Carrying Stones

Moving a mountain one stone at a time

Category: technology (page 1 of 3)

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Third-Party Apps Confused by Gatekeeper Path Randomization

Have you noticed that some of your third-party applications—the ones that aren’t installed using the App Store—aren’t updating automatically? If you try to force a check for updates from the Application menu, you may see an error dialog that includes something like “can’t be updated while it’s running from a read-only volume.”

This isn’t a new problem. The “feature” was enabled for your own good in macOS Sierra last summer. It didn’t grab many headlines and began quietly hindering automatic updates in some apps. For me, that means apps like Panic’s Coda and Dropshare by the Dropshare folks. The devs at Rogue Amoeba (famous for apps including Airfoil, Audio Hijack, Fission, and more) wrote a detailed post about this. Apple has also documented this.

The fix is easy, but not immediately obvious for mid-level nerds like me. To properly install the app, you have to move it from ~/Downloads to /Applications in the Finder. You cannot use a third-party Finder replacement such as Path Finder (like I do). All I had to do was open the Finder and move it out of, then back into, /Applications.

In doing so I found another “feature.” I presume because /Applications is the proper home for, well, applications, Apple wants them to stay there. Drag and drop and you will find an alias. Hold down the Command key before you click and drag it out. After you’ve finished doing the application Hokey Pokey, everything should be back to normal.

Fix for Old-Timey Apple Keyboards

;tldr If the caps lock on your old keyboard stopped working, try to install and use Karabiner-Elements. It fixed the problem for me.

The caps lock on my beloved Apple Keyboard Extended II I use at work stopped working recently. I tend not to type in ALL CAPS often, but sometimes I have to type ridiculous acronyms and caps lock is the key I need. Later I noticed it wasn’t working on the one I use at home.

There are several breakpoints, so I first chalked it up to hardware failure. These things are more than 26 years old after all.1 They also require a Griffin iMate adaptor to convert their ADB connections to USB. After I saw the problem on both keyboards, I knew something was up.

One of the updates to macOS Sierra 10.12.x broke it. This was a problem, but it was a software issue and software can be fixed. I found Karabiner-Elements fixed my problem. It enables user to remap their keyboard. You can do lots of cool stuff with this (like creating a super meta hyper key), but my needs are simple for now.

After installing the software, I opened the settings and set caps lock to caps lock. That was all it took to return functionality to my caps lock key. I added it to my Login Items (under Users & Groups in the System Preferences) and I’m ready to ROCK AND ROLL!

  1. That’s crazy to think about. Apple introduced the Extended II on Oct 15, 1990. It was discontinued in March 14, 1994. Source: Wikipedia

Wrapping Earbud Cords

I’ve been going to the gym (more on that later) and haven’t fallen to the siren song of Bluetooth earbuds. I’m still stuck with the cords on my trusty Apple EarPods. I got tired of the tangles and remembered this video published by The Verge.

I hope it helps my fellow slow adopters.

macOS ⌘⇥ App Switcher on wrong display

Sometimes when I press ⌘⇥, the switcher pops up on the wrong display. This seems random, but I learned it isn’t.

The switcher display shows up on the last display where the Dock was active. That’s all there is to it!

The solution wasn’t hard to find, but the answer I read was on StackExchange.

No Smile Here as TextExpander Subscribes to New Business Plan

Years ago I got hooked on automation for fun and productivity, and expanding snippets of text on my Mac made me feel like a wizard.

In those early years, I waffled between Typinator and TypeIt4Me before the introduction of the iPhone. I moved to TextExpander sometime around 2010 when it began syncing with my then-new iPhone. I used it exclusively until Tuesday, April 5, when Smile Software announced the transition to a subscription plan.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. —Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV)

The idea of a subscription model doesn’t bother me. The software is awesome and remains the only snippet expander that is widely supported by iOS app developers. Why write off more than five years of building habits and muscle memory?

The exorbitant cost.

Expanding Costs

I think I got into the game with my first purchase of Textpander 3 circa 2010 for $19.95 (after taking advantage of a $15 discount). Continuing to invest in the system, I later upgraded to version 4 for $19.95 followed by an upgrade to the last version for another $20. These purchases for my Mac were coupled with versions 3 and 4 on iOS for $4.99 each.

If you’re keeping up, that’s a total investment just a hair short of $70 to license the software for roughly five years, or about $14 a year.

Under the new subscription model, the cost is easy to project for the next five years. The charge over five years for new users paying monthly will be $297. “Loyal” users get a break for 12 months. Here is a full breakdown of subscription costs over a five-year period.

New Annual New Monthly Upgrade Annual Upgrade Monthly
$237.60 $297 $213.84 $267.36

Doesn’t Compare

Smile Software isn’t breaking any new ground with its move to a subscription model. Adobe and Microsoft also made the move, but the return on investment simply doesn’t compare.

If my memory hasn’t faded too much, major version releases of Adobe’s Master Collection arrived about every three years with an upgrade cost of $1,800. The company now charges $50/month to access the entire stable of pro editing software with regular updates, or $1,800 every three years.

Microsoft’s Office Suite used to be in the neighborhood of $400 with deep discounts for students to $150. Now, those apps are available to regular users of Office 365 for $6.99/month, or $419.40 every five years. This includes services such as free tech support, 1 TB of OneDrive cloud storage, and web versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook in addition to the full desktop apps.

The cost to subscribe software from Adobe and Microsoft is comparable to the prior cost to buy boxed versions off the shelf. Based on my personal experience, the cost to subscribe to TextExpander will increase from an average of $14/year to $42.77/year, a 205.5 percent annual increase.

Technical Difficulties

There are other concerns beyond price.

Smile seems proud to drop sync services with Dropbox and iCloud to host its new Meteor app on the Galaxy cloud service. No more free to cheap, widely available, mature services available. Just the new textexpander.com. They seem to be taking Steve Jobs 2007 “very sweet solution” for developers to heart.

This was a case where history proves that Jobs wasn’t always right. Smile’s mandatory replacement locks users into a service that is arguably less secure. After fallout from the company’s initial announcement and press release, Smile Software issued a clarification the next day explaining upgrade options and the company’s intention “to support it on El Capitan and the next major upgrade of OS X.”

Alternatives

What now?

After turning off snippet expansion in TextExpander, I am adding snippets to Keyboard Maestro as needed. Keyboard Maestro is life-changing software I already owned that easily handles snippet expansion and so much more.

What Else Can Keyboard Maestro Do? Pretty much anything you can imagine including launch applications, click the mouse, palettes, execute scripts, insert text, manipulate windows, record macros, built in flow control, use text tokens, menus and buttons, open, file actions, clipboard history, control itunesnotifications, notifications, and perform image actions.

I lose syncing with iOS this way, but will just enter my oft-used snippets into the the Text Replacement features built into iOS. You can find these options on your iPhone under Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement. Snippets entered here will sync with your other Apple devices, but lack form entry and support for multiple lines or paragraphs of text.

A few other options include Typinator (by ergonis) and TypeIt4Me (by Ettore Software, App Store affilitiate link) along with aText (by Tran Ky Nam Software), the cheapest alternative for a sawbuck. Ettore also offers TypeIt4Me Touch (App Store affiliate link) that syncs with iOS using iCloud.

Long Story Short…

It’s too late to keep this long story short. If you scrolled to the end, here’s the nut of it. TextExpander has priced itself out of my business and I’m using Keyboard Maestro instead.

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