The Robservatory

Robservations on everything…



Zoom zoom zoom

Today’s tip is simple, yet for me, critical—it’s one of the first things I do when I set up a new Mac or user on an existing Mac, as it solves a vexing issue: Small fonts that can’t be modified within an app’s preferences. As my eyes get older, these small fonts get more and more annoying.

Thankfully, there’s a fix in the Accessibility section of System Preferences, specifically on the Zoom tab: Easily zoom the screen via keyboard or gesture shortcut. Here’s the setup screen:

You can choose to use keyboard shortcuts to zoom (top section of the full screenshot), or (my preference) a scroll gesture with a modifier key. There are also some useful options in the “Zoom style” section.


View app-specific log messages in Terminal

It’s not often I get to use a tweet by Many Tricks own Peter Maurer as the inspiration for a tip. But this tip is such a case, as he recently complained about Console and its inability to see old output. A response from @fzwob taught me something I didn’t know:

That command browses the captured macOS log data and pulls out anything that matches the specified process name. This could be useful if you’re having troubles with an app and wonder if anything was logged relative to your troubles. Or you might be asked to send the log data if you’re working with the developer on your issue.

Unfortunately, the quotes and dashes in the command as tweeted have been prettified (by Twitter?); here it is in raw Terminal form, using our own Moom as an example:

log show --predicate 'processImagePath CONTAINS[c] "Moom"'

When you press Return, the command will start digging into the log file, and soon start spewing output—possibly a lot of output—to your screen.


Use macOS VMs in VMware Fusion in retina mode

I use VMware Fusion often—I have virtual machines that span Mac OS X 10.6 to macOS 10.12.4 beta. I use the more-recent of these for supporting our customers on older versions of the OS, and keep the really old versions just for nostalgia purposes. (I have a bunch of non-macOS virtual machines, too, but they’re not relevant to this tidbit.)

In all the time I’ve been using Fusion on my retina Macs, though, I’ve never enabled this setting…

…well, I enabled it once, but turned it off, because the end result was too small to see: In Retina mode, every pixel is an actual pixel, not a doubled pixel. On my 27″ iMac, that meant the macOS VM thought it was running at (for example) 2560×1600 instead of a retina resolution of 1280×800. VMware even warns you of this in their Knowledge Base:

Mac OS X running in a virtual machine is limited to an approximate resolution of 2560 x 1600, and treats the display as a standard DPI device. This makes the text and icons to appear small in the OS X interface.

However, today I stumbled across this solution from Patrick Bougie—and it’s brilliant in its simplicity. Patrick’s post has all the details; I’ll reproduce them here in abbreviated form, just in case his page ever vanishes.


Edit long Terminal commands in a visual editor

Here’s a quickie tip for those of us who occasionally string together complex commands at Terminal’s prompt: You may want to add this simple line to your .profile (or whatever init file you use):

set -o vi

What does it do? It tells Unix/Terminal to set the input line editor to vi. When might this be useful? Let’s say you’ve typed a long command, like the one to launch a background screen saver:

/System/Library/Frameworks/ScreenSaver.framework/Resources/ -module "Arabesque" -background &

Before you hit Return, you notice a couple of typos early in the command. You could use cursor movement keys to move around, of course, but with the above command in place, just press Escape and hit v: The entered command will open for editing in vi. Make your changes, then do the usual :wq vi exit dance, and your edited command will then execute.

Note that if you edit a command but then don’t save it (i.e. you press :q!, you may have to hit Return on the command line to get out of an odd “waiting for v to edit” mode. (At least that’s the only way I found to return to normal typing.)

April Fool’s Day: Ten simple Mac pranks—part 2 of 2

As promised, this collection of five more April Fool’s Day pranks completes the set of 10 that began with these five pranks. As with the first group of pranks, this is still applicable…

Note: None of these pranks are destructive in any way, but please make sure you’re close by to “solve the problem” before your target’s frustration boils over.

And now, on to the second five pranks…

6 – Create strange keyboard shortcuts

Again in System Preferences, you can have a lot of fun with the Text tab on the Keyboard panel. Set up replacements that do all sorts of weird stuff:

  • Make them think they’re just missing their keys, i.e. replace the with tje (you must use at least two keys in the original).
  • Mess with their grammar thoughts by replacing to with too, their with they’re, etc.
  • Screw up letter case; replace the with tHe, she with shE, etc.
  • Completely change words, for instance, replace weight with w-you sure it’s e before i?-ght or me with me, the brilliant one.
  • If you have some time, add the words from a full pirate talk dictionary. Hello becomes Ahoy there!, etc.
  • Change l to 1, o to 0, etc.

You get the idea.

7 – Run the screen saver in the background

Did you know you can run the screen saver in the background? I explain how in this tip. I’m not sure this has much practical value, but it’s certainly fitting for April Fool’s Day. Here’s how it looks in action, from the original post:

After executing the command, press ⌃L in Terminal (to clear the screen). Then, because you have to leave Terminal running to make this work, minimize the Terminal window to the Dock, then hide the app via ⌘H. Even if your victim finds the Terminal window, they won’t know how to stop the screensaver unless they’re familiar with background tasks in Unix. (Or until they quit Terminal, which will terminate the screen saver.)


April Fool’s Day: Ten simple Mac pranks—part 1 of 2

With April Fool’s Day upcoming, here are some relatively-painless jokes to pull on your Mac-using friends. All of these pranks require direct unrestricted access to your target’s Mac, and many further require that System Preferences isn’t locked down (i.e. not set to require a password before changing any values).

Note: None of these pranks are destructive in any way, but please make sure you’re close by to “solve the problem” before your target’s frustration boils over.

The pranks aren’t in any particular order, though they do sort of progress from easiest (to implement and to detect) to hardest.

1 – Make the Mac take a daytime nap

Head to System Preferences > Energy Saver, then click Schedule. Set the target’s Mac to go to sleep in the middle of the day…

If they’re working at the time, they’ll get a pop-up dialog, so the Mac probably won’t go to sleep. But they may think it was a quirk, until the same thing happens the next day.

2 – Change the desktop picture—often

The simple version of this one is to go to System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver > Desktop, click the Change Picture button, then use the pop-up menu to set it to five seconds.

This one won’t fool most Mac users for too long, so you might as well have some fun with it: Instead of just changing the interval, copy a folder full of your own images, and then use the sidebar in the Desktop tab to choose that folder of images.

What kind of images? Well, nothing too bad, of course, but maybe fill it pictures of your target’s least-favorite sports team. Or their college’s rival school. Or screens of motivational sayings. Bright neon-colored backgrounds—whatever.


An odd fix for ‘jpeg’ vs ‘jpg’ filename extensions

I recently reinstalled macOS Sierra, due to my annoying Bluetooth issues. I hadn’t noticed any side effects of the reinstall until I went to save a JPEG image from Acorn.

On save, I noticed that the image’s extension was .jpeg rather than what I thought was the usual .jpg. As both of my other Macs save with the .jpg extension, I figured something was messed up on the iMac. So I (of course) tweeted about the issue. A while later, Shawn King replied with this seemingly odd suggestion:

So I tried it, and sure enough, changing the screen capture file format via defaults write type jpg and then restarting the SystemUIServer with killall SystemUIServer changed my default JPEG extension in every app to .jpg.

What’s really strange is that I then switched the screenshot format back to png, and the .jpg extension remained. I even went so far as to delete the pref (defaults delete, and still, the extension remains .jpg. So whatever change occurred when switching the default screenshot format, it appears to be permanent.

I tried the same trick for the .tiff extension (which I rarely use, so it doesn’t bother me as much), and it sort of worked: Captured screenshots got a .tif extension, but images saved from apps still got the four-letter .tiff extension. Weird.

If anyone knows exactly what’s going on with the .jpeg vs. .jpg extension, I’d love to hear the explanation.

Watch a screen saver in the background

Another oldie but goodie, and it’s best demonstrated by example:

Yes, that’s a screen saver running in the background, behind whatever work you’re doing. And if nothing else, it’s a great example of the progress of our CPUs and GPUs since 2002. In the original hint, I noted:

On my G4/733 with the GeForce3, this is simply amazing. The new “flurry” screensaver is running right now on the destop at 1600×1200 in thousands, iTunes is playing, the ink recognition floater is open, and yet the CPU utilization is averaging at or below 50% of thereabouts

Today, I’m testing it on a 5K iMac (5120×2880) with a second connected 4K (3840×2160) display—a total of 23,040,000 pixels, or 12 times as many pixels as in 2002—with Flurry running on both screens, and the CPU usage is somewhere around 10% to 15%. (Flurry does send the iMac’s fans into a tizzy, though.) Other screen savers are even less intensive, and don’t send my iMac’s fans into high gear.

I can’t imagine actually working this way for very long, but it is kind of interesting. Here’s how to start (and more importantly, perhaps, stop) a background screen saver.


One possible solution to macOS Sierra Bluetooth issues

A while back, I wrote about some very annoying Bluetooth issues in macOS Sierra: My headphones would pop and crackle when I moved my mouse around, and the mouse, keyboard, and/or trackpad would randomly disconnect and reconnect.

The other night, due to some stupidity on my part1I installed an app I suspected might have infected my Mac. It was a false alarm., I felt it was time to reinstall macOS Sierra. I logged into my other admin account, launched the Mac App Store, and then reinstalled macOS Sierra2There are other ways to reinstall, i.e. from the recovery partition; they’re detailed on the support page..

The nice thing about the reinstall is that it’s nothing like a reinstall from days of yore—you’re not starting from scratch, so you won’t have to reinstall everything when done. Apple makes this clear on the support page:

You can install macOS over the same version or earlier version, without removing your data. You don’t need to remove or disable the existing system first.

I say this with crossed fingers, but it seems that this reinstallation has potentially solved my Bluetooth issues. For the last two days, I’ve used my Bluetooth headphones without any static issues at all. In addition, none of my Bluetooth devices have disconnected. There is one comment from slajax on the original article that states this didn’t work for them:

I’ve been having the same issue but with the gen 1 track pad and keyboard. I reinstalled the OS, PRAM etc replaced them with the gen 2 key board and track pad and also had the apple store replace the bluetooth antenna but still having the same issue.

If you’ve reached the breaking point with your macOS Sierra/Bluetooth issues, it might be worth the 30 minutes or so a reinstall takes. But please, if you go this route, make sure you have a good backup first, just in case. And if it works for you, please post in the comments (either here or on the original post), so that others might see, too. I promise to do the same if my now-working Bluetooth turns out to again be not-working Bluetooth.

Make your macOS Dock suck

Now, some may not like the Dock and say it already sucks. But I’m actually referring to a really old hint that ran on Mac OS X 10.0’s release date—March 24, 2001.

The hint explained that the Dock has three minimization modes available; back then, you had no choice of which to use. Now we have a choice between two: Genie (the default) and Scale, selectable on the Dock System Preferences panel. If you’d like to see the hidden third mode, Suck, issue these two commands in Terminal:

defaults write mineffect suck
killall Dock

Your Dock will restart, and when you minimize a window, it will be sucked into the Dock. The best way to compare these three animations is by watching them in slow motion—hold down Shift1That’s called a hidden hint—hold Shift to see any macOS animation in slow motion. while clicking the yellow button on any window. Or just watch this video…

I personally use Scale, though I am surprised that Suck has survived intact over all the intervening years.

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