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How to track app use with OSXClock

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 17.45.36
OSXClock just got a major update, adding a productivity log that helps you to track how much time you spend actively using each app on your mac.

I wrote an ad-hoc AppleScript to do this sometime ago that proved pretty popular, but I wasn’t satisfied with either the code or the interface. OSXClock improves on that by tapping directly into Cocoa’s API and by offering a more attractive display.

OSXClock is currently on offer for only $2.99. Lots more exciting features are planned for future updates, so now’s a good time to get with the program, folks! ๐Ÿ™‚

*OSXClock requires OSX Yosemite

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how to remove Google’s secret update software from your mac

don'tbeevil
If you’ve ever downloaded Chrome, even for just a trial (guilty!), you might not be aware that Google have slipped a little bit of hidden software into your Library.

This software is called Google Updater, and it secretly “calls home” on a regular basis and downloads updates to your Google software without either asking before, or notifying you after, doing so. In Developer circles, this is considered very shady practice. Users should be asked for consent and informed when software makes changes to either itself or the user’s computer, and ideally those notifications should tell the user what has been changed and how the changes could impact them.

Before I beat this drum any harder, however, I owe you at least the other side of the story. If I worked for Google, I’d probably come up with this response: “Hey look, a major source of computer virus and malware infections is that users are often using out-of-date software that hasn’t been patched to combat newly-discovered exploits. No matter how much we tell users to keep ther software up-to-date, the truth is the majority don’t. We provide an automatic updater so that users don’t have to worry about it, and can be assured they’re always using the latest and safest version of our software”.

I’ve heard this argument so many times, I don’t doubt it’s something close to what Google would actually argue. My problem with this is that while automatic updates can be a good thing if they’re security related, it’s not at all clear why an app should be updating itself automatically for any other reason, or why it’s updating itself without providing notifications about when and what updates were made.

If an independent developer did that, they’d almost certainly find their software labelled as “suspicious” at best, and “dangerous” at worst. The fact that Google is a multinational, global enterprise with a stranglehold on the internet, and which is often tangling with the law in countries throughout the world, may make you feel more or less confident that they can be trusted more than independent developers, whose income depends very much on their reputation. I’ll leave that one for the reader to decide. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Do I have Google Updater?
To see if you’ve got Google Updater hiding on your system, try this quick test in Terminal. Triple click the line of code below to highlight it.

defaults read com.google.Keystone.Agent

If you’ve previously installed my Terminal workflow, just hit control-opt-cmd-T or right/control click and choose “Services > Run in Terminal” from the contextual menu. Alternatively, if you have my free utility app FastTasks 2, the Analyser’s Profile view will show you if Google Updater is installed (see ‘Locate Google Updater’ below for the locations to check in the profile view). Elsewise, manually copy and paste it into a Terminal window.

If the result comes back as

Domain com.google.Keystone.Agent does not exist

you’re fine. Google Updater has not found its way into your system. Anything else and you’re going to need to decide whether you want to remove it or not. If you’re a regular Chrome user, keeping Updater might prove convenient, though you’ll have to live with the idea that the app is updating itself in ways over which you have no control. If you rarely or never use Chrome, there’s no reason to have this hidden process regularly calling home to Google every time you’re connected to the net.

How do I remove it?
You have two options. You can either disarm it or you can nuke it. Disarming it is simplest, it’s a one-line Terminal command:

defaults write com.google.Keystone.Agent checkInterval 0

This command tells the Updater how often to “call home”. A value of 0 basically means ‘never’. Disarming it is probably better than nuking it if you still keep Chrome on your system and use it occasionally. You can temporarily set it back to something like ‘once a week’ from time to time to check for security updates with

defaults write com.google.Keystone.Agent checkInterval 604800

Nuking the Google Updater is a bit more complex. You’ll want to run some uninstaller commands, and then you’ll want to go and clear up the crud that is still left behind. And before you can do either of those, you need to find out where it’s hiding. So, we have a three-step process.

1. Locate Google Updater
Triple click the first of these two lines, and choose ‘Services > Reveal in Finder’ from the contextual menu (that’s another right-click or control-click on the selected line), and then repeat for the second line:

~/Library/Google
/Library/Google

You will likely get the error message “The operation can’t be completed because the item can’t be found” from one of these lines, but not the other. Note that the difference is all in the presence or absence of the tilde ~. Make a note of which one worked, and run the appropriate commands in step 2.

2. Run the uninstaller commands

Run these in Terminal (again, triple clicking to highlight and doing the usual trick afterwards with shortcut key or Services menu if you have my workflow installed), one at a time:

If the Updater was in your user library (with the tilde ~), then first do this (it’s all one line):

Update: please read the Comments for latest commands
python ~/Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate/GoogleSoftwareUpdate.bundle/\
Contents/Resources/GoogleSoftwareUpdateAgent.app/Contents/Resources/\
install.py --uninstall

then this:

touch ~/Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate

If the Updater was in your domain library (no tilde ~), then first do this (it’s all one line):

sudo python /Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate/GoogleSoftwareUpdate.bundle/\
Contents/Resources/GoogleSoftwareUpdateAgent.app/Contents/Resources/\
install.py --uninstall

and enter your Admin password (note that you won’t see any indication of your password being typed in the Terminal window). Then do this:

sudo touch /Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate

3. Clear up the crud
If the updater was in your user library, open that now and go to

~/Library/Google/

and delete the folder called ‘GoogleSoftwareUpdate’. If you don’t use any other Google software (I don’t), you can just delete the entire ‘Google’ parent folder.

If the updater was in your domain library, search for the same folder and send it to the trash. You will need to give Finder your admin password to authorise the move.

Next, let’s just check the uninstaller was successful. Look for the following. If you don’t find them, good (the installer did its job). If you do, help them on their way to oblivion by sending them to the trash:

~/Library/Caches/com.google.Keystone.Agent
~/Library/LaunchAgents/com.google.Keystone.agent.plist
~/Library/Preferences/com.google.Keystone.Agent.plist

If you’ve deleted Chrome from your Applications folder too, then you might as well hunt down and exterminate its prefs list while you’re at it:

~/Library/Preferences/com.google.Chrome.plist
The following sources were used in researching this post:
http://wireload.net/products/guu-google-update-uninstaller/
http://raamdev.com/2008/howto-remove-google-software-update-on-mac-os-x/
http://blog.slaunchaman.com/2010/06/30/google-earth-now-available-without-automatic-updates/
https://support.google.com/installer/answer/147176?hl=en
‘Don’t be evil’ picture was remediated from here.

Carbon Copy Cloner: see last back up date

CCC Last Backup Service

If you’re a user of Bombich Software’s excellent Carbon Copy Cloner but you’re not doing backups as scheduled tasks, you may wish there was a way to find out the last time you successfully completed a backup task.

Unfortunately, CCC doesn’t provide an easy way for users to see this information natively, but in this post we’re going to add it through a bit of AppleScript and Automator magic.

As it turns out, CCC does keep a log of all your past backup details stashed away in a CCC.log file buried in your local domain’s Library folder. You can view this file in Console, but it’s a bit of a pain. Wouldn’t it be nicer if you could just hit a hotkey like ‘Command-Control-C’, say (you know, for ‘CCC’ ๐Ÿ™‚ ), and get a dialog box like this:

CCC Last Backup date
If you think so too, then download my Automator workflow:

For Lion, Mountain Lion and Mavericks:
Download for 10.7.5 thru 10.9.2 ๐Ÿ“€

For Snow Leopard:
Download for 10.6.8 ๐Ÿ’ฟ

Double-click on the .zip file and double click again on the unzipped workflow file. You’ll get a warning message saying that you’ve downloaded the file from the internet (from me, actually!). After clicking ‘Open’ to dismiss the warning, for all users except 10.6, click ‘Install’ on the the following dialog box:

Install workflow

After clicking ‘Install’, click ‘Done’ to dismiss the confirmation dialog box that pops up.

For those of you running Snow Leopard (10.6.8), after clicking ‘Open’ the workflow should open in Automator. Hit ‘command-S’ to save it as a Service.

For all users, if you now click up to any application name next to the ๏ฃฟ Apple near the top left of your screen (see the screenshot at the top of this post) and scroll down to ‘Services’ you should see the new Service already there. If you don’t, try logging out and logging back in to your user account.

Once you can see the workflow in the Services menu, go ahead and give it a click to test it out. ๐Ÿ™‚

A couple of notes on usage:

Carbon Copy Cloner does not have to be open for the Service to work.

The date format display is YYYY-MM-DD.

If you want to add a shortcut key as suggested earlier, open up System Preferences > Keyboard and click the ‘Shortcuts’ tab. Down the sidebar you should see ‘Services’. Click on that and scroll way down to the bottom till you see the name of the Service. Click ‘Add Shortcut’ and hit the keys you want to use. I like ‘command-control-C’ as it’s an easy mnemonic for ‘Carbon-Copy-Cloner’.

how to show or hide hidden files with one click

Download the free Reveal.app

Reveal is a one-click toggle switch to show/hide hidden files in the Finder. Unzip it, pop it in your Applications folder and drag it to your Dock for quick access. You may need to override your GateKeeper settings the first time you run it if you have those set to ‘App Store & Identified Developers’ or stricter. Don’t worry! So long as you download it from here, I personally guarantee it’s safe (I wrote it myself!). Best of all, it’s free, so enjoy!

Download from here >>


how to correct the external monitor resolution

apple_display
A problem that’s been bugging me since at least Mountain Lion is that sometimes when I connect my external monitor to my Macbook Pro, the display resolution is incorrect. The problem is pretty annoying as it often occurs on wake if the MBP goes to sleep even when the external monitor hasn’t been disconnected.

There are a number of solutions to this problem, and I’ve used them all. Some are less irritating than others, but in this post I’ll give you a run down of the options.

1. The old fridge magnet trick
As I often use a tiny magnet to put my MBP display to sleep while keeping the lid open, normally putting the magnet on and then taking it off again will cause the displays to reset. But this method is annoying both because I’m often connecting to external monitors away from home and because I often misplace that tiny magnet! The other problem with this method is it doesn’t always work… ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

2. Put the external monitor to sleep with a Hot Corner
Go into System Preferences > Mission Control, and set one of the Hot Corners to ‘Put Display to Sleep’ (not ‘Start Screen Saver’). When your mac wakes up and the monitor is in the wrong resolution, move the cursor to the Hot Corner, wait a couple of seconds, and move the cursor back to the centre of the screen.

3. Activate ‘Detect Displays’
Ok, two ways to do this. The manual way is that you open System Preferences, hold down the ‘option’ key and hit the ‘Detect Displays’ button at the bottom of the window. Note that you won’t see this button unless you’re holding down the ‘option’ key. After the display resets properly, quit System Preferences. My main beef with this method is it’s totally disruptive to my workflow, so much in fact that it makes me angry every time I use it!

Fortunately, you can lower the inconvenience with the second way, which is an AppleScript that does the same thing automagically.

Update Jan 2015:
Partly in response to this problem, I’ve written an app called DisplayDroid which detects when a monitor is connected or disconnected and automatically runs a script in response. The script below is built into DisplayDroid as one of the presets that you can choose!
Find out more about DisplayDroid…

try
tell application "System Preferences" to quit
end try

delay 1
tell application "System Preferences"
activate
reveal pane "com.apple.preference.displays"
end tell


tell application "System Events"
tell process "System Preferences"
set frontmost to true
try
key down option
delay 0.2
click button "Detect Displays" of window 1
delay 0.2
key up option
on error
key up option
end try
end tell
end tell


tell application "System Preferences" to quit

You might want to save this in your scripts menu or make it into a Dock-able app for convenience. Don’t forget you’ll need to allow the AppleScript editor permission to use Assistive Devices.

4. A free screen utility
Unhappy with a GUI scripting solution, I started researching how to change the displays in Cocoa or from the BASH command line so that I could avoid the overhead of System Preferences popping open and closed, which is an ugly solution at best. I didn’t get far in my research before I found that someone else had already beaten me to the punch, and had even offered the code up for free. Y’gotta love the heroes of the programming community! Download the free RDM.app, which lets you change the screen resolution on any of your monitors from the status bar on your desktop. Move it from your Downloads folder into your /Applications folder. I’ve even got it in my login items for maximum convenience!

RDM

Although the app is probably slightly slower than the Hot Corner solution when I’m at home, I like it because I regularly connect my mac to all sorts of other monitors and projectors and the mac doesn’t always choose the best display. The RDM.app lets you slide through the available options much more efficiently than the System Preferences panel, too. Big respect to Paul Griffin at http://www.phoenix-dev.com for this!

5. Trash old prefs
No matter how well or otherwise any of these techniques work, the question remains: why is the resolution setting being forgotten in the first place? I haven’t nailed this down as a cert yet, but ever since I did this to solve a different problem, my monitor’s been behaving itself, too.

1. Go to

Hard Disk/Library/Preferences/System Configuration

Now make sure you’re at the right place because there’s another ‘System Configuration’ folder at /Library/System Configuration, and you definitely don’t want to be messing with that one. Also, this is the Library folder at the root of your hard disk and NOT your user account library (i.e, the path is /Library, not ~/Library). Check that path. Here it is again

Hard Disk/Library/Preferences/System Configuration

2. OK, click on that folder, and copy it over to your Desktop. Now go back and delete it from /Library/Preferences (or hold down ‘option’ while you drag to do a ‘move’. I prefer the first way; it’s safer, if slower).

3. Restart and test.

Hopefully, if you’ve been venting at the ears like me over the external display problem, one or more of these options will help lower the frustration!

๐Ÿ™‚

Related Posts:
DisplayDroid from Applehelpwriter



Featured Picture: apple_display by 3DEricDesign

how to see recently accessed files

speed


While professional troubleshooters will use software like fseventer or the Instruments.app that comes as part of Xcode, there’s an easy way for anyone to see which files have recently been accessed on their Mac.

1. Open any Finder window and hit ‘command-F’.

2. Click the ‘Kind’ button and choose ‘Other’ at the bottom of the menu:

Finder Search menu: Other

3. Next, scroll down the list till you see ‘System files’ and check the box and hit ‘OK’.

4. Change the button that says ‘aren’t included’ to ‘are included’.

5. Now hit the little ‘+’ button over on the right side of the window.

6. Again, change ‘Kind’, this time to ‘Last Modified’ and change ‘within last’ to ‘today’.

search

7. Finally, go to Finder > View menu at the top and choose ‘Arrange By > Date Last Opened’.

You can save the search in the Sidebar for convenience. Give it a more useful name like ‘latest changes’ or ‘fs events’ (“fs” stands for filesystem) and click on it whenever you need to check what’s just happened to your Mac! ๐Ÿ™‚

FSEvents


unable to turn Bluetooth on or off

If Bluetooth is stuck in the on or off setting, this simple procedure should cure the problem.

You may have already tried clicking in the Status bar icon or the System Preferences pane; perhaps you even did a Restart, all without effect.

The surprisingly simple answer is:

Shutdown the mac, and power on again.

Shutdown works whereas Restart doesn’t because – unlike Restart – Shutdown puts the Bluetooth power manager through a complete power cycle.

๐Ÿ™‚

More Bluetooth problems? Drop a comment below!

protect your mac from malware, viruses and other threats

Nessus Vulnerability Software

If you’re new to Mac, you’re probably thinking that it’s a no-brainer that you need some kind of anti-virus app. Once you start looking around the web for reviews, it’s inevitable that you’re going to come across the Great Mac AntiVirus Debate: in the one corner, those who say Mac users who forego antivirus protection are arrogant and just setting themselves up for a fall, and in the other those who’ve used Macs for umpteen years, never had or heard of any real threat, and consequently say AV software is a waste of time.

You can read round this debate for years and never come to a satisfying conclusion, largely because its as much about what you ‘ought’ to do as it is about what is the case. Just because you’ve never had any viruses, doesn’t mean you won’t get one tomorrow. And yet, there are NO viruses in the wild known to affect macs, and so when one does arrive, it will be unknown to your AV scanner. Hence, an AV Scanner is just a waste of system resources (and possibly money, if you paid for it). Yikes! What do I do!!

What you do is sidestep the whole debate and stop thinking only about virus scanners, which after all deal with only a small subset of all the possible attack vectors in the internet age, and start thinking in terms of vulnerability scanners. Unlike a simple virus scanner, a vulnerability scanner examines your system not only for malware but also for any vulnerabilities in commercial software, plug ins, your system setup (including network and other sharing settings) and other installed items. The scanner will not only explain the threat and its severity but also tell you what, if anything, you need to do, recommend patches and guide you to links for more info where available.

You can use something like Nessus for free if you are a home user, which will give you a far better insight into the possible attacks someone could implement on your system (and it will check your system against almost all of the major virus scanner databases like Symantec, etc).

Even better, a vulnerability scanner like Nessus won’t just examine your machine, it’ll look at everything else (and all the installed apps) of anything on your home network including phones (any platform), other computer systems (any OS), and even your router.

eject all your disks at once

script menu

Here’s a simple AppleScript one-liner that can be useful if, like me, you have several disks connected to your laptop at home or the office and you need to get up and go quickly.

1. Open the AppleScript Editor.app by typing Apples in the Spotlight search bar and hitting ‘return’.

2. Copy the following code into the editor window:

eject

3. Hit ‘Command-K’ to compile and ensure you didn’t make any mistakes. Fix any typos if it doesn’t compile and try again. Save the script to your Desktop as ‘EjectAll.scpt’

4. If you don’t already have the Scripts menubar icon visible in your menu bar, hit ‘command ,’ (that’s the Command key and the comma key) and check the ‘Show Script menu in menu bar’ item in the General pane of AppleScript’s Preferences window.

AS prefs
5. From the Scripts menu, choose ‘Open Scripts Folder > Open Computer Scripts Folder’ and drag ‘EjectAll.scpt’ from the Desktop to the Computer Scripts Folder. You’ll need to authenticate with an Admin password to complete the move.

And that’s it. Now whenever you want to eject every disk with one simple operation, just hit the Script menu icon and click on ‘EjectAll’. ๐Ÿ™‚

5 things you never knew about TextEdit

Text Edit Background Reflection


Although Apple’s oddball TextEdit.app has a variety of good formatting options, the chances are if you do any kind of word processing, you have one or more of the heavy duty apps like Pages, LibreOffice or Ms Word. If, on the other hand, you’re a coder or scripter who needs a plain text editor, you likely use Tincta, Sublime Editor 2, BBEdit, Coda or one of the many other full-featured editors that can do things like syntax colouring, snippet saving, script execution and so on that TextEdit can only dream of. Indeed, Apple have strangely forsaken giving their homegrown editor even a ‘line numbers’ option (though see tip 5 below), making it all but unusable for scripting.

Given its limitations, you might feel you haven’t been missing much by leaving TextEdit unloved and untouched in the Applications folder. However, here’s at least 5 reasons to think again.

1. Easiest way to create an audiobook.
I started off by calling TextEdit an ‘oddball’ app and here’s the first reason: name me another ostensibly “text editing” program that can make audio books? Dump any old text into a TextEdit window, and from the menu at the top choose ‘Edit > Speech > Start Speaking’. Plug in the headphones, sit back and relax! Works great with long online articles (but be sure to strip out any meta text and pictures first!). Also, don’t forget you can change the system voice in ‘System Preferences > Dictation & Speech’, and as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, foreign language learners can download optional voices and listen to foreign language text to improve their listening skills. For the parents among us, this one can also be great for the kids (both for them to listen to and create their own). ๐Ÿ˜‰

To turn a TextEdit file into an audio book, select the entire text and from the menubar choose ‘TextEdit > Services > Add to iTunes as a Spoken Track’



add2itunes


2. Easy way to read, edit or save lengthy Terminal output
You can add

| open -f

to the end of any Terminal command, and (assuming TextEdit is your default editor) the output will be piped to a TextEdit window. This makes it easy to search, save or just scroll the output. This is particularly useful for reading and saving man pages. However, be aware that for some bizarre reason, man pages in particular tend to duplicate a number of characters in certain fields, which can affect readability. To prevent this here or with any other output you encounter that does the same, use

| col -b | open -f

after the Terminal command.

For example, if you enjoy hunting down defaults tricks, try this in Terminal. Type

defaults read | col -b | open -f


3. Easy way to get a file path
You can drag and drop any item from a Finder window into a TextEdit window to reveal that item’s path. This is a very handy trick if you need to quickly copy a file path to the clipboard. You can also drag urls from Safari’s address bar into a TextEdit window, or just drop them onto its Dock icon to get the same effect.


4. Easily share TextEdit content or files
Although TextEdit lacks the ‘Share’ icon in the menubar that was introduced to many apps in Mountain Lion, you can still access the ‘Share’ feature through the contextual (‘right/control click’) menu. Another oddity of TextEdit lurks here though: make sure the cursor in the TextEdit window is not on an empty line, or you won’t see the ‘Share’ option in the menu.



share

5. (not so) Easy way to get line numbers!
This one is for the coders among you. We all know TextEdit suffers from the lack of a ‘View line numbers’ option (come on, Apple – ridiculous!). There’s a few tips here. First, if you don’t know already, you can use the hotkey ‘command-L’ to go to any given line number. You can also find the total number of lines by using the ‘Find’ feature. Hit ‘control-F’ first, then click the spotlight in the filter bar. Choose ‘Insert Pattern’ and search for line breaks. You’ll see the total number of line breaks in the far right of the filter bar:



linebreaks


You can add pseudo (see below for why I call them ‘pseudo’) line numbers with a bit of Awk magic. Open Terminal.app and paste this into the window:


awk '{print FNR "\t" $0}'


Next drag and drop the file you want to add line numbers to into the Terminal window. Don’t worry, nothing you do here will change the original file. Apply your new found skill from Tip 2 above, typing a space and then a pipe onto the end of the command:

| open -f

so the whole thing might look something like this

awk '{print FNR "\t" $0}' ~/Desktop/myfile.txt | open -f

and hit ‘return’. Hey presto, you have a TextEdit file with “line numbers”.

Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 21.23.13

Now, here’s the catch. I called these ‘pseudo’ line numbers because unlike real line numbers, the numbers are actually part of the text. That means if you select some portion of the text that spans line numbers, the numbers will be selected and copied too. In other words, you can’t properly copy and paste text, so be sure to keep your original version of the file for future editing purposes (*EDIT: see a workaround for this provided by Caroline in the Comments below).

So yes, TextEdit is an oddball program; it is like no other I know of for containing a bizarre mix of unrelated yet strangely powerful features coupled with the inexplicable absence of basic functionality that any other program would be handicapped without. Nonetheless, I hope this post has given you some ideas of how you can use TextEdit to better effect in your work and play. ๐Ÿ™‚

Featured picture: Purple Glass Text Edit Icon by ~Drawder

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