Saturday, February 16, 2019

Migrating from Blogger to WordPress ... again ...

I’ve been contemplating migration to WordPress for almost a decade, but Google kept Blogger good enough to keep that headache at bay.

Alas, the days of good enough are ending. Google is removing their photo management API without recourse. They do support posts with images, but only by using their web interface. It’s a concrete and undeniable sign that Blogger is either dead or going to a bad place.

I though I’d migrate first to wordpress.com then to my Dreamhost open source wp install, but via Twitter Daniel Jalkut tells me he got better results using the open source importer directly.

I’ll do a dry run on one of my big blogs first. The URL won’t change but I’m sure feed subscriptions will have to be redone (ugh).

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Synology NAS and security risks of enabling notifications

I use a Synology NAS to backup our two MacBooks. I’ve been ignoring it for 4 years, but a recent hardware failure made me look into it.

I found a number of packages installed and/or running that I’d not updated and mostly didn’t need. So I removed all those and I created a reminder to check the NAS quarterly. I also realized I hadn’t gotten monthly status reports for a long time — for years really (if ever)

To enable Synology email status reports you have to configure Notifications. Old-school SMTP is rarely available now, so I experimented with the Gmail option. I got this:

Synologygmail

Oookaaay … that’s an interesting range of permissions. Synology is a Chinese corporation, so this effectively gives Xi the ability to harvest my email. Instead I created a synology user on one of my domain based Google Suites and enabled access there then forwarded to my email.

Interestingly my old settings suggested I had gone down the Gmail road at one point. I wonder what I was thinking, in my 2015 post I commented “Synology is a very Chinese product — including off-key English syntax. I wouldn’t install it in a US government facility.” Maybe I started the setup and then stopped?

MacBook Air shutdowns - it was the battery

My 2015 Air shut down suddenly two weeks ago. The battery was at about 80%. When I got it home and plugged it in it showed classic bad SMC behavior — the power diode didn’t light. 

I did an SMC reset and it worked, but a week later it did the same thing. I did an SMC reset again, but without checking if it was necessary.

It happened yet again. This time it worked fine as a soon as I plugged it in. That gave me hope that it was a battery issue, even though system info showed only 80 or so cycles. It’s an old battery.

After doing the usual 3 backups-to-current-state-prior-to-repair (one update to my Carbon Copy non-bootable clone backup, one fresh full bootable clone, and one Time Machine backup) I brought it in. It failed the diagnostic test with a big red dead battery note.

So $140 when the part comes in, which is a nice relief. If it had been the motherboard that would be $340 and I’d have a machine with a 4yo battery and a 4yo SSD. Might be better to just buy new.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Simplenote web (beta) version has much improved notes export

The beta version of Simplenote’s web client will export notes as text files and will use the note title as the name of the text file. When I’d previously exported from my Simplenote library the text files names were all GUIDs. 

This is obviously much better. It means, as long as you don’t mine plaintext, you can get your data out of Simplenote in a portable and useable form.

To use the beta version of the Simplenote web client use the URL simplenote.com/new.

I’ve been using nvALT to enable data freedom for Simplenote [1], but it’s good to have a second option. (nvALT works on Mojave, but had issues with High Sierra. I’m planning to skip from Sierra to Mojave.)

PS. Recently Simplenote added plaintext note import, though needs Electron version for Mac.

- fn-

[1] It took years longer than it should have, but Automattic fixed search in the Mac client.

See also

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Extend Aperture's lifespan with Adobe DNG Converter for Mac

Aperture on Sierra doesn’t support RAW files from my Canon EOS SL2. I don’t know if there would be any support if I upgraded to High Sierra or Mojave, but I think not. I tried using Canon’s RAW to JPG converter but it was achingly slow and it defeats the purpose of shooting RAW in the first place.

So I’ve been shooting JPEG [1]. Today, through Facebook’s Aperture User Group, I learned that Adobe DNG Converter output can be treated by Aperture in Sierra as a type of RAW format. So I downloaded the app and tried it on a CR2 file from my SL2. It was extremely fast and produced a DNG a few MBs smaller than the CR2 file. Aperture opened it a bit more slowly than I remember it processing my older Canon RAW files, but there no real issues.

Adobe DNG Converter has a truly ugly Mac UI, but I have no problems with that. I suspect DNG is only a minimal archival improvement on CR2 so I’ll mostly continue to shoot JPEG (because everything sucks [1]), but now I have the option to do CR2 when I want better results. Since I already use Image Capture to bring images off my devices rather than Aperture the extra conversion step is a modest cost.

- fn -

[1] Twenty ago I was sure we’d get one of many better lossy image formats, of which JPEG2000 is the only one I can remember now. We never did, partly due to patents and partly for reasons I don’t understand. I think cameras have gotten better at making the best use of JPEG, which itself has iterated over time. In 2018 some SLRs shoot DNG (not Nikon or Canon of course), Apple’s cameras shoot patent-encumbered HEVC (not HEIF, that’s the container damnit), and there’s lots of proprietary RAW. I suppose HEVC is an improvement over RAW, but only by a bit. HEVC is likely to lose out in the long run to AV1 and disappear — with no comment from Apple when it converts. In terms of a practical archival image format we basically have PNG and JPEG with no metadata standard and perhaps some flavor of TIFF. Basically everything sucks, which is very 2018.

Incidentally, the image formats Preview can export to in Sierra when you use the Option key trick (apple doc) — prior to Mountain Lion they were all shown. OpenEXR was from Industrial Light and Magic but it’s as dead as old JPEG-2000. (As near as I can tell Mojave has the same list and it still doesn’t include HEIF/HEVC, which seems a vote of some sort.)

PreviewExportFormats

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Did you follow Apple's two-factor authentication advice to provide a friend's phone number for SMS authentication?

I bet you didn’t do this [emphases mine]:

…You should also consider verifying an additional phone number you can access, such as a home phone, or a number used by a family member or close friend. You can use this number if you temporarily can’t access your primary number or your own devices….

… To use two-factor authentication, you need at least one trusted phone number on file where you can receive verification codes. Consider verifying an additional trusted phone number other than your own phone number. If your iPhone is your only trusted device and it is missing or damaged, you will be unable to receive verification codes required to access your account…

… If you're signing in and don’t have a trusted device handy that can display verification codes, you can have a code sent to your trusted phone number via text message or an automated phone call instead. Click Didn’t Get a Code on the sign in screen and choose to send a code to your trusted phone number…

Apple 2FA implementation has a high risk of account access loss (Google has better 2FA recovery options). Apple’s recommended mitigation is to use multiple SMS verification numbers, not just the one mandatory number. Since SMS is an essential part of Apple’s 2FA, and SMS is a poor way to do 2FA, Apple’s 2FA is fundamentally insecure (mac bloggers seem universally unaware of this incidentally).

Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. On balance, if you use 2FA, you should have at least two SMS numbers numbers associated with your (insecure) Apple ID.

PS. To Apple’s credit, you need both a password and SMS to access your iCloud account, and you can’t reset the password just using SMS. In the absence of a trusted device the password reset process is mysterious and takes a few days.

PPS. You can use a Google Voice number as a trusted number. That way you can use a web browser to retrieve the authentication code.

Remember to remove a device from your Apple ID account list if it is sold or wiped

Apple associates devices with your Apple ID. If you are using two factor authentication they get authentication requests. If you wipe or sell or dispose of a device you really want to remove it from this list.

Go to https://appleid.apple.com/account/manage, select the device, and remove it.

I don’t think the reset/wipe phone setting does this automatically.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Printer configuration is a still a pain (AirPrint edition)

I replaced an old Brother HL-L6200DW with a new Brother HL-L6200DW. Isn’t stasis wonderful? Scanners and printers don’t change much any more.

I sort of remembered how to test these up. I got it working via ethernet, then got it on our WiFi network. That worked for my Mac, but AirPrint wasn’t happy. Same printer, same name, different Mac ID. iOS said it would let me update to the new printer, but then it failed.

I had to restart my router, rename the printer in the web GUI (I’m sure this isn’t in the manual), restart printer, restart phone. Then it found it.

I’m sure there’s an easier way. Nobody prints though, so maybe not.

PS. The printer has all kinds of web services enabled. It’s basically waving a hack-me flag. It’s a bother to figure out what I can turn off.

Monday, November 12, 2018

An almost useful Siri Shortcut: "Voice memo record"

Apple forgot to add a Siri command that would launch Voice Memo.app and start recording. You can launch it with Siri, but it won’t start recording.

They did add a Siri Shortcut though - “Record a new voice memo”. So I finally found a use for that feature, I added “Record voice memo” and “Voice memo record” as Siri shortcuts. I think the 2nd one works better.

“Record a memo” doesn’t work because Siri uses that to open Voice Memo.app without launching the recording (iOS doesn’t warn about this during shortcut creation). The behavior is also a bit buggy, sometimes the phrase launched Voice Memo.app but didn’t start recording.

I tried creating a springboard Shortcut, but even though “Record a new voice memo” is in Siri & Search settings shortcuts, it’s not available in Shortcuts.app. (btw, deleting a Shortcuts.app shortcut uses an insanely weird UI).

How to find the folder that holds an iOS app in iOS 11 and 12

This is so friggin obscure now. I had to read this Apple Discussions thread a few times. The problem is there are two types of Spotlight search in iOS, and now only one of them shows a containing folder name.

When you type an app name in Spotlight iOS does predictive search first. You don’t tap the Search button. In iOS 11-12 the predictive search result UI doesn’t show the name of the containing folder.

To see the containing folder you need to do search-search (plain old search), not predictive search. Type the portion of the app name that shows your app in predictive search, but don’t tap on the app. Instead tap on the Search (blue) button. That does proper search, and now the containing folder shows next to the app name.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Cisco Receiver client for Mac no longer works with Safari (NPAPI plug-ins are no longer supported by Safari)

Safari 12 “Removed support for running legacy NPAPI plug-ins other than Adobe Flash” [1]. Despite years of warning Cisco wasn’t quite ready (perhaps Apple has made a mess of the plug-in/extension migration [2])

NPAPI support is being removed from Safari 12 | Citrix Blogs (Aug 2018)

… Apple have announced they’re removing support for NPAPI from Safari 12. This will affect the user experience for users accessing Citrix Receiver for Web using Safari on Mac. We’ll address this by turning on the Citrix Receiver Launcher for Safari 12+ in future releases of Citrix StoreFront…

With Safari 12 if you click on a Citrix Receiver link a .ica file is downloaded. You have to click the .ica file to launch Receiver. Prior to 12 the /Library[3]/Internet plug-ins/CitrixICAClientPlugIn.plugin handled the .ica file, clicking a link caused CitrixICAClientPlugIn.plugin to launch Receiver. There’s a Safari 12 workaround, but I’ve not tried it.

Citrix does have new era extension support for Chrome, so you can just use Chrome until Citrix delivers a “Safari App Extension” version of the plug-in. (Which might come with their Citrix Workspace replacement for Receiver.)

- fn -

[1] The dev must have hated keeping Flash support. NPAPI is 1995 old, Chrome dropped NPAPI support in September 2015.

[2] Safari 12 also deprecated the newer-than-NPAPI “Safari Extensions” and Apple is shutting down the Extensions gallery. Instead we’re supposed to get Safari App Extensions, but, as is too often true of Apple, it’s not clear where one downloads Safari App Extensions.

[3] Installed in root Library rather than user Library.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

iOS 12.1 Files.app will open Google Drive hosted ePub directly in Books.app

iOS 12.1 Files.app will open Google Drive hosted ePub files directly in Books.app (formerly iBooks). I don’t know how new this is, but tapping on the same file in Google’s Drive.app gives an “unsupported file type” error. (You can still copy it to Books, it’s just awkward.) I’d long used Drive.app to open my ePubs, just happened to try Files.app today.

Books UI doesn’t scale well to significant number of ePubs, storing them in Google Drive or iCloud Drive works much better [1]. I treat iBooks as a temporary store, periodically I clean it out.

[1] Also iOS 12 Books.app won’t sync with Sierra iBooks, so those of us who are putting off painful updates have another reason to store in the file system. Really, though, it’s just way better than using iBooks storage. I’m a bit disappointed Apple hasn’t fully integrated iBook storage with iCloud Files, but this is nice.

iOS 12 Notes.app tables don't render in Notes.web (or Sierra Notes)

Tables have been neglected in the past 20 years of software, so I was surprised to see them in iOS 12.1 Notes.app.

Sadly, they don’t render in Notes.web (Safari or Chrome). Instead we see the same empty block that Sierra Notes uses:

Screen Shot 2018 11 03 at 11 44 48 AM

That’s disappointing. iCloud is overdue for some maintenance.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Tableau Public for Mac

Tableau is a popular data visualization tool with strong map features. My workplace version has an extensive list of data connections.

Tonight I downloaded the public (free) version of Tableau for Mac. The connection list is far smaller than the commercial version. It will import from Excel, CSV, JSON, PDF, “spatial file” and “statistical file” files. It can pull data in from Google Sheets, Data, “Web data connector” and “ODBC”. It only exports CSV. It occupies 1.6GB of disk space.

Storage aside, it did a great job pulling data out of a PDF table. That’s almost worth the 1.6GB by itself. Given the state of Mac data tools I think it’s worth keeping around.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

An Elgato T2 Hub and USB 3 SSD work pretty well

For 3yrs I’ve used a Samsung SSD (1TB) in a cheap Inatek IDE enclosure with UASP/USB 3 connection to an Elgato T2 dock connected to a 2015 MacBook Air by Apple T2 cable. The Elgato also connects to two Firewire 800 drives.

I realized today that it’s worked quite well for quite a while. Now that I’ve written this it will all go to pieces, but until now — good stuff. My 360GB Aperture library lives on that external SSD and I don’t have any real performance issues with it. I use Jettison to undock when I take the Air with me; I disconnect the power cable and the T2 cable.

Which reminds me of some rant I read today about how the Air is the worst machine in existence and everyone should buy a $400 Windows machine instead. I beg to disagree. The current Air is still a great machine. You may not like the non-retina screen (my eyes suck so what would I know?), but you can buy a nice external display.

The absolute best thing machine Apple could do would be to continue to sell the 2018 13” Air but swap the T2 for T3* and make the display Retina. Leave every other thing about it pretty much the same and sell it for the current price.

*Update: Actually, I’m not sure T3 is so great. Maybe just do the Retina and call it a win.