Top 3 Macintosh Posts of 2020
This is the annual top 3 Macintosh Blog post of the year. There were 51 Macintosh Blog post this year, all of them posted on Fridays.
This year I am only going to highlight the top 3 posts. The criteria are based on the usefulness of the information and how I apply the information for my Macintosh experience.
Top 3 Blog Posts
Unlock your Mac using the Apple Watch - (April 3) This was a cool trick to quickly get back to my work after stepping away from the computer. Unfortunately, the IT department didn't like that and disable it for my work computer. However, the trick is still useful for my home computer.
Inkscape Spray Tool - (August 8) I really liked that you could spray any image in a the clipboard. It can create a cool effect.
Missing Disk in Sidebar using Big Sur - There is a bug in macOS 11 that prevents some SD Disks were not showing in the sidebar or in Final Cut Pro. I provide a couple of alternative solutions until Apple comes out with a fix.
Art Text 4
Art Text by Belight Software is a great application to transform text into art. You can make some eye-catching brochures and ads in litterly no time.
You can use 100+ text style presets, or be creative and design your own with lots of Fill and Effects.
There is an online store where you can purchase lots of great designs to make your text really stand out.
New in Art Text 4
Spray Fill - You can now add special effects like coffee beans, nuts, stones, glitter, and much more to your text.
Better 3D Reflection Masks
Text Design Store - The cool designs that you see in Letters is now available right in Art Text 4
Make your Facebook post stand out by using the Facebook 3D Photo effects
Shading Materials - There is 150 2D shading material that you can add to make your design stand out.
A touch up version of the Bokeh design
Using the Stone Spray fill
BBEdit Randomize Order
Bare Bone's BBEdit is a great text editor tool. Many people use it for programing developement.
I tend to use it for anything text related. When I am writing up some long text for email, Slack, or whatever, I am usually using BBEdit.
One of the new features in BBEdit 13.5 is the Randomize Order functionality.
This feature randomly sorts the selected text. The end result is selected text gets replace by a random sorted collection.
Release Note Description
Added "Randomize order" as an option for "Sort Lines". If turned on, this overrides all other sorting options, and will generate a random ordering for all lines in the document.
Why makes this useful to me?
I manage a team scrum weekly standup. This allows me to sort the speaking order randomly. Prior to this feature, I would go to Random.org and use that sorting functionality. I was concern about the confidentiality of the data. I am not sorting a list of company passwords, but the list of names could be used for someone to cold call into the company. I am not being paranoid, just being cautious.
I can also use the random sort feature in a Text Factory run. In the following example, I apply the random sort and then add a line number.
BBEdit's feature makes it easy to randomly sort my list of names in an application that I already use all the time.
PhotoScape Color Picker
One of the neat tools in PhotoScape X is the Color Picker. This feature allows you to select a pixel and paste the HEX value into the clipboard. It's an easy way to get some color into an HTML document.
Four Things I Learned
When you find the right color, simply click the space bar to select the color and have the hex value pasted in your clip board
You can change the pixel view to a fine point the color you're looking for - particularly if it's an HD photo.
The Color Picker will save the last four options, allowing you to go back and get any previous selection. The background of the color picker shows the selected color.
The pasted copy doesn’t contain the ‘#’ symbol. This is weird because it shows in the dialog box when you select the color and in the color history section.
Paste Clipboard Content as Plain Text
I have clipboard management is enabled for both applications. I use LaunchBar for my primary clipboard management. I have found LaunchBar interface to be simple to navigate and easy to paste the content I want.
Keyboard Maestro is great, it just a little more powerful than what I need for everyday use. LaunchBar clipboard window is easier to manage.
Paste As Plain Text
When I want to paste clipboard content as plain text, I use Keyboard Maestro. The thing to remember is that when pasting from Keyboard Maestro to hold down the SHIFT key to make the content plain text.
Prior to using Keyboard Maestro, I would paste the content into BBEdit then copy it to make it plain text.
You can make LaunchBar paste content plain text by enabling "As Plain Text" in preferences. The only downside is that it always paste as plain text. If you want to over-ride that settings, you hold down the OPTION key to paste as Rich Text.
Over the years, I have found that I usually want to keep the RichText formatting as the default. Using plain text, I lose the hyperlink links, which is useful when pasting content in an email or DayOne Journal.
To make it easy to navigate between the two Clipboard management tools, I have a similar shortcut:
- For LaunchBar I use the default Command
- For Keyboard Maestro I set up Shift Command (This you have to set in Keyboard Maestro.)
Missing Disk in Sidebar using Big Sur
On Friday, I finally upgraded to macOS 11.0.1 (Big Sur). I have been trying for a week and kept getting an error during the upload process. This is the error that I have been getting:
When I tried on Friday the installation process was successful. I think the whole install took about 45-mins.
SD Disk Missing from Finder
One of the things that caught my eye was that an SD disk that I had in the computer wasn't showing up in the finder sidebar. The disk would appear in the Finder when the "External Disks" is selected.
Some reason the Finder sidebar wouldn't show the external device. This makes navigating a little tricky as that's the most common way I access my SD cards. I usually turn off the "External Disks" on the desktop because its just clutter.
Apple is aware of the bug, and a fix will be shipped in a later update.
There are several alternative solutions:
Simply click on the "Computer" in the sidebar (Should be Your Name) and click on that to see all the connected devices.
Learn the shortcut: Command - Shift - C (Which opens up the Computer window.)
Use PathFinder which doesn't have this issue. All the external devices show up correctly in the sidebar.
Quickly Change Wallpaper
When on Zoom calls, I like to have the computer desktop set to White. This allows a little bit of brightness so people can clearly see my face.
When I am not on Zoom calls, I like the desktop dark so that it doesn't blind me when I am working.
The traditional way of right-clicking on the desktop to Change the Desktop background is a lot of steps to do every time I start and end a meeting. There has to be a better way.
Thankfully there is a better way with Keyboard Maestro.
Keyboard Maestro has an action to change the desktop background. Now, I can select the Keyboard Maestro menu item and quickly switch between dark and light mode.
This makes it super easy to switch desktop patterns whenever I need it.
Keyboard Maestro Macro
Here's the Macro I have set up:
For the light version, I just created a small white image and used that as what to set the background too.
I used Dropbox as my source so that the Macro would work no matter what computer that I had Keyboard Maestro installed on.
PhotosScape November Update
In late October, Mooii Tech add some new features to PhotoScape X, a popular Macintosh Photo editor. This release has a lot of exciting changes.
Here's a list of changes, and where to find the changes:
New Text Effects: Long Shadow, Overlays & Masks, Background
These are new select items in the Text dialog, they are located below the opacity selector.
New Object Effects: Long Shadow, Overlays & Masks
These can be applied to objects such as Stickers, Shapes, Figures, Lines, and more.
New Filters: Gradient Opacity, Radial Speed Lines, Lines, Concentric, Geometric Collage
In the Adjustments section: Gradient Opacity
In the Effect Section: Radial Speed Lines, Lines, and Concentric
In the Transformations section: Geometric Collage
New Filter Objects: Mosaic #2, #3, #4, Frosted Glass
These are located under the "Filter" menu. Click on Insert, then on the Filter next to Tools.
New Text Warp: Gradient Upper, Gradient Upper 2, Gradient Lower, Gradient Lower 2
These are located in the Text dialog. On the bottom of the text box, click on Transform then click on the transform button. In the Transform dialog, click on the "None"
Added 119 Film Looks - New Looks category in the Film Section ( Click Film in the top toolbar)
Added 104 Film Extras - New Extras category in the Film Section
Added 150 Nature - New Nature category in the Light Section
Added 108 Comic Stickers - New category in the Stickers section.
Added 4 more Draw Brushes (Stipple) - These are the brushes found when drawing/ they are located at the bottom of the brush selection.
Added 1 more Text Outline Type - In the Text dialog, click on the checkbox next to Outline, you'll see that there are now three different outline types.
Added 6 Object Transform Skew Types - These are located in the Transformation dialog. These are below the object. For example, you can transform text to create a logo.
Added 8 Canvas Grid Types - This is the overlay grid that you see. This is located on the bottom bar, it's the dotted grid icon.
Art Text 4 Designs
Art Text 4 is a pretty powerful tool. It gives you lots of ways to create some creative text and graphic files. However, if you need a boost on the design side, they have a design gallery where you can download some very cool design.
Some of the designs you have to pay for, but the Holloween designs are free! There are 8 themed Helloween templates with multiple objects to help you create some cool social media or blog posts.
These are great to make cool looking designs - people think that you spent hours putting it together.
There is a "Winter Session" where you can get 10 Christmas designs. This collection isn't free as it cost $6.99 - still a bargain for the cool-looking designs.
I used the Art Text 4 template and changed the center graphic.
Runaway Kernel Task process
On my computer, I had multiple versions of Snagit installed. This is because every time that I did a major upgrade the computer kept the old version.
When the computer boots up it still uses the Snagit 2019 version and libraries. When I would do capture it would mix up which version to use and get stuck in an endless loop.
The quick solution was to remove all but the current version of Snagit. In my case, it's Snagit 2020. My computer performance had improved since removing the applications. (I also restarted the computer after deleting the apps)
I notice this was a problem when using Microsoft Teams and Zoom. I am not sure why using video apps would cause an issue. I think it's just the amount of CPU that is being used.
Try This Fix!
So if you are having problems related to kernel_task, you may want to check to see if you have multiple versions of Snagit. (I assume this might be true for other system base apps.)
Note: My problem was with Snagit, your situation might be a different application.
Your best bet is to restart the computer to properly test to see if removing the old applications fixed the issue.
Thunderbolt Display Cable
One of the disadvantages of Apple's Thunderbolt display is that the cable is not all stable. This is the main cable from the back of the computer that is used to connect to a MacBook or iMac.
I have seen many Apple Thunderbolt displays encounter a tear in them because of the angle that you have to put it in a MacBook. Over time,
Unlike the power cable, there is no way to take this cable out. The end of the cable is mounted to the mainboard. So if something happens to the connector cable, you can't replace it.
You can see the cable starting to have a tear. It's only a matter of time before it breaks.
Broken but Not Dead
However the display isn't technically dead. You can still use it as an external display. Simply connect another Thunderbolt 2 cable to the port on the back of the display and then connect it to your computer.
The Apple Thunderbolt Display uses the old Thunderbolt 2 connector, not the new Thunderbolt 3 connector - also known as USB-C.
You can find a Thunderbolt 2 display cable on Amazon for about $40. That's kind of expensive for a cable but it is far cheaper than getting a brand new monitor.
One of the downsides of the new iMacs is that they don't have a DVD drive. This makes it challenging when you want to access old files or create DVD movies for events.
New External Drive
I thought DVD drives were all the same, so when it came time for me to get one I went cheap and purchased a $30 drive. What’s nice is the drive had both USB 2 and USB-C ports. I was excited because I could connect this to the USB-C port and not take up any other standard USB port.
Going cheap was a big mistake.
When I started burning DVDs I got a lot of failures. Only about 1 out of 4 disks were good. This happened using the USB3 port and the ISB-C port.
I also had this problem using different computers. So the issue was with the drive. The thing is that it works fine some of the time.
I got a SuperDrive for my birthday and what a difference it makes.
I have burned 20 DVDs and they were all successful. I didn’t encounter and toasted disks.
I have also access old DVDs without a problem. The drive seems much quieter than other external drives I have had in the past.
The morale of the story is to not be cheap when it comes to storage devices. Stick with brands you know.
Couple of complaints
The cable is too short. Basically, the device sits underneath the iMac monitor. Sure I can get a USB extension but that may impact the quality of data going to the drive. Come On Apple, make longer cords.
There is only one cable type - USB 3. It would be nice to have different cable options.
Have you ever wanted to take a quick picture using your iMac Camera?
You could use Apple PhotoBooth, but it can get tricky switching Cameras.
I like Quick Camera. It’s a simple little app that allows you to easily save pictures.
I like it because I can check out the shot before getting on a Zoom or Microsoft Meeting calls.
If you have multiple cameras connected to your computer, You can easily switch the camera using the keyboard shortcuts. (This is also a good way to validate that the camera is properly connected to the computer. )
You can take a picture, when no one is in the picture, and use it as a background in a Zoom call.
This way if someone is actually in the background no one will know. In addition, you can turn off background lighting for those late-night zoom calls.
Getting Quick Camera
Quick Camera is available in the App Store and it’s currently free.
Download Church Bulletin
Churches in Massachusetts have limited attendance because of COVID-19. I decided to create a new Keyboard Maestro Macro to download the latest church bulletin - that way I know what's going on at mu local parish.
My parish uses e-churchbulletins.com, which generates a PDF file every week. When a new bulletin gets created it overites the file on the server.
So I created the following Macro:
What this does:
Every day at 4 am, it runs a Bash script, using curl and downloads the latest bulletin and saves it to my local computer using the current day. (This way it doesn't wright over any previous downloads. )
Copy of the BASH script:
curl --output `date +%Y-%m-%d`.pdf https://www.e-churchbulletins.com/bulletins/
I have this running every day because I never know when the latest bulletin will be released.
The nice thing is that I just set it and forget it. Now I have a copy of all the church bulletins whenever I need to refer back to them.
This week I have been busy cleaning up the storage on my MacBook computer. The "easy" way I have found to backup files is to use iCloud. I create backup folders in my iCloud Drive and move files into that directory. On my iMac, I then move the files to an external drive.
The reason that I am doing this method, instead of just connecting the external drive to the computer, is that I want to make sure that I backup files that are worth keeping. I don't want to just throw everything on an external drive without knowing what it is.
Things I Learned About iCloud
When you move files to the iCloud drive on your computer it doesn't delete them from the computer. It basically moved it to the cloud services but you don't save space.
In order to "save space" you need to move the files of the iCloud service. This concept is the same as DropBox and other cloud services.
Make sure to check the "Optimize Mac Storage" checkbox in the iCloud settings. This will force iCloud to only download files that it needs.
You can add/remove space as needed. For example, you can upgrade to the 2TB plan for a couple of months for storage backups and then downgrade the service.
This is a great service if you are trying to clean up a couple of external drives. In addition, you can backup all your photos and videos taken on a vacation to the iCloud drive and not worry about losing them.
Often you may see strange icons next to the iCloud folder name. Here's what the icons mean:
|Cloud||Uploading to Cloud|
|Cloud with Arrow||Backed up to Cloud. Not stored locally. Tap on the folder|
|Circle with Progress||Copying locally|