December 4, 2022

7 Things This Week, 2022-12-04

A weekly list of interesting things I found on the internet, posted on Sundays. Sometimes themed, often not.


1️⃣ The sorry” animation on Squarespace’s 404 error page is so creative and entrancing. [Link - 404 // squarespace.com]

2️⃣ The hidden door into YouTuber/engineer Mark Rober’s studio and workshop is just the tip of the iceberg in this tour of his bananas home base (secret lair?). [Link - Colin and Samir // youtube.com]

3️⃣ A good conversation on Mastodon regarding social networks feeling the pressure to add user-requested features that might go against the platform’s ideals. I like the thought behind how traditional blog-quoting and quote-tweeting differ and how the structure does indeed frame the quoted content. [Link - @Gte // mastodon.social]

4️⃣ Here’s an awesome tip from Mikah Sargent about how to get your iPhone to also flash when you’re pinging it from an Apple Watch. This one was new to me! [Link - @mikahsargent // mastodon.social]

5️⃣ I’ve no shortage of ways to title case-ify my text. But this little tool from Collin Donnell is particularly delightful. [Link - Collin Donnell // title.love]

6️⃣ This website is a masterclass in personal website design by Lachlan Campbell. I don’t even know what to tell you to explore because it’s all so creative. Just go poke around, hover on things, and get lost in wonder and amazement. And don’t skip on their Notebook blog. [Link - @lachlanjc // lachlanjc.com]

7️⃣ Liza asks a poignant question regarding why we’re creating extra work for ourselves by screenshoting text and then trying to add it back in with alt text for accessibility. Shouldn’t the computer do this? The conversation that follows reveals some possible solutions by people all much smarter than me. [Link - @liza // post.lurk.org]


Trust Click


Thanks for reading 7 Things. If you enjoyed these links or have something neat to share, please let me know.

7 Things

December 4, 2022

‘All Consuming’ Podcast is Back

Speaking of things that are back, I’m thrilled to see that the All Consuming podcast, hosted by Noah Kalina and Adam Lisagor, is back in production. Longtime readers might remember that All Consuming was my favorite non-tech podcast of 2021, so I was pretty bummed when they decided to call it quits earlier this year.

But the podcast gods are smiling down upon us and have given the guys the strength to carry on. Few other shows have made me LOL for real like All Consuming. And while Season 2 may be a little different — they aren’t going to be reviewing direct-to-consumer goods this time round; instead, they’ll review general concepts like Pets and Work — I’m just excited that I get to listen to their ramble-y, insightful, and hilarious conversations again.

Get subscribed, and listen to the back catalog if you haven’t already. You won’t regret it.

Podcasts

December 4, 2022

Indie App Santa Returns

Tis the season to celebrate all independent app developers. For several years now, Indie App Santa has worked with many small development shops to release their app — one per day — at an extreme discount each day of December. Many apps go for free, like today’s see / saw game by Philipp Stollenmayer.

We’re only four days in, so there are still many little gifts left to unwrap this year. I like to keep up with the daily deals by following their Twitter account, but they also, fittingly, have a cute advent calendar-themed app.

Apps

December 3, 2022

Inspect Browser for iOS Is the Tool I’ve Been Searching For

If you’re working on a website and want to do fully-fledged element inspection and inline preview editing of a page like you can on a desktop browser, stop now and get Inspect Browser by Parallax Dynamics for iOS and iPadOS. Go ahead; I’ll wait.

Got it? Good!

Usually, I wouldn’t tell someone to get an app without first mentioning the price, but Inspect Browser is so good that it’s a no-brainer at $7.99. So if you went to the App Store and didn’t purchase it because of the price, go back. I’m telling you, it’s the only web inspection app you’ll need.

I’ve often put off fixing CSS bugs on my site because I’m away from my Mac. It’s always been a hassle to edit the code, save, wait for the changes to sync over Dropbox, wait a little longer for it to propagate to Blot’s servers, reload my webpage, and then finally check to see if the edits successfully fixed the issue. It’s way better to make those guess-and-check changes locally in the browser and then copy the winning code back into the CSS document for the production site. With Inspect Browser, I can now do that with ease and grace on any of my mobile devices.

It gets all the little things right. You can open multiple tabs. You can edit the code or the processed copy. Then drag out the changes to a text editor. And it’s in the Share Sheet for quickly getting whatever site you’re browsing into edit mode. You can even export screenshots of entire web pages and individual web elements.

Hopefully, by now, you’re already having fun editing this very website in Inspect Browser. I’d love to see what you do to the place!

Inspect Browser opened to my Projects page and editing the Now section title.
Editing my website on my iPad mini. Not a computer, my ass. 😜

(Via Lachlan Campbell)

Apps

December 3, 2022

Google Consolidates Data Permissions Across Services With a Domain Move

Garrit Franke, in a short post to his blog:

Yesterday I was asked to allow the usage of location services for Google Maps seemingly out of nowhere. Of course I accepted. After all, I just wanted to check a route to a local business and I was in a hurry. Back home I opened Google Maps again, and noticed that maps.google.com now redirects to google.com/maps. This implies that the permissions I give to Google Maps now apply to all of Googles services hosted under this domain.

I’m not sure how much this matters in the long run as I have the feeling the small print we all agree to would have allowed Google to connect the dots on our data anyway. But it still feels like a sneaky move on Google’s part. Covert moves shouldn’t be in the playbook of the personal data game.

(Via Daring Fireball)

Linked

December 2, 2022

‘Radical iMac Mod Shows How Apple Could Have Removed the Chin for an All-Screen Design’

Hartley Charlton, writing for MacRumors about an M1 iMac mod making the rounds:

First, the iMac‌ was disassembled and the display’s chin” area was cut off, with the edges being ground into the same shape as the top. A new rear casing with an enlarged area for the logic board and ports was created digitally and 3D printed for testing, before being machined out of aluminum and anodized. The iMac‌’s components were then placed into the new housing, with some added measures to mitigate increased thermal constraints.

Modded iMac with “chin” removed and placed behind display.
Who moved my chin? (Image: Io Technology)

This thing doesn’t look bad, but does it look better? I’m not convinced. As many have pointed out, the iMac’s chin” is part of its iconic design. Otherwise it just looks like a monitor.

It sure is clever, though, and it looks like they didn’t skimp on the details.

Linked

December 2, 2022

Apple’s Striking Short Film Ahead of International Day of People with Disabilities

I love seeing how other people use their devices. Everyone does it a little differently. So Apple’s latest ad, The Greatest, showing off accessibility features used by people who actually use them to live their lives — not just in testing for product reviews — was fascinating. As Steven Aquino aptly put it, for this ad, […] the salient point is Apple is overtly advertising a disabled person’s basic humanity.”

It was striking when the screen went black for a couple of beats for viewers to get a sense of the utility of Door Detection. And went the sound cut out while the baby wailed, showcasing Sound Recognition.

I’d say it sits deservedly among Apple’s best ads.


UPDATE (2022-12-03): Apple followed up today with a couple of YouTube shorts going more in-depth with two of the people in their ad. Willie shows us how he navigates his Mac using facial expressions. And Scarlet keeps track of cooking multiple breakfast ingredients with Sound Recognition.

Both are engaging peeks at other ways folks live their lives. And, might I just say, their houses/sets and clothing styles are on point! 👌

Linked

December 2, 2022

Fixing PopClip’s Shortcuts Issues…with Shortcuts

You know how on iOS and iPadOS when you highlight text, you get that little popover menu with Copy, Paste, and Share buttons? Super helpful, right? What if I told you that you could get that same functionality, plus more, on macOS as well?

Great news: You can, with PopClip!

Bad news: If you try to get the most out of PopClip by integrating it with Shortcuts, it crashes.

Good news: I’ve got a workaround to fix it.

First, a Bit of Love for PopClip

I’ve been using PopClip, developed by Pilotmoon Software, for years. It costs a cool $15.99 on the Mac App Store, and I’ll tell you, it’s worth every penny. I’d gladly pay that amount in an annual subscription to keep using it.

Even before we get to the, well, extensive Extension library to power up PopClip, you get a bunch of functionality with the vanilla installation. Not only are there the staples like Cut, Copy, and Paste, but you can also fire off a web search from your highlighted text, open links, look up a definition, and correct spelling mistakes just by highlighting some text.

PopClip suggesting a spelling correction.
Pobody’s nerfect.

But don’t skip on clicking through the menu bar app to its puzzle piece tab, which brings up the list of PopClip extensions you have installed. There you can rearrange or remove existing extensions (pencil icon) and visit the extension library to download actions for additional functionality (plus icon).

PopClip’s list of my installed extensions.
Some extensions have their own settings to customize their output even further.

And there are some wild things you can do with these extensions. Things like applying a ROT13 cipher to your text, having your computer speak out the selected text, creating calendar entries, sorting lists alphabetically, or bookmarking a URL with Pinboard. In fact, I just downloaded another new one that I’ll use all the time for writing blog post metadata: Timestamp, which inserts the current date and time in a variety of formats right from that popup menu.

I’ve installed the following:

Some of these replicate functionality that I’ve built into shortcuts. But when you want to fire off a shortcut with some selected text as the input, Extension Snippets are where you want to look. The guys at MacStories have written extensively about building Extension Snippets, so I won’t rehash the whole process here. But I will say that it’s amazing how you can install your own extensions simply by highlighting some properly syntaxed text.

For example, this text:

#popclip
name: Copy as Affiliate Link
icon: symbol:bag
requirements: [urls]
shortcut name: Copy as Affiliate Link

creates an extension that runs my affiliate linking shortcut, complete with a custom symbol, and only when a URL is selected.

Installing an extension snippet from selected text.
I love tools that you can extend all on your own.

Pilotmoon provides thorough documentation on all the syntax options.

But Here’s the Thing…

It’s no secret that I love Shortcuts. So when there’s a roadblock to using them, I find it frustrating. PopClip promises smoother access to text-based shortcuts, but this bug is a real showstopper. You see, for months, whenever I’ve run a shortcut from a PopClip extension, PopClip gets stuck in an endless spinner. A less vibrant spinning beach ball. And none of its vast functionality can be used until PopClip is entirely quit and reopened. At least the shortcut does run while PopClip stalls.

PopClip’s popup menu.
This is what it’s supposed to look like.
PopClip stuck as a spinner icon.
But this is what you get when you run a shortcut. And it’s just stuck there indefinitely.

The Fix

As I said, I’ve dealt with these crashes for months. I run my URLs Menu shortcut1 multiple times per Mac session. So, each time, I have to click the PopClip menu bar app, select Quit, and then relaunch it from Alfred to get any popups to show again.

It finally occurred to me today that I could create an automatic kicking machine to get PopClip back into gear by using Shortcuts itself. The method really couldn’t be more straightforward. At the end of any shortcuts that I run with PopClip, I’ve added three actions:

  1. Quit App (PopClip)
  2. Wait (2 seconds)
  3. Open App (PopClip)

Here they are in a standalone version:

A screenshot of the shortcut actions.
That’s right, you can quit and open apps using Shortcuts for Mac.

Get the Restart PopClip’ shortcut →

Technically, I sometimes add a fourth action, the If’ action, which checks to confirm that it’s being run on a Mac, and then does the quit/reopen dance. Otherwise, it skips those actions entirely.

A screenshot of a shortcut running ‘Restart PopClip’ in an ‘If’ action.
You can run Restart PopClip’ as a function within an If’ action to save yourself from rebuilding it each time.

I hope that Pilotmoon will eventually put out an update to fix this bug. Running shortcuts with Extension Snippets is an advertised feature, but the stalling out isn’t listed as a known issue. Perhaps there’s something weird going on with my Mac specifically, but I’ve tried the published troubleshooting steps, including uninstalling PopClip and starting fresh. And, yes, I did reach out to the developer to let them know about the problem.

However, with my duct-tape fix in place, I can leave the spinner behind and get on with using two of my favorite Mac apps in tandem. Like feuding brothers, they sometimes giveth and sometimes taketh away. But right now, they just giveth.


UPDATE (2022-12-02): In some truly fantastic turnaround time, PopClip developer Nick got back to me with great news:

I have been doing some work on this and I have a beta version (linked here) that may solve the problem.

I can confirm that every shortcut worked properly with no crashes in my tests! PopClip only shows the spinner while the shortcut runs, then resolves when it’s complete and continues to work as normal afterward.

I’ll continue to use my workaround until the update ships in the production version of PopClip (which I’m told should be soon). But you’re welcome to read the changelog and try the beta version ahead of time yourself.


  1. Here’s the iCloud link for URLs Menu’, but it primarily serves as a launcher for other web-related shortcuts.↩︎

Shortcuts Tips Apps Favorites

December 2, 2022

Folder Peek App

Folder Peek is the latest (free) little app from Sindre Sorhus. It’s so smack-me-in-the-head useful that I’m surprised something like this isn’t already a mainstay in the menu bar app-o-sphere. It puts a folder in your menu bar — any folder! — which can be drilled down into and even has file actions. I’ve put my Blot folder up there for super easy access from anywhere on my Mac.

Sorhus only makes superb apps, so all the polish and customization options you’d expect are there. You can give each folder a custom SF Symbol and show the folder name, or not. I particularly like that it provides inline (but dismissible) tips on how to get more out of the app.

A screenshot of Folder Peek in action, drilled down into a folder to a text file.
Plus, a sneak peek at a long-overdue blog post.

Its Mac App Store summary describes it well:

Think of it as an alternative to Dock folders, just more powerful and customizable.

I use Dock folders and stacks for several go-to projects, but Folder Peek is so much faster. In the Dock, you have to click around to navigate the folder, but Folder Peek lets you drill in further with just a mouseover. About the only thing you can’t do, as compared to Dock folders, is drag and drop a file onto it.

Oh, and you gotta love that icon.

(Via Matthew Cassinelli)

Apps

November 30, 2022

Stop Now and Buy This iMac-Inspired Charger

If you’re like me and think this tiny translucent orange wall charger by Case-Mates is one of the coolest things since sliced bread the best iMac, you’ll want to grab it right now. It’s almost 50% off at $18.50 on Amazon, down from the original price of $29.99. (Make sure you choose the cheaper seller.)

It folds. It’s 30W Power Delivery. It’s USB-C. And it looks like this:

Translucent orange wall charger
Come on, this thing looks so cool!

Perfect for the nerd in your life, especially if they’re you.