The Robservatory

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Apple Universe

Top-level category for all Apple, Mac, and OS X related topics.

Quickly create a nested folder structure via Terminal

Have you ever needed to create an empty folder structure with many levels of repetitively-named folders? This doesn’t happen a lot, obviously, but if you try using Finder for this task, you’ll quickly discover it’s really tedious. But a quick trip to Terminal makes the task very fast, and it’s not overly complicated.

Let’s say you need a folder structure to handle reports that you’ll be receiving weekly, but need to keep track of over both quarters and years. One way to handle that would be with a folder structure like this:

(Hopefully obviously, the same structure repeats within each separate year’s folder.) Creating that many multi-leveled folders in Finder would be time consuming and tedious. But in Terminal, you can create the entire structure with just one command:

mkdir -p 202{0..5}/qtr{1..4}/week{1..13}

That command takes under a second on my iMac to create the entire directory structure (over 330 folders). Zoom! So how does this work?

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

Updated and republished for macOS 10.15.4; 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 10.15.4, as of March 24th, 2020—the 132nd release in total.

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

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Add metadata to ripped movies and TV shows

Somewhat regularly, I write about ripping DVDs and Blu-Rays. I tend to prefer physical media and sometimes—especially when buying an older TV series or classic movie—the disc won’t include a digital copy. So I rip the disc—this way for Blu-Rays, or just via HandBrake for DVDs—to create my own digital copy.

Once ripped, the problem is that I have a video file that will play, but that has no useful information about what the video is—no metadata about the cast, production year, or (for TV series) season and episode. If I try to add the movie to the TV app (or iTunes, as on my iMac), it will require some hand editing to wind up in the right category, and it still won’t have any show information.

Enter Subler, a free app to help you “tag” (add metadata to) movies and TV shows. There are probably other apps out there that do this, but Subler works quite well for me, especially for TV shows.

When I rip a TV series, I’ll give the files a filename based on its title and (for TV series) season and episode, like Wings S01E01, or Sports Night S02E04. I then drag and drop the ripped file onto Subler’s dock icon, and it opens a window, showing all the metadata associated with the file; here’s how the window looked after I ripped the first episode of Sports Night:

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How to fix Split View in macOS Mojave and Catalina

macOS has had (since 10.14) a built-in Split View mode that lets you use your full screen to display two apps side by side, each in a quasi “full screen” mode. Personally, I never use this feature—why limit yourself to just two windows?—but I know many people do.

In macOS Catalina, you activate Split View via a green button hover, which then shows this pop-up menu:

The activation method is somewhat different in 10.14, but the end result is the same—a window taking up half your display. Except when it doesn’t…

As you can see, the full screen menu item works, but the two Split View entries do nothing at all—no error message, but nothing happens other than the menu vanishes.

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A performance-centric look at the 16″ MacBook Pro

Despite my hatred for the Touch Bar, I recently purchased a new 16″ Touch Bar-equipped MacBook Pro (and promptly did my best to minimize the Touch Bar’s annoyances). Why buy a machine with an interface I dislike? There are a number of reasons…

First and foremost, I’ve decided it’s not really worth the effort to maintain two laptops—my old 2013 MacBook Pro is used for beta versions of macOS, so that I can test Many Tricks’ apps, and my 2018 Air is my travel and “around the house” machine.

With the new APFS filesystem, though, creating additional volumes (basically equivalent to a partition in the old world) is really simple, and with ultra-fast solid state drives, rebooting is relatively quick.

So it’s my intent to replace both machines with the new MacBook Pro. Yes, it’ll be more of a pain when I travel (heavier and bigger), but I don’t travel a ton, and even when I do, I do most of my work in hotel rooms, not in airplanes. And I’ll appreciate the larger screen and improved performance, in exchange for lugging a bit more weight around.

What follows is a look at my new portable Mac, comparing its performance with both the 2013 MacBook Pro and the 2018 MacBook Air—similar to what I’ve done for that same MacBook Air and my 2019 iMac (Part One, Part Two, and Addendum).

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De-distractionate the Touch Bar

Shocking even myself, I’m now the owner of a Touch Bar equipped MacBook Pro—I purchased the entry-level 16″ model last weekend. Why? I’ll save the detailed explanation for an upcoming look at the machine and its performance, but the main goal was to replace two laptops with one.

But just because I now have a Touch Bar-equipped Mac doesn’t mean I suddenly like the Touch Bar. In fact, my feelings about it haven’t changed since I wrote about it two years ago:

The Touch Bar, despite its name, is actually an Eye Bar: It forces your eyes off the screen, down to the Touch Bar, back up to the screen, repeat ad infinitum.

After some hours working with my new MBP, this is definitely a problem—and it’s a problem even when I’m not using the Touch Bar, which is pretty much all the time: I’ve found that the changing images and colors on the Touch Bar grab my eye every time I switch apps…

The camera was focused on the Touch Bar, but when I’m looking at the screen, I see all that activity just below the screen, and it’s really distracting. Thankfully, there’s an easy fix, and one I’d not heard of prior to buying this machine…

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Digging into an unexpected encryption speed boost

What follows is a lengthy dive into a semi-recent massive performance improvement in openssl speeds in macOS. As it’s long, here’s a tl;dr version:

  • From 10.14.4 to 10.14.5, a change in macOS improved openssl speed benchmark results anywhere from 15x to 30x.
  • In real world use, encryption of a large sample file (570MB) using a very long password happened nearly twice as quickly as it did before the update.
  • The version number for openssl (which is really LibreSSL) is the same (2.6.5) in both 10.14.4 and 10.14.5. I also confirmed that the packages, as loaded on the Apple Open Source site, are identical.
  • The four libraries that openssl links to have the same version numbers in 10.14.4 and 10.14.5.
  • The binaries for openssl and the four linked libraries all use much less disk space in 10.14.5 than they did in 10.14.4. I can’t explain this, except that openssl itself is no longer a universal binary.
  • I believe the performance boost is due to macOS enabling Intel’s AES-NI, which allow hardware acceleration of some key cryptography tasks. But I can’t figure out how this change was made, given the above data.
  • The Apple Open Source site may hold the answers, but that work is beyond my skill level.

Keep reading if you’d like to see how I came to the above summary…

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System Information incorrectly identifies some 32-bit apps

I received an email from a user this morning, asking if Name Mangler was compatible with Catalina, as he’d seen a report telling him it was 32-bit. This was an odd thing to read, because Name Mangler 3 has been 64-bit from the beginning, way back in 2013.

I asked what report he was looking at, and he told me it was from the Legacy Software tab in System Information. I decided to see what the report had to say about my machine, so I launched the app (Option-click the Apple icon in the menu bar), went to the Legacy Software tab, and saw this…

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Remove the macOS Catalina guilt trip from macOS Mojave

I have no plans to move my main iMac to macOS Catalina, at least for the forseeable future. There are two key apps I use—Fujitsu’s ScanSnap scanner software and the Many Tricks’ accounting app—that are both 32-bit. In addition, there are changes in Catalina relative to permissions that make it somewhat Vista like and slow down my interaction with the system. (My MacBook Air is my “production” Catalina Mac, and I have an older retina MacBook Pro that I use for Catalina betas.)

But Apple really wants people to update to Catalina, so they let you know about Catalina…constantly, it seems. In System Preferences > Software Update, you’ll see this…

And while that’s annoying, it’s not nearly as annoying as the red “1” dot they stick on System Preferences, which will stare at you forever. I complained about this on Twitter, and as is often the case, some very bright people had solutions to the problem.

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When products play hide-and-seek with serial numbers

I recently bought a set of PowerBeats Pro, which I generally love (more on the headphones in a future post), but today, while trying to register my product with Beats, I ran into a clear example of form trumping function.

To register your Beats, you need the serial number; Beats provides a graphic that shows you where to find it…

Seems simple enough, so I flip open the case…

Umm, where is that serial number?

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