Liftoff #138: A Great Acronym, but it’s in Russian »

This time on Liftoff:

The world is mourning the uncontrolled collapse of the Arecibo observatory, even as China’s Chang’e-5 mission is underway to return lunar samples to Earth, which would be a first since the final Apollo mission. Also: an update on the SLS and Orion and a look at what’s going on at Roscosmos.

Lots of ups and downs this week.

My thanks to our sponsor for this episode:

  • Squarespace: Make your next move. Enter offer code LIFTOFF at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase.

AWS Adds Mac Instances, Powered by Intel Mac minis »

Jeff Barr, on the AWS News Blog:

Powered by Mac mini hardware and the AWS Nitro System, you can use Amazon EC2 Mac instances to build, test, package, and sign Xcode applications for the Apple platform including macOS, iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, watchOS, and Safari. The instances feature an 8th generation, 6-core Intel Core i7 (Coffee Lake) processor running at 3.2 GHz, with Turbo Boost up to 4.6 GHz. There’s 32 GiB of memory and access to other AWS services including Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS), Amazon FSx for Windows File Server, Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), AWS Systems Manager, and so forth.

Mac instances run macOS 10.14 (Mojave) and 10.15 (Catalina) and can be accessed via command line (SSH) or remote desktop (VNC). The AMIs (Amazon Machine Images) for EC2 Mac instances are EC2-optimized and include the AWS goodies that you would find on other AWS AMIs: An ENA driver, the AWS Command Line Interface (CLI), the CloudWatch Agent, CloudFormation Helper Scripts, support for AWS Systems Manager, and the ec2-user account. You can use these AMIs as-is, or you can install your own packages and create custom AMIs (the homebrew-aws repo contains the additional packages and documentation on how to do this).

The plan on rolling out M1 Mac minis early next year, and while this is neat, I still think what MacStadium offers is a lot more compelling if you need a Mac in the cloud all the time.

Kbase Article of the Week: SCSI Hard Disks: Mounting Without Restarting »

Apple Support:

I want to mount Apple SCSI hard disks without restarting the system. Is there any way to do this from the System software or any of the included utilities? If not, can you suggest any other utilities that would enable mounting Apple SCSI drives without restarting?

Yes, there are several shareware utilities that allow mounting of SCSI volumes without a restart. They are: SCSI Probe by Robert Polic, SCSI Info by Bob Easterday, and SCSI Tool by Paul Mercer. SCSI Probe is available online.

Using BetterTouchTool and Keyboard Maestro to Make the Touch Bar Much More Useful 

Love it or hate it, it seems that the Touch Bar is here to stay on the MacBook Pro. As such, it seems wise to me to make it more useful.

A little backstory first, though… earlier this year, David Sparks finally talked me into buying a Stream Deck to use at my desk. As with most things, he was right about how much I would come to love it.

The Stream Deck is incredibly flexible, but one of my most common use cases is to tap a single button on it to open a bunch of related Safari tabs when it comes time to prepare for a show.

For example, if I press the button with the MPU logo, it opens these pages:

  • MPU episode schedule
  • Folder of MPU Outlines
  • The MPU page in Relay’s ad-tracking system
  • The MPU page in the Relay FM CMS

I’m doing this via with Keyboard Maestro, another incredibly flexible tool. Here’s what that looks like, with my secret URLs redacted:

As you can see, on my Mac Pro, this is triggered by a specific button my Stream Deck, as pictured above.1

To re-use these macros on my MacBook Pro, I made a copy of them in Keyboard Maestro, which I have sync its data over Dropbox.

I then fired up BetterTouchTool, which among many other things, allows you to create custom UI elements on your notebook’s Touchbar, tying them to a wide range of actions. Turns out, you can even have BetterTouchTool become a trigger for Keyboard Maestro.

First, create a button in the Touch Bar section of BetterTouchTool, or a group that you can place buttons in, like I have:

The action you need to use is named “Execute Terminal Command (Async, non-blocking),” which makes the button fire off a script. Here’s the script itself:

osascript -e 'tell application "Keyboard Maestro Engine" to do script "PLACEHOLDER"'

Where I have that placeholder text, you’ll need to paste in the UUID of the Keyboard Maestro macro you want to execute. To get that, you will need to select “Copy as UUID” in Keyboard Maestro:

… and then paste it into BetterTouchTool.

(While in Keyboard Maestro, be sure to set the trigger for the macro to be a script.)

When this is all done, you can tap a button on the Touch Bar and fire any Keyboard Maestro macro you desire.

Happy automating!

  1. The non-show buttons control various lights in my office and control media playback on the computer. The Migration Assistant icon launches my normal set of apps after a reboot. 

RIP, Growl »

It’s the end of the road for the once ubiquitous Mac app, as its creator Christopher Forsythe writes:

Growl is being retired after surviving for 17 years. With the announcement of Apple’s new hardware platform, a general shift of developers to Apple’s notification system, and a lack of obvious ways to improve Growl beyond what it is and has been, we’re announcing the retirement of Growl as of today.

It’s been a long time coming. Growl is the project I worked on for the longest period of my open source career. However at WWDC in 2012 everyone on the team saw the writing on the wall. This was my only WWDC. This is the WWDC where Notification Center was announced. Ironically Growl was called Global Notifications Center, before I renamed it to Growl because I thought the name was too geeky. There’s even a sourceforge project for Global Notifications Center still out there if you want to go find it.

Mac Power Users #564: Taking Pictures and Enriching Lives with Austin Mann »

This week on MPU, David and I catch up with Austin Mann to talk about his work and his annual iPhone camera reviews, including what sets the iPhone 12 Pro Max apart from Apple’s other new phones.

My thanks to our sponsors:

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ReStuff »

Joshua Stein has made a very specific utility:

StuffIt is the de-facto standard for file archiving and compression on Mac OS before OS X. Most old Macintosh software is preserved in StuffIt format, but a breaking change in StuffIt 5 makes archives created in this version unreadable in older versions of StuffIt. Since StuffIt 3.5 is the last version that works on System 6, many archives cannot be opened on compact Macs running System 6.

ReStuff is a SaaS that automatically converts StuffIt version 4 & 5 archives to a format readable in StuffIt 3.

Go read how this works. I love it.