As I've written about in the past, I use Don Melton's video transcoding tools to rip Blu-Ray discs. I also use Homebrew to install some of the transcode video dependencies, as well as other Unix tools.
Keeping these tools current isn't overly difficult; it only requires a few commands in Terminal:
$ brew update
$ brew upgrade
$ sudo gem update video_transcoding
My problem is that I often forget to do this, because—unlike most GUI Mac apps and the Mac App Store—there's no built-in "hey, there's an update!" system. Suddenly, two months and many revisions later, I finally remember (usually when I see a tweet about a new version of something.) So I thought I'd try to write my own simple update reminder.
I didn't really want a scheduled task, like a launchd agent—it's not like these tools need to stay current on a daily basis. (And one of them needs to run with admin privileges, which complicates things.) I just wanted something that would remind me if it'd been a while since I last checked for updates, and then install the updates if I wanted it to do so.
After mulling it over, I came up with a script that runs each time I open a Terminal window (which I do daily). The referenced script looks at the date on a check file, and asks me if I'd like to check for updates if that date is more than a week older than today's date. This is perfect for my needs: The reminder is automatic, but I can choose when to install the updates based on what I'm doing at the time. If it's been under a week since I last checked, nothing at all is different about my Terminal launch.
Read on for the script and implementation details. (Note: This is not written for a Terminal beginner, as it assumes some knowledge about how the shell works in macOS.)
I recently received my Apple M1-powered 13" MacBook Pro, which is primarily going to be used for testing our apps on Apple silicon, and supporting customers using these machines. But that doesn't mean this is a work machine; it's a personal purchase as I'll use it for my own needs as well. (Thankfully, it only had a net cost of $33 after I sold my 16" MacBook Pro.)
By now, you've probably read a slew of stuff about both the MacBook Pro and its slightly-lighter MacBook Air cousin. Between unboxing videos, extensive benchmark suites, and multi-thousand-word reviews, there is no lack of coverage of these machines. (However, I will add that I did make a video of my MacBook Pro—with its 16GB of RAM—opening 75 apps in just over a minute. Not bad for an entry-level machine!)
I'm not going to try to replicate those reviews, because they do an excellent job of covering the new M1-powered Macs in a level of detail that I just don't have time to get into. Instead, here's what I'll be discussing…
- Why I chose the 13" MacBook Pro
- A few benchmark results of interest
- Rosetta and non-native apps
- Using iOS apps on macOS
- General discussion on performance
- The future of Apple silicon Macs
So why a MacBook Pro and not an Air?
The other day, I was working on some Smart Albums in Photos, adding a Smart Album for each of the lenses I use with my FUJIFILM X-E3 camera. This seemed like a simple task; each Smart Album just needed to check two conditions:
Camera Model is X-E3 [and] Lens is 16.0 mm f/2.8 (as one example)
But after creating my Smart Albums, I noticed that some photos were missing, so I did a bit of experimenting. What I found was that Photos showed different values for the Lens field—even when the same lens was used on the same camera. Here's an example:
The only difference between those two photos is that one was taken in RAW mode, the other in one of my camera's JPEG modes.
My main machine is still running Mojave, and will be for some time—our accounting app and my scanner both rely on 32-bit code. For a very long time, I've been using the built-in Stocks widget from the Dashboard (something else that's gone in 10.15) to track stocks I own or am interested in following.
I have two displays, so I just dedicate a small corner on one of them for the Dashboard widget, which I detach from the Dashboard using an old but still functional Dashboard devmode hint. The Stocks Dashboard widget is quite narrow, and not all that tall, so it didn't take a lot of space.
But recently, it broke, as you can see in the image at right. I set out looking for a replacement—just a simple desktop app that would open a window with stock quotes. Apple's own Stocks app doesn't meet my needs—it has a huge News area you can't close. Similarly, the Stocks section of the Today area in Notification Center requires mouse movement and action on my part to see.
I took a look at any number of third-party apps, but all of them were either full-blown stock traders/managers, lived in the menu bar or Dock, or were discontinued. I finally found what I was looking for, not in a desktop application, but in mop—an open source Go program—running in Terminal.
After a bit of setup work, here's what I'm now seeing1While I wish I had bought a lot of these years ago, I didn't—these are just some sample stocks on my desktop:
Yes, the window is slightly wider than my old one2It's actually incredibly wide, but I don't need to see the other columns, but it's not as tall, and I was able to find a spot for it. If you'd like to try mop yourself, setup is relatively simple.
In my recent post A new set of Hubble deep space iMac retina desktops, I included a set of auto-cropped 5120x2880 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).
I use a ScanSnap ix500 scanner to scan a lot of paper into PDFs on my iMac. And thanks to the ScanSnap's bundled optical character recognition (OCR), all of those scans are searchable via Spotlight. While the OCR may not be perfect, it's generally more than good enough to find what I'm looking for.
However, I noticed that I had a number of PDFs that weren't searchable—some electronic statements from credit cards and utility companies, and some older documents that predated my purchase of the ScanSnap, at least based on some tests with Spotlight.
But I wanted to know how many such PDFs I had, so I could run OCR on all of them, via the excellent PDFPen Pro app. (The Fujitsu's software will only perform OCR on documents it scanned.) The question was how to find all such files, and then once found, how to most easily run them through PDFPen Pro's OCR process.
In the end, I needed to install one set of Unix tools, and then write two small scripts—one shell script and one AppleScript. Of course, you'll also need PDFPen (I don't think Pro is required), or some other app that can perform OCR on PDF files.
In yesterday's tip, See sensor stats in Terminal, I implied that installation of the iStats ruby gem was a simple one-line command. As a commenter pointed out, that's only true if you already have the prerequisites installed. The prerequisites in this case are the Xcode command line tools. Thankfully, you can install those without installing the full 5GB Xcode development environment.
(Rather than starting from scratch, I'm just going to borrow this bit from my detailed instructions for installing the transcode-video tools, because the Xcode command line tools are required there, too.)
Here's how to install the command line tools. Open Terminal, paste the following line, and press Return:
When you hit Return, you'll see a single line in response to your command:
$ xcode-select --install
xcode-select: note: install requested for command line developer tools
At this point, macOS will pop up a dialog, which is somewhat surprising as you're working in the decidedly non-GUI Terminal:
Do not click Get Xcode, unless you want to wait while 5GB of data downloads and installs on your Mac. Instead, click the Install button, which will display an onscreen license agreement. Click Agree, then let the install finish—it'll only take a couple of minutes.
If you're curious as to what just happened, the installer created a folder structure in the top-level Library folder (/Library > Developer > CommandLineTools), and installed a slew of programs in the usr folder within the CommandLineTools folder.
Taking a break from the recent Frankenmac posts, here's a little trick for creating "Time Machine like" backups of anything you'd care to back up1I don't know how well this might work for Mac files, as opposed to Unix files. But Mac files can be saved to the real Time Machine.. In my case, it's the HTML files off of my web sites, both personal and work. I used to simply back these up, but then realized it'd be better to have versions rather than totally overwriting the backup each day (which is what I had been doing).
Once you've got it set up and working, you'll have a folder structure similar to the one at right, with one folder for each backup, and a "current" link that takes you to the newest backup.
I get zero credit for this one; my buddy James explained that he'd been using this method for a year without any troubles, and pointed me to this great guide2The original site that hosted this script is gone; I've linked to a copy I found on archive.org. Original URL:
https://blog.interlinked.org/tutorials/rsync_time_machine.html that explains the process.
I used that guide and added the following to my backup script to create my own customized Time Machine for the files from here, robservatory.com:
/usr/local/bin/rsync -aP \
--link-dest=/path/to/quasi/TM_backup/current [email protected]:/path/to/files/on/server/ \
--exclude "errors.csv" \
--delete --delete-excluded \
rm -f /path/to/quasi/TM_backup/current
ln -s /path/to/quasi/TM_backup/back-$newtime /path/to/quasi/TM_backup/current
And that's all there is to it. Note that you may need a newer version of rsync than what comes with macOS now (2.6.9)—I use version 3.1.2 from Homebrew, so I can't say for sure that this script works with the stock version.
I've only been using this for a couple weeks, but it's working well for me so far.
Fair warning: Today's tip is over-the-top geeky.
After many years of not doing anything with web serving on my local Mac, I recently had a need to look at some mySQL/PHP-based web packages. While I could install these on robservatory as tests, I generally like to install things locally first, because I'll install a handful of packages until I find the one I like. But it'd been so long, I didn't have anything configured. (Remember when enabling Apache—i.e. web sharing—was a feature of the System Preferences' Sharing panel? Ah, good times!)
I could have opted to use the built-in Apache, but I wanted something that I could more easily keep up to date, and that, if I chose, would be easy to remove. The good news is that Homebrew has packages available for Apache, PHP, and MySQL. Homebrew installs everything in its own directory tree, and adding and removing packages is simple—exactly the setup I wanted.
So in theory, installation was as easy as three brew tap commands. The reality, though, is that the installation is a bit more complex. OK, it's a lot more complex. The good news is that, this being the age of the internet, help is but a search away. Or the advice of a friend away, which is what I used in this case.
A friend pointed me to this excellent installion guide that walks through the entire process, including installing two versions of PHP with the ability to switch between them on the fly.
It was this on-the-fly switching, though, that gave me troubles: I couldn't get a site to load unless I specified "index.php" or "index.html" as part of the URL. (Apache is configured to grab those files automatically.) Solving that one took a bit of time…
Really long-time Unix users—as in mainframe-based Unix—are probably familiar with fortune. This silly little program grabs a random line from a collection of files holding quotes, sayings, jokes, etc. The Unix I used many decades ago would print an entry from fortune each time you started a new session. Here are some examples of what might greet me each time…
"It's a dog-eat-dog world out there, and I'm wearing Milkbone underware."
-- Norm, from _Cheers_
Mobius strippers never show you their back side.
All constants are variables.
Years ago, I had set up my Mac's Terminal to output a fortune each time I opened a new session (window). At some point, though, I forgot to set it up on a new system, so it was gone. While fortune isn't included in macOS' Unix core by default, there are many ways to get it back, and it's relatively simple to do so. Here's one way…