MacOS’s Hidden Storage Management App

When you think you need Daisy Disk or Grand Perspective to clean up your disk, you might be surprised Apple has built a pretty good storage management app into the operating system:

  1. Open Spotlight (Cmd-Space)
  2. Type “Storage Management”
  3. On the bottom, in the Reduce Clutter section, hit Review Files, and you’ll see something that looks like this:

macos-catalina-storage-management-documents-large-files-2.jpg

(This is also shown in Apple’s support article on freeing up storage space on your Mac.)

If this isn’t enough for you, or you prefer the command line, you can also run brew install ncdu.  (after installing Homebrew)  This installs the venerable (and still useful) Ncurses Disk Usage utility.

iPad: 90% of a Laptop

I tried the iPad-only life for months.  Here’s what I found:  The iPad gets you about 90% of the way to a laptop.  It’s the last 10% of what you might need that is frustrating.  For example:

  • You can listen to music, but if you want to easily trim that media so you only hear the best parts, the Music app on macOS is what you need.
  • Even if Safari identifies itself as a desktop browser, there are still sites that don’t fully work with it.
  • I had a PDF that was attached to an email that I was unable to rotate on the iPad without a paid 3rd party app such as GoodReader.
  • Another email attachment I wasn’t able to see in iPad Mail until I went to the cloud email portal (which barely worked on the iPad).
  • Tax software on the iPad is even more clunky, expensive, and data-loss prone than on macOS.
  • I was unable to change the text size of data entered in PDF form fields, thus making a printout of the form unreadable. Had to use a Mac.
  • My wife used to love her iPad Pro (it was a lot better than the Windows notebook  that made her break down in tears), but now she’s selling it because she outgrew Swift Playgrounds.  She wants to make a real app in Xcode.

You may say now that you don’t need to do these things, that these are all edge cases, but you will run into your own edge cases where the iPad falls down and get frustrated. Maybe in a few years, the software will be better.  But I suspect the Mac will be best for most use cases for many years to come.

apple-magic-keyboard-for-ipad-pro-1-1280x720
Apple’s Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro (Image: SlashGear)

What I Learned From Craig Federighi’s Talk at Berkeley

Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, recently gave a great talk at Berkeley.

Craig Federighi-967236574
Image: Wired

Here’s what I learned from Craig:

  1. Do what you love!
  2. Work with people whose work you admire.
  3. Pay attention.  (use a notebook and take handwritten notes)
  4. Never stop acting like the new one on the team.  Ask stupid questions.
  5. Team > Self.  Do all that you can do to help the mission of the team.
  6. Commit, Focus, Reassess.  Set yourself a deadline, say 1-4 years from now, to assess where you’re at and figure out what you want to do next.
  7. Follow your heart.  Trust your gut feelings on big and small decisions.

Beyond these points, he also mentioned:

  • Expertise comes with solving real problems.  (my own example: HackerRank vs. c0d3.com)
  • Become good at communicating, both via the written word and verbally.  Craig’s early experience being a DJ at a pirate (?) radio station helped him with this.
  • Don’t read from a script.  If there’s something you’re excited about, just tell that story.  Know what you want to get across.  Be yourself and tell the story.
  • Put yourself in the mindset of the customer.  Translate their needs to the team.
  • Get the right amount of sleep.
  • Avoid burnout by having a diversity of problems that you’re working on.
  • Have a hunger to learn.  Come up with a project and constantly be learning.
  • Focus your main efforts on helping solve the right problems for the team.  If you have a broader concern for the project, you can help manage it.

I loved listening to what Craig had to say and will use many of these tips going forward.

Which Apple Watch gives you the Best Bang for the Buck?

I was wondering, if I were to buy an Apple Watch today, which model would give me the best CPU performance bang for the buck?  Turns out, it’s the Series 4:

CPU speed in MHz Price Price/Perf Ratio
Series 4 (GPS, 44mm) 2652 $250 10.6
Series 6 (GPS, 44mm) 3447* $429* 8.0
Series 5 (GPS, 44mm) 2652 $329 8.1
Series 3 (GPS, 42mm) 1326 $209 6.3
  • The Series 6 isn’t out yet, but is expected in fall 2020.  I base the Series 6 CPU performance estimate and price based on the history of Apple Watch speeds and prices.  And yes, the Series 4 and Series 5 have the same CPU speed, so we should be seeing a jump with the Series 6.

AppleWatchPricePerformanceRatio2020

Personally, I’m waiting for the Series 6 in the fall, because I want the sleep tracking and blood oxygen detection features that are rumored to be coming.  But if I didn’t care about these things, and had to buy a watch now, I’d try and find a Series 4.

How to Fix iCloud Photos Sync

I use iCloud Photos Library to store my original photos in the cloud, to save space on my Mac.  Today I tried to download the full resolution version of a few of my older photos and they refused to download, coming up with an exclamation point error on screen and telling me to try again later.

Checking the console log didn’t reveal much: just a message from cloudphotod about the sync session/download failing.  No explanation of why, just some error codes – a different error code for each failed download.

I dug around on the Internet and found a way to supposedly fix the photos sync, by using the Photo Library Repair Tool.  This tool is built into the Photos app: Hold down the Option and Command keys while launching Photos.  Then follow the prompts:

Repair Photos Library on Mac

This worked great for me.  I was able to download my old photos again in full resolution after the repair was complete.  It took a few hours, but I was able to use my computer in the meantime.  Note that your search index for photo keywords will need to be rebuilt, so you will need to wait for that too if you want to search your photos.  This search index rebuild happens automatically, in the background.

 

9 Years Later, Siri is Still Inconsistent

After 9 years, Siri has gradually has gotten better.  But it’s maddeningly inconsistent:

  1. I’ll speak into my AirPods “Hey Siri, 24 minute outdoor walk” to start a workout on my watch.

    20% of the time, Siri replies with “I don’t see an app for that. You’ll need to download one.

    Repeat the same exact query to the AirPods seconds later, and bam, it starts the workout.

    Siri outdoor workout inconsistency

  2. I asked Siri to tell me about the wind.  A couple times, Siri gave me the definition of wind.

    Other times it will tell me the wind speed.

    Other times, for the same query, it will tell me the wind speed and direction, which is what I want!  But it’s always random what I get.

What will Siri reply with today?  Who knows.  Sure wish Apple would make it more consistent.

How To Get 3-4% Back at Walmart Using the Apple Card

If you spend a lot at Walmart, have an Apple Card, and are willing to deal with extra hassle at the register, you can get 3-4% back by using the Ibotta app with Apple Pay.  It works like this:

  1. At checkout, open the Ibotta app.  Hit Walmart and then Pay with Ibotta.  You will be asked to enter the total amount due at the register.
  2. Type that amount into your phone and pay with Ibotta using Apple Pay.  This buys you a gift card for that amount.  A gift card barcode pops up that you can scan with the scanner.
  3. You get 2% for using Apple Pay, and Ibotta gives you 1-2%, for a total of 3-4% cash back at Walmart.
paywithibotta
Ibotta cash back is actually not instant: You must accumulate $20 before cashing out.

If you’re not a Walmart shopper and Apple Card holder, Ibotta is probably not worth it.  Unless you’re someone who frequently:

  • Buys mostly brand name items at the grocery store (instead of mainly private label brands)
  • Purchases speciality alcoholic beverages

Ibotta just takes too much time for too little money.  As an example, after entering a couple of receipts per month for 1 year and 3 months, I earned a whole $20.  (That’s with a $10 welcome bonus + a $5 referral bonus.)

Because I don’t shop at Walmart often and don’t yet have an Apple Card, I cancelled my Ibotta account immediately after cashing out.

How to Find Your Apple Watch’s Battery Cycle Count

On Apple’s Battery Service page, they say “Your [Apple Watch] battery is designed to retain up to 80% of its original capacity at 1000 complete charge cycles.”  What they don’t tell you is how to tell how many charge cycles your watch has been through.  Here’s how:

  1. On your iPhone, go to Settings > Privacy > Analytics > Analytics Data
  2. Scroll down to the latest log-aggregated-20nn-nn-nn-nnnnn.. and open it.  (You should see at least 2 of these files.  The one you want says Watch OS at the top of the log data).  Don’t see any logs?  Then you need to turn Analytics on.  And wait a day.
  3. AirDrop the log to your Mac and rename it to a text file.  Open it in TextEdit and Cmd-F for: cycle_count  (Or you can just scroll about 3/4 way down the phone screen.)

watchOS_battery_cycle_count

My Series 1 is at 769 cycles.  It’s mostly fine.  Occasionally a third-party audio streaming app causes excessive battery drain and I have to charge it twice in one day.  But that’s the exception.  With a 1000 cycle lifetime, and my use case, that’s almost ~3.8 years of daily charging.  Pretty good lifespan for a tiny 205mAh smart watch battery.

Hopefully in a future revision of watchOS, Apple will create a battery health screen.  Then this digging (or unnecessary trips to the Apple Store for diagnostics) won’t be necessary.

Apple’s $23 AA Battery Charger

A few months ago, I took a chance and bought a sealed box containing Apple’s discontinued AA Battery Charger (model MC500LL/A with six Apple-loop rechargeable batteries included) off eBay for $23.  (Also available on Amazon for $26.)  Apple discontinued the charger back in 2016, and the set I received were manufactured in 2015.  I trusted the charger would work. But given the age of the six Apple Batteries (rewrapped Eneloops), I wasn’t sure they would juice up.

Apple_MC500LL_A_Battery_Charger.jpg

One pair worked immediately, but the other 4 were so discharged, I got the flashing amber light of doom.  I did a little research and found one weird trick to revive the batteries, which actually worked.  The flashing amber light still occasionally happens. So I have to wiggle the batteries in the charger and clean the contacts a bit to get them charging again.  Overall though: 5 year old batteries and still going.  They charge fast in ~2-3 hours and I always have a spare set.

These rechargeables last a couple months per charge in my first generation Apple Wireless Keyboard and Trackpad.  Break even point is around 50 charges, or a little over 2 years in my use case, and I expect them to last at least another 5 years.  Best part: I no longer have to think about how and where to dispose of old alkalines.

Exporting and Deleting Completed Reminders in macOS Catalina

Gary Rosenzweig over at MacMost wrote a nice script for exporting Reminders on the Mac.  Just uncomment the completed items section (2 lines) and it should take under 1 minute to export over 5,000 old reminders.  I saved these and backed them up:

export-reminders-to-clipboard.pngDeleting completed reminders is trickier.  The option to Clear Completed reminders no longer exists at iCloud.com.

I came across this script by Dr. Drang that claimed to do it.  I suspect it works for small numbers of reminders, but it hung indefinitely at 100%+ CPU when I tried it on my years of completed tasks.

Even increasing the timeout to 20 minutes in the script still failed – Reminders hung with all sorts of obscure errors in the Console.

What I ended up doing to finally delete the old tasks was quite a bit simpler:

  1. Open Reminders and create a new list.
  2. Select and Drag all active reminders from the old list to the new list.
  3. Delete the old list.  Within 30 seconds or so, the old list (including all completed reminders) will be gone.

What I haven’t figured out is how to force synchronization between macOS Reminders and the iCloud/iPhone versions.  They usually sync automatically and quickly, but this time it took a while, with errors like “Error modifying records, canceling dependent operations” and “Partial error for modify operation” from remindd in the Console log.

Eventually, the synchronization/reconciliation worked, but I had to leave Reminders open on the Mac for half a day.

Hopefully the next version of macOS will include an option to auto-purge completed reminders after some number of months, similar to Calendar’s option to do the same for events.  And maybe it will even bring back the Export option!