrote a few macros to simplify connecting to and disconnecting from our VPN, as well as changing the DNS address depending on whether I'm connected to the VPN or not.

Technically, the DNS address shouldn't have to be switched—I have the VPN and Tunnelblick configured to automatically switch on connect, but for whatever reason, it's just not happening. So I included DNS address switching in my macros.
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My favorite holiday cookie recipes

My mother has been baking holiday cookies for as long as I can remember—at least 50 years and counting. Many years ago, she gave me a binder with her cookie recipes in it, which I basically ignored for a long time.

But in 2009, when our eldest daughter was six, I started making some each holiday season. And pretty much every year since then, I've made a batch of holiday cookies. Here's a sample plate of this year's batch*Click the image for a larger version with cookie names

And as nice as it is having her written recipes, some complete with notes, I wanted to digitize them, for easier access. I also wanted to convert them from their use of the inane US-based measuring system to one based on weight in grams, which greatly eases preparation (assuming you have a good kitchen scale).
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On leaving the Spotlight behind

Of late, my Mojave-running iMac has been having major Spotlight problems: Occasionally I'd find it rebuilding the main index, despite me not having done anything to require such an action. Even worse, though, is that it would stop working entirely in Mail until I rebooted.

My main use of search in Mail is to help our customers find lost license files—I have records that go back to 2010, so I can usually find their license if they did buy from us. With Spotlight broken, I'd have to login to the two different cart providers we've used over the years to find license files. Having a functional Spotlight in Mail was fairly job-critical to me.

Some digging showed that a process named suggestd was repeatedly crashing…

When this happened, it seemed it would often, but not always, kill Spotlight in general and in Mail. After a lot of debugging, I gave up on fixing the suggestd crash—it's stil crashing multiple times a day—and instead, set out to find another way to search my Mail archives without the help of Spotlight.

I wanted to offload all that historical Mail data to some other app whose search feature wouldn't be dependent on a functional Spotlight. And so, the search began.

tl;dr summary: I chose EagleFiler, a long-lived Mac app that works wonderfully for this task (and many others). It creates its own indices, so it's not reliant on Spotlight, and it's quite speedy at ingesting large amounts of Mail. An unexpected side benefit is that the database is small enough—and fully self-contained—that it's easy to sync to my laptop—so I now always have my email archives available.

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