The Robservatory

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Apple Universe

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

A deep dive into the Apple Arcade—Part Four

Today wraps up my deep dive into the Apple Arcade. When I planned this, one Part Four post was going to cover everything left…but it was way too long. So I'm still publishing it all today, but I've split the last part into three separate posts. So here's the full series:

  • Part One: This covers what I look for in games, some general observations on the games in the Arcade, and the lengthy list of games that didn't make my first cut.
  • Part Two: A slightly deeper look at the first half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Three: A slightly deeper look at the second half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Four: The part you're reading now; the first half of my set of definite keeper games.
  • Part Five: The second half of my set of definite keeper games, including my two favorites.
  • Part Six: Wrapping it all up.

Before I get to the keepers, though, there were two more games released while I was working on these posts, so I'll take a quick look at those.

All of You In this unique puzzler, your character is a chicken that needs to collect a number of lost baby chicks. Your chicken walks from left to right across the circles as seen at right. One circle can be animating at a time while the others are still. On some levels, you can rearrange and/or flip the circles, too. (In the level at right, you animate the dynamite circle first, so it explodes before you walk across.)

Higher levels have more circles, so there's not so much empty space…and some of the puzzles get a bit tricky. It's fun, but I'm not sure it's a keeper just yet.

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A deep dive into the Apple Arcade—Part Three

My new iPad Air came with a surprise (at least, to me): A three-month trial to Apple Arcade. So I decided to look at all 139 games available in the Apple Arcade.

Here's what's in each part of the series:

  • Part One: This post includes what I look for in games, some general observations on the games in the Arcade, and the lengthy list of games that didn't make my first cut.
  • Part Two: A slightly deeper look at the first half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Three: The part you're reading now; a slightly deeper look at the second half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Four: The first half of my set of definite keeper games.
  • Part Five: The second half of my set of definite keeper games, including my two favorites.
  • Part Six: Wrapping it all up.

Here's the second set of nine games that I felt worth more time testing. Obviously these summaries still aren't anything close to a full review, but there's a bit more detail (and screenshots; click for the large version).

No Way Home What starts as a top-down space shoot-em-up turns into more of a mission-focused shooter—collect things for upgrades, take this to that. Lovely graphics and fun gameplay, plus a helpful robot assistant helps you battle. And while it's another dual control, the second control is for firing direction not camera view direction, which is much less of a pain for me.
Operator 41 One of the "sneak about in the dark" games, and the graphics have a nice grainy texture to them. The ground is divided into grid squares, and you move by tapping on a destination grid square. It's a simple concept, but it's well executed here, and some of the moves require impeccable timing—roving guards and rotating security lights make for brief bits of protected space.

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A deep dive into the Apple Arcade—Part Two

My new iPad Air came with a surprise (at least, to me): A three-month trial to Apple Arcade. So I decided to look at all 139 141*Two more games were released during the writeup of this series. games available in the Apple Arcade.

Here's what's in each part of the series:

  • Part One: This post includes what I look for in games, some general observations on the games in the Arcade, and the lengthy list of games that didn't make my first cut.
  • Part Two: The part you're reading now—a slightly deeper look at the first half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Three: A slightly deeper look at the second half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Four: The first half of my set of definite keeper games.
  • Part Five: The second half of my set of definite keeper games, including my two favorites.
  • Part Six: Wrapping it all up.

Obviously these summaries still aren't anything close to a full review, but there's a bit more detail (and screenshots; click for the large version).

A Fold Apart This puzzler's unique twist is that the characters are walking around in what is, essentially, a landscape made up of pieces of paper. The paper can be folded and/or flipped over, and solving puzzles involves some combination of flipping and folding in order to complete the path the characters are following. It's colorful and relaxing, yet the puzzles require some creative thinking.

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A deep dive into the Apple Arcade—Part One

My new iPad Air came with a surprise (at least, to me): A three-month trial to Apple Arcade.

I thought if I'm going to trial it, I should really trial it. And what better way to do that than by playing everything they offer? So over the last few days, I have downloaded, launched, played a bit of, taken some very brief notes on, and (in most cases) deleted a total of 139 141*Two more games were released during the writeup of this series. games.

Here's what's in each part of the series:

  • Part One: The part you're reading now, it covers what I look for in games, some general observations on the games in the Arcade, and the lengthy list of games that didn't make my first cut.
  • Part Two: A slightly deeper look at the first half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Three: A slightly deeper look at the second half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Four: The first half of my set of definite keeper games.
  • Part Five The second half of my set of definite keeper games, including my two favorites.
  • Part Six: Wrapping it all up.

I am not going to begin to pretend I will post a full review of each of these games. For most of them, in fact, I can provide only a passing first impression based on my one-time testing of each game.

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Copy links in Chrome, Firefox, and Safari in one step

Something I do a lot is copy links—whether for articles here, or for pasting into Messages or Signal or Twitter, or for corresponding with Many Tricks' customers, I copy a lot of links.

Web browsers—at least the "big three" of Chrome, Firefox, and Safari—bury their copy link commands in a contextual menu. If I want to copy a link, it's a right-click and then either using the keyboard (press C then Return in Chrome and Safari) or mouse (Firefox) to select then activate the Copy Link command.

If you use Chrome or Firefox as your browser, you're in luck: You can install a simple extension in each that lets you copy a link by simply hovering over the link and pressing Commmand- or Control-C:

Now, about Safari. I couldn't find a Safari extension to handle this seemingly simple task, so I turned to Keyboard Maestro.

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See dot files at top of ls output in Linux

In Terminal on macOS, the ls (list directory contents) command sorts the output of its "all files" listing so that hidden files (those that begin with a dot) appear at the top of the list, like this:

$ ls -Alh
total 47640
[email protected]   1 robg  staff    28K Oct 26 15:00 .DS_Store
[email protected]   5 robg  staff   160B Oct 23  2016 .TemporaryItems
... [trimmed for display]
drwxr-xr-x    8 robg  staff   256B Sep 19 08:31 .wine
drwx------   13 robg  staff   416B Apr 13  2019 Applications
drwx------+  20 robg  staff   640B Oct 26 12:36 Desktop
... [trimmed for display]

On the server that hosts my personal sites (as well as Many Tricks), however, ls doesn't sort the invisible files to the top:
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Give your iMac a lift

I have a 2019 27" iMac, which replaced a Late 2014 27" iMac. Both of these are/were placed directly on their stands on my desk. I've always felt that the screen was just a bit too low to be ideal, but I was too lazy to deal with solving it—especially as I knew it meant I'd also have to deal with the mess of cables on the desk behind the iMac.

Then last week, I saw MacRumor's review of the Twelve South Curve Riser iMac Stand, and thought it might solve my problem. But at over four inches (10cm) in height, I thought it would be too high for me—with the height of my desk and chair, I'd wind up looking up at the screen. And, at $80 for just a bent piece of metal, it seemed expensive for what it delivers.

However, MacRumors also linked to their review of the Satechi Type-C Stand for iMac (view on Amazon), which rises a more-reasonable 1.63" (4.1cm) from the desk. But what really intrigued me was that for $90—just $10 more than the Twelve South riser—the Type-C Stand includes two card reader ports (at up to 104MB/s), three USB-A ports (5GB/s), a USB-C port (5GB/s), and a headphone jack.

The ports on the front were the deal sealer for me: My Logitech keyboard and mouse both charge over USB-C, and I'd been using my MacBook Pro to do that as I only have a USB-C to USB-C cable. I also do a fair bit with memory cards—my drone uses microSD and my camera uses a regular SD card. I'd been using a regular card reader that requires the fiddly task of putting the microSD card into a SD-sized card holder; the Satechi stand has two separate slots, so that fiddly work is gone.

As for the brand, I have a Satechi Wireless Smart Keypad that's been working flawlessly for five years, so I felt pretty safe making the purchase decision. It arrived on Sunday, and after getting everything set up, I wish I would have done this years ago.

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Simplify updates to oft-updated text documents

Here on my blog, I've been tracking macOS release dates and rates for nearly 15 years—if I'm doing my math right, I've edited and republished the post 115 times since then. Until the most recent update, all 115 of those updates were pretty much done like this:

  1. Update a Keynote document that calculates the release rate data and contains the two charts in the blog post.
  2. Edit the text of the blog post in a text editor, with Keynote visible, replacing all instances of variable data—dates, numbers, size, rates, etc.—wherever they appear.
  3. Upload the graphs and publish the updated post.

While this isn't an overly complex task by any measure, the second step in particular has gotten more time consuming over the years, because of the length of the post: It now contains over 50,000 characters. That's lots of scrolling and looking for the few bits that change—and I'd often miss a date or a number in some portion of the post.

I thought there had to be a better way, and there is…and of course, the better way uses BBEdit. In particular, BBEdit's support for including one file in another—and using variables in the included file—makes my update task much simpler. If you have text files that receive regular updates, you may find this method of interest, as it can be a big timesaver.

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Resolving ‘A problem repeatedly occurred…’ error in Safari

Yesterday, after updating to Safari 14 on my Mojave-running iMac, I noticed a big problem: I couldn't load many sites that contained either a login dialog or a shopping cart. For example, I could load Target's main site, but when I tried to open the shopping cart, it wouldn't work.

I'd briefly see the page, then it would clear and reload once or twice more, and then I'd be left with an error message:

A problem repeatedly occurred with "https://www.target.com/co-cart"

This was happening on many, but not all, sites—I could login on Amazon and my bank, but not on most of our credit card sites or typical retail shopping pages. Given this happened just after installing Safari 14, I assumed it was somehow related to the new browser version—the same pages that didn't load in Safari loaded fine in every other browser I tried. But they loaded fine on Safari 14 on my Catalina MacBook Pro, so then I knew I had a Mac-specific issue…the worst kind of issue to troubleshoot.

While troubleshooting, I found that I wasn't alone, nor was this a Safari 14 issue—there are lots of reports of the same problem over many years.

After tweeting about my troubles and what I'd done to try to troubleshoot the problem, Jeff Johnson of Lapcat Software got me on the right track by suggesting that my Safari install was broken. He suggested I check the date on this Safari framework...

/System/Library/StagedFrameworks/Safari/libwebrtc.dylib

When I did, I found that the version on my iMac was much older (Jul 13, 2020) than the version on my MacBook Pro (Sep 15 2020), where Safari 14 worked as expected.

It seemed that the fix might be as simple as reinstalling Safari 14…but Apple doesn't make it easy to do that, as you can't reinstall an installed update, and they don't include recent Safari versions on their download page.

After some searching, I found MacUpdate's Apple Safari page, which contains direct links to many versions of Safari—scroll down to the section titled "What's New in Apple Safari," expand it, and you'll see download links for Safari versions back to 13.0.3.

I downloaded the Safari 14 installer1And kept a copy, just in case!, let it do its thing, and the problem is solved. The date on the framework I checked now reflects a mid-September date, which matches the same file on the MacBook Pro.

I'm annoyed that Apple's installer didn't report any issues, and I wonder what a "typical" user might have done to resolve this issue—I only got it fixed thanks to Jeff's tip and the installer links on the MacUpdate page. I can't imagine how long I would have had to talk to Apple Support before they figured out that it was a bad Safari install, and not some app or utility or other "you caused this" issue on my Mac.

So thanks, Jeff and MacUpdate, for helping me find and fix this very annoying problem with my Safari install!

Download and track Amazon purchases over time

Dec 18 2020 update: The Amazon export URL appears to be functional again, which is great news. However, the data is in a completely different format than what's provided by the Chrome extension, so it needs to be massaged to work with my spreadsheet. For now, if you want to use my workbooks, keep using the Chrome extension. I'll see about modifying the spreadsheet to work directly with Amazon's data.

Recently I was trying to enter our Amazon purchase details into Quicken—the transactions download automatically, but they're generically assigned to "Shopping." I was using Amazon's order history page to match transactions and assign categories, but it was slow and painful going given the layout of the orders page.

I thought there must be a simple way to download your Amazon purchase history—once downloaded, I could use a spreadsheet to search my transactions. As it turns out, there is a way, but it's far from simple. Nonetheless, after way too much work, I now have an Excel workbook that makes it very easy to find any of our historical transactions. I enter a year and amount on my Search sheet, and any matches appear immediately:

Getting from "this should be possible" to "it works!" was (as usual) more of a challenge than I anticipated, but it is now working as I wished.

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