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Batch Image Conversion with macOS Preview

Batch Image Conversion with macOS Preview
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Every now and then I find myself in need of converting an image to another format, especially when the application I’m working with does not support the file format I have at hand. Recently I find myself needing to convert several webp formatted files, a format developed by Google as a replacement for PNG, JPEG and GIF. Unfortunately quite a few applications still do not support this new(er) format.

There are a bunch of tools out there that can do this for us, like Pixillion from NCH Software (free version available), or online services like CloudConvert. MacOS however already comes equipped with a suitable tool that can help us with that – and can even handle a batch – called “macOS Preview“.

In this article:
How to convert images, to different file formats, with Preview that comes with macOS – one at a time, or in batch.

How to Customize Z-Shell Prompt (zsh – macOS, Linux)

How to Customize Z-Shell Prompt (zsh – macOS, Linux)
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When using Terminal under a recent macOS version, you’ll most likely will be using Z-Shell (zsh) –  a quite common Shell found under Linux as well.
This used to be Bash, but Apple moved to Z-Shell early 2019 (some users may see a message when opening Terminal, requesting them to migrate to zsh).

I do tinker in Terminal quite often and always found the prompt kind-a boring.

In this article: how to customize the Z-Shell prompt.

Note: most of these tricks/settings may work the same way for different shells as well, like Bash and even Linux shell variants.

XTerm Color Cheat Sheet

XTerm Color Cheat Sheet
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For those who need a cheat sheet on XTerm colors, here a quick and short reference overview.
These colors should work for anything that supports the XTerm color-scheme, so this includes several Terminal emulators and several Shell variants like Z-Shell.

I needed this while customizing my Z-Shell prompt, and I hope this is useful to others as well as a reference sheet.
I’ve split it up in the 16 basic colors, 24 greyscale “colors”, and 256 colors.

How to use Email Templates in Apple Mail (macOS)

How to use Email Templates in Apple Mail (macOS)
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In certain scenarios, it can be a timesaver, and avoid mistakes, to have one or more templates for common emails.
Unfortunately, Apple Mail, that comes with macOS, doesn’t have a template mechanism … or does it?

With a simple trick we can use “templates” in Apple Mail under macOS and in this article I’ll show you how …

Beat Saber – Custom Song Renamer

Beat Saber – Custom Song Renamer
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For those familiar with Beat Saber mods: Beat Saber is the most fun when you add your own songs.

Unfortunately, when you download some of these custom songs, for example from beatsaver.com or beatsaber.com, you’ll find that the filenames can be a bit messy. For example filenames like: “8e7e553099436af31564adf1977a5ec42a61cfff.zip” or “141 (Gangnam Style – greatyazer).zip”.

This is where this simple little tool can be helpful allowing you with a few clicks to rename these files to a filename in this format “Artist – Title (supported levels).zip”.

The application is free and available for macOS, Linux (64bit) and Windows (32bit).

Windows 10 – Testing applications safely in Windows sandbox

Windows 10 – Testing applications safely in Windows sandbox
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Sometimes you just want to try a new application without messing up your Windows setup, or maybe you found an application online, and you’re not quite sure how sketchy the application is (with all the malware, viruses etc. these days).

In this article, I’ll show you how to use the sandbox functionality found in Windows 10, to safely test applications in a shielded (sandbox) environment.

Note: This only seems to be available for Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise, as of version 1903, (it first became available in the Insider build 18305).

VR Tips and tricks

VR Tips and tricks
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After having had an Oculus Rift, and now an Oculus Quest, I’ve collected a few tips and tricks for playing in VR, which I’d like to share with others.
These are the tips and tricks I use for myself, but also when introducing folks to VR, so hopefully these tricks are useful for you as well …

Note : Even though this article is mostly based on the Oculus Quest, most of these tips and tricks will also apply to VR headsets from other brands.

Note : To show friends and family all about VR, I have dragged my HMDs (VR headsets) all over the place, even to different continents.
Especially the Oculus Quest is very suitable for carrying it around, since the Quest is just so easy to get started. Just put the Quest on your face, switch it on, and you’re good to go.
(unlike some other HMDs where you need to setup base-stations first, which takes a bit of time and aggravation)

Screenshots in SteamVR with your VR Controller (Oculus Quest)

Screenshots in SteamVR with your VR Controller (Oculus Quest)
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One thing that has disappointed me, in VR in general, is how poorly applications and games seem to handle taking screenshots.
The user either has to jump through several hoops to get a mediocre screenshot, or the user has to blindly figure out where the heck his or her keyboard it, in order to press the screenshot button. Quite a poor user experience if you ask me.

The annoyance became even worse when I got Half-Life: Alyx (highly recommend it for VR players!) where I wanted to share screenshots of funny things I found or did in the game.

In this article, geared towards to Oculus Quest, I’ll show you how I managed to get SteamVR (!) managed to bind taking a screenshot, to long pressing the Joystick in the Left Controller of my Oculus Quest – anywhere in the game (or anywhere in SteamVR for that matter).

Note: This is a tweak/setting for SteamVR!
– it will very likely work with other SteamVR compatible HMD’s as well (eg. Valve Index, Oculus Rift, HTV Vive, etc, etc).
– but it will not work for  Oculus Quest native VR games – only for games and applications running in SteamVR.
– this is originally intended for use with the Oculus Quest since the standard method conflicts with assigned button functions.

This trick makes use of the excellent VR companion for SteamVR users: OpenVR-AdvancedSettings, a must have for all SteamVR users.

Half-Life: Alyx – Console Commands and Cheats

Half-Life: Alyx – Console Commands and Cheats
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As most of you know, I do not regularly post articles that are related to specific games.
However, Half-Life: Alyx most certainly is an exception for many reasons.

Having played and loved all Half-Life games, growing up with them, and having an interest in VR games, “Half-Life: Alyx” was simply a MUST HAVE.
After playing the game from beginning to end, more than once, I can only say that this is the new gold standard for VR gaming.

Spoiler alert!
Before you start reading this:
I HIGHLY recommend you finish the game first!

Really, it is so worth it, and you would not want to spoil the game with some lame cheats.
Don’t get me wrong; Cheats can be fun after you finished the game and you’re ready to mess around in the game.

So be warned as this description may contain spoilers.

Bluetooth XBox One controller on a Mac

Bluetooth XBox One controller on a Mac
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With the arrival of support for third party game controllers in macOS Catalina (10.15), we can now connect most certain game controllers to our Mac. In this article we look at Bluetooth enabled XBox One controller.

Once such a controller is paired with your Mac, you can use it with games that support controllers, like certain games on Steam, nVidia Geforce Now, Apple Arcade and potentially many more.

Note: Some of you may have read my older article on how to connect a XBox 350 controller to you Mac (2015). This method, and the XBox 360 controllers, are still working of course, but it is time for an update now that Catalina offers native support for certain controllers. Personally I like the newer XBox One controllers better anyway (especially the Elite models, even though these are not exactly cheap).

ConnectMeNow v3 – Mount Network Shares Quick and Easy on a Mac

ConnectMeNow v3 – Mount Network Shares Quick and Easy on a Mac
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macOS is great – I really like it a lot – but one thing it doesn’t handle all that great is … network shares.

In this day and age a little weird to still see this, especially from a company like Apple. We are more network connected than ever before – at home, in school and at work. We have network shares on our computers, want to access company network shares, or have a dedicated file server or NAS (Network Attached Storage) to store our information or make our backups.

Unfortunately, it is still cumbersome under macOS X to connect to those “shares” (also known as mounted network “Volumes“).

In Finder, a server doesn’t always appear right away, we need to go through a list of shares on a given “server”, get confused if we need SMBCIFSFTPSSHWebDAVNFS or AFP, and I’m not even mentioning the need to enter a username and password on protected shares.

For this reason I created ConnectMeNow – initially just for personal use.
But the arrival of the 64 bit requirement, mandatory signed applications, and notarization requirements, and Catalina issues, my original old version was simply outdated.

So after months of work, I’d like to present ConnectMeNow v3, which hopefully makes working with shares easier for you as well.

MacOS – How to create bootable macOS install media

MacOS – How to create bootable macOS install media
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In this article, I’ll show you the steps to create macOS install Media …

As most Mac users will know; each new macOS version comes with a few challenges. For some it’s nothing, for other it’s a disaster.

Catalina is one of the latter, a disaster for quite few amongst us, due to changed security rules and the lack of support of 32 bit applications.
Some of my favorite tools simply no longer work, and as a developer this makes me nervous when considering switching to the latest and greatest.

For this purpose I always create a virtual machine in VMWare Fusion, running the macOS version that I ran before the update.
This comes with challenges though, since Apple, in their infinite wisdom, does not simply provide macOS install media (eg. a DMG or ISO file) so you can install another version of macOS. We have to create our own.

Note: Here I describe how to create macOS install media, either as a bootable USB stick to do a fully clean macOS install for your Mac, or a DMG file, for example to setup a virtual machine.

MacOS – ToggleTheme – Single click Toggle Theme

MacOS – ToggleTheme – Single click Toggle Theme
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As a hobby developer, when testing dark theme vs light theme under MacOS X, I have those moments where I have to switch back and forth between both themes quite often.
Going into the System Preferences to toggle theme, choosing the Appearance option, and then selecting the desired theme, does indeed work, but I wanted just a “one click” theme toggle.

To help myself with that, I created a small application that does exactly this: it toggles to “the other” theme, with just a simple click.
So when Dark Theme is active, it switches to the Light (Aqua) Theme. If however the Light Theme is active, it switches to Dark Theme.

The application is super simple, and has no interface. Just start the App and it changes theme and then closes itself.
Normally, this App would just sit in your Applications directory, with the optional shortcut in your Dock or even on the Touch Bar (if your Mac has one).

ApplePi-Baker v2 – Backup & Restore SD cards, USB drives, etc.

ApplePi-Baker v2 – Backup & Restore SD cards, USB drives, etc.
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ApplePi-Baker has become well known amongst Raspberry Pi users, with a Mac running macOS, to backup and restore SD-cards. Users do not just use ApplePi-Baker for this purpose anymore – I have seen users use it for backup and restore of pretty much anything not Raspberry Pi related.

Late 2013, I created ApplePi-Baker for my own use – I just got tired of looking up the proper command-line statements.
This way, ApplePi-Baker became my personal frontend for command-line tools like “dd“, “diskutil“, “mount” etc.

Over time, the use of command-line tools came with some problems; thanks Apple for changing command-line tool output with every new version of macOS. Besides that, having to enter your “sudo” password each time was a pain as well, and came with the occasional problems for a small group of users, so that had to go as well.

About 2 years ago I decided to rebuild ApplePi-Baker from scratch, no longer using any of the command-line tools. This came with quite a few challenges, especially since Apple increased security for macOS, not allowing me to do certain things straight from my program (see also SMJobBless: Elevated Privileges in Lazarus Pascal). I’m not even mentioning the drama when it comes to supporting the different compression formats, signing applications, and 64-bit requirements.

Almost 2 years later, I proudly present ApplePi-Baker v2. – special thanks to Jeff and Mark for testing!

UPDATE: ApplePi-Baker now also support shrinking and expanding of Linux partitions!

MacOS – Organize your Dock – Stack Overlays

MacOS – Organize your Dock – Stack Overlays
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Apple has done a pretty good job with the Dock in MacOS. There is just one thing that I do not like though; the way it stacks icons when you add a folder to your Dock.

A smart guy from Japan (2007 – Yasushi Chida) actually came with a neat idea for that, by introducing “buckets” (or better said: Stack Overlays) placed over the folders in your Dock. All that without the need to install any extra applications!
Unfortunately, his website at Yahoo!/Geocities has been gone for quite a while now.

The few steps you have to take can be a little bit challenging for MacOS beginners (even though it is pretty easy – as usual; once you know how it works). So in the article I’ll show you how to use buckets (a.k.a. Stack Overlays) in your MacOS Dock. This seems to work as of MacOS X Leopard and still works in Mojave (and I do expect this to work in future versions as well).

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