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Robservations on everything…


How to display the size of an app’s frontmost window

A user asked me a question about Moom

Say I’ve resized a window to the dimensions I want. Is there a way to figure out what these are so I can create a resize action in Moom?

Basically, the user wants to save a window size as a custom action, to make it easy to reapply that action to any window. (If it were just one window in one app, you could use Moom’s Save Window Layout feature to save that layout for easy recall.)

There is a way to see this info in Moom, but it requires enabling our debug log and digging through a bunch of output. As an easier alternative, I was certain that AppleScript could do this; I fiddled a bit on my own, and did some web searching, which led me to this thorough post on StackExchange.

Using the very first bit of the first script there, I came up with this version:

Run the above, assuming Safari is running and has an open window, and you’ll see this system notification:

Change Safari to whichever app you’re interested in, re-run the script, and you’ll have that app’s window dimensions. This script is incredibly basic (no error checking, hardcoded app), but it works1If you see a message about ScriptEditor needing Accessibility access, open System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy, click on Accessibility in the left panel, click the lock icon to unlock the panel, click the plus sign to add an app, and navigate to Script Editor in Applications > Utilities, then click Open..

Of course, me being me, I decided I’d spend a couple hours making it more useful, even though I probably won’t use it all that often. So I modified it to work for whichever app is frontmost, and made it run from Keyboard Maestro. I then assigned it a gesture trigger with my mouse, so I can easily see any window’s dimensions with a simple mouse movement.


The high cost of software in the 1980s…

A friend recently sent me a link to a large collection of 1980s computing magazines—there’s some great stuff there, well worth browsing. Perusing the list, I noticed Softline, which I remember reading in our home while growing up. (I was in high school in the early 1980s.)

We were fortunate enough to have an Apple ][ in our home, and I remember reading Softline for their game reviews and ads for currently-released games.

It was those ads that caught my eye as I browsed a few issues. Consider Missile Defense, a fun semi-clone of the arcade game Missile Command. To give you a sense of what games were like at the time, here are a few screenshots from the game (All game images in this article are courtesy of MobyGames, who graciously allow use of up to 20 images without prior permission.)

Stunning graphics, aren’t they?


A useless analysis of macOS (OS X) release dates

Updated and republished for macOS 10.14.6 Supplemental Update 2; 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 10.14.6 Supplemental Update 2, as of August 26, 2019—the 125th release in total.

(Note: This release is a bit odd, as its info page is the same one as for Supplemental Update 1, which was released on August 1st. However, it is a new release, as evidenced by the release date entry on Apple’s security content page for macOS 10.14.6 supplemental udpate. In addition, the release on August 1st only listed one fix; this one details three fixes.)

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


Don’t buy a Subaru Ascent if you car camp or tailgate or…

When we owned a boat, we used a 2008 Toyota Sequoia to pull it. The Sequoia is a great truck—it pulled the boat, had tons of room for stuff and people, and rode quite nicely. But it was also incredibly efficient at converting money into gasoline fumes—even when not towing, it only got around 12mpg in town. It’s also huge.

With the boat gone, we wanted something smaller, with better mileage, yet with room for seven people and capable of some towing. After a lot of research and a few test drives, we chose to lease a 2019 Subaru Ascent.

Reviews for the Ascent have been positive, with Consumer Reports scoring it at 96. In general, we’ve been happy with the car…until we took it on its first car camping trip last weekend.

It was there that we learned that Subaru made an incredibly stupid design decision with a vehicle targeted at those who use their vehicles for camping and exploring:

The rear hatch is not designed to be left open.


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 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…


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