The Robservatory

Robservations on everything…


Install macOS 10.15 Catalina in a Fusion virtual machine

While I have older hardware (a 2013 MacBook Pro) that I use for testing macOS betas—it’s now running Catalina—it’s often handy to have the latest macOS beta running in VMware Fusion on my iMac. With past OS releases, this has been a relatively easy process. With Catalina, however, attempting the install results in a black screen.

Thankfully, some enterprising Fusion users (Bogdam and intel008) have figured out a workaround. I tried it, and while it did work for me, I had to change the instructions just a bit (read on for the details).


How to copy non-visible formula results from Excel

I use Excel for a ton of stuff, both personal and work. As an example, on the work side I use an Excel workbook to track our apps’ hidden prefs—which are set using a long ugly Terminal command1Something like this: defaults write com.manytricks.Moom “PMWindowFadingDuration” -float 0.

These hidden prefs can be used to invoke features we’re testing, or to revert a behavior we’ve changed at some point, etc. For example, Moom has hidden prefs to use the full screen grid without clicking in the big box and to disable the fade in/out of the keyboard controller.

We don’t publish all of these, as we’re not necessarily ready for them to be put to use by everyone (otherwise, they’d be visible prefs). But there are cases when a user has a specific need for a setting, or when troubleshooting, that these hidden prefs can be very useful. As such, I often have to send someone a defaults write command.

Read on to see how I use Excel’s formatting features—plus the ever-valuable Keyboard Maestro—to disguise some of this workbook’s formula results, yet still easily copy them for sending to a user.


How to auto-crop huge images with ImageMagick

In my recent post A new set of Hubble deep space iMac retina desktops, I included a set of auto-cropped 5120×2880 desktops. In that post, I wrote:

These images were automatically cropped from the master image (after I cropped that; more detail on what I did is coming in a follow-up post), via ImageMagick.

So this would be that post: How to auto-crop huge images using ImageMagick. If you’re not familiar with it, ImageMagick is a set of command-line tools to manipulate images. There are a number of ways to install ImageMagick, but I used Homebrew (brew install imagemagick).


Number of days until fifth update for macOS releases

Updated for the fifth release of macOS Mojave (10.14), which came out on January 22, 2019

When the third release of macOS High Sierra came out, I charted the pace of its updates compared to all prior Mac OS X/macOS releases. I said I planned to keep that chart current, but decided that I’d use the fifth release (typically around six months from the OS release date) as the baseline.

Here’s the latest update for Mojave’s fifth update—a bit late, as that update (10.14.3) came out back in January. (Note that 10.0 is not shown, as it had only four releases.)

Click the above image for an in-window larger version, or just view the full-size version directly. (Dates are pulled from my long-running A useless analysis of macOS (OS X) release dates post.)

macOS 10.13 is clearly the outlier of the bunch, taking just 120 days to reach its fifth update, but macOS 10.14 is the only other release to hit its fifth update in under 200 days.

It certainly appears that Apple started pushing more updates more quickly when macOS 10.13 was released, but it’s hard to say just why: Is it a new strategy to push updates more quickly, is it buggier macOS releases, or are they catching bugs due to better reporting, the public betas, etc.? I don’t have a clue, but it’s clear that “more and faster” is a good summary of the last two macOS versions’ update releases.

A useless analysis of macOS (OS X) release dates

Updated and republished for macOS 10.14.5; 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 macOS 10.14.5, as of May 13, 2019—the 122nd release in total.

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


A new set of Hubble deep space iMac retina desktops

Back in 2015, I created a set of 5120×2880 deep space desktop images for my then-newish Retina iMac, using images from the Hubble space telescope.

Recently, the Hubble team released the absolutely mind-bogglingly-massive Hubble Legacy Field image

The snapshot, a combination of nearly 7,500 separate Hubble exposures, represents 16 years’ worth of observations. The ambitious endeavor is called the Hubble Legacy Field. The new view contains about 30 times as many galaxies as in the HUDF. The wavelength range stretches from ultraviolet to near-infrared light, capturing all the features of galaxy assembly over time.

The image mosaic presents a wide portrait of the distant universe and contains roughly 265,000 galaxies. They stretch back through 13.3 billion years of time to just 500 million years after the universe’s birth in the big bang.

Despite those staggering figures, this image still represents only a tiny portion of the sky, covering roughly the area taken up by the Moon in the night sky.

I downloaded the 700MB 25,500×25,500 PNG version of the image, and set to work making some new 5120×2880 desktop images. You can read more about the process in an upcoming post, but for now, here are the resulting images…


It’s easy to win when you don’t fight fair

Long-time readers know that I am not a fan of the Touch Bar. I understand that many people like it, but for me, forcing my eyes to the keyboard is not a time saver, especially when the Touch Bar has also taken over the physical Escape key.

If asked, I imagine Apple would say that sales of Touch Bar equipped Macs have been strong, much stronger than their non-Touch Bar alternatives. And I have no doubt that that’s true, because Apple has seriously handicapped the non-Touch Bar Macs.

Want a 15″ non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro? Sorry, that machine no longer exists—and when it did exist, it was multiple generations older than the Touch Bar models available at the time.

So let’s look at the 13″ MacBook Pro, where you can still buy a non-Touch Bar model. I configured a non-Touch Bar machine with the fastest CPU available, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. I then configured a Touch Bar model to match. Here’s how certain features on the two models compare…


2019 iMac vs Late 2014 iMac—Ripping addendum

In Part 1 of my 2014 vs 2019 iMac comparison articles, I provided an overview and a number of comparison benchmark results. In Part 2, I looked at changes in gaming performance between the two machines.

But there was one more thing I wanted to do: Compare Blu-ray ripping speeds. At the time, though, I didn’t have any new movies to rip, and I really didn’t want to spend the time re-ripping an existing movie. Now, though, I do have a few new movies to rip, as I’m trying to finish our collection of all the films in the first three phases (now called the Infinity Saga) of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

That meant buying the films I’d liked the least—The Incredible Hulk and the first two Thor movies. With that came the chance to compare the Blu-ray ripping speed of the two iMacs. I use the method described in my article Revisiting ripping Blu-ray discs, which is this:

  1. Use MakeMKV to create an MKV file on the hard drive that contains the video and audio tracks.
  2. Use Don Melton’s Video Transcoding tools to create the final movie from the MKV file.

Using The Incredible Hulk, I timed how long it took to create the MKV file and how long it took to create the finished movie. Without further ado, the results (times are in hh:mm:ss format)…


Using command-line Quick Look as a memory aid

I recently reviewed my new third-party mouse, the Logitech MX Master 2s ($70 at Amazon). I love all the customizable buttons on this mouse, and in particular, the ability to create gestures (which are simply a directional drag while holding down a button).

I’ve used two buttons to create a total of 10 gesture actions on my mouse:

I created the above image from the Logitech Options app, so I can refer to it if I forget which action I’ve assigned to which gesture. But it’s a pain to find the folder on the disk and open it just to see the image. Then I remembered I had an unused button on my mouse1The upper button of the two near the side scroll wheel

Note: While the following is specific to my Logitech mouse in terms of implementation, read on if you’re curious about how to access QuickLook previews from Terminal and/or via a simple AppleScript.


Review: Logitech MX Master 2S mouse

Shortly after I bought my 2014 iMac, my third-party mouse died. So I started using the Magic Mouse that came with the iMac, and added “get new third-party mouse” to my to do list. Although I never found the Magic Mouse all that comfortable, I kept putting off replacing it.

Finally, when I ordered the new iMac—yes, that task sat on my to do list for nearly five years—I decided to go back to an ergonomic button-laden third-party mouse. After some searching and hand-fit tests, I bought a Logitech MX Master 2S ($70 at Amazon) mouse1Note that this is definitely a right-hand-only mouse, and Logitech doesn’t appear to offer a left-handed version. Sorry, lefties..

Note: I really dislike reviews that are so short they read more like press releases (and sometimes actually are reprinted press releases). I don’t do a ton of reviews here, but when I do, they tend to be long, because I like to use a product first, then review it in depth.

So what follows are many words (and images) about a computer mouse. If you’d like the tl;dr version instead, here it is: I love the MX Master 2S due to its great ergonomics, customizability, and easy multi-computer support. Keep reading for the much longer version.


The Robservatory © 2018 • Privacy Policy Built from the Frontier theme