Catalina Scripting

In particular:

Quartz Composer
Starting in macOS 10.15, the Quartz Composer framework is deprecated and remains present for compatibility purposes. Transition to frameworks such as Core Image, SceneKit, or Metal. (50911608)

Tragic but unsurprising. None of those are even remotely a replacement, being machine-level programming tools, not a graphical tool for assembling a graphics or sound workflow. But there's probably almost nobody using QC anymore, because Apple neglects it and won't promote any dev tools except horrible goddamned walking abomination Xcode.

Script Editor
Known Issues
Script Editor might quit unexpectedly when saving or executing scripts. (50470730)
Scripting Language Runtimes
Scripting language runtimes such as Python, Ruby, and Perl are included in macOS for compatibility with legacy software. Future versions of macOS won’t include scripting language runtimes by default, and might require you to install additional packages. If your software depends on scripting languages, it’s recommended that you bundle the runtime within the app. (49764202)
Use of Python 2.7 isn’t recommended as this version is included in macOS for compatibility with legacy software. Future versions of macOS won’t include Python 2.7. Instead, it’s recommended that you run python3 from within Terminal. (51097165)

More of the same, increasingly neglected non-Xcode tools.

Killing python2 is great. It's not clear if python3 will be included standard, or if you have to find that somewhere else.

On my old blog, I had a post "Macs Make Programmers", where I talked about all the great scripting languages and tools included in OS X, including Xcode back when it wasn't broken junk. Timmy Cook's Apple is making that very difficult.

So basically the first thing you need to do on a Mac is install MacPorts, sudo port install python3 and so on.

On the bright side:

This is a massive step up in security and usability. I was a long-time ksh user on HP-UX, Atari ST MiNT, and OS/2, switched to bash for Linux back in '95-ish, and went along with bash on OS X, even though the original default was tcsh. I switched to zsh in 2014, after the bash shellshock bug; and it was long overdue. Apple can't follow the current bash versions because they're under poisonous GPLv3, so even with shellshock patched it's still not safe. zsh is reasonably current and MIT-licensed so it can stay current.

You want one reason to switch right now?

F="foo bar"
rm $F

In bash, that removes two files, "foo" and "bar". In zsh, it removes one file, "foo bar" (you can get the Bash-like behavior of expanding args by rm $(echo $F), probably some other ways).

Terminal Condition

I spend half my time, easily, in a command-line terminal running zsh. So a new one, even one on an OS I don't run, is interesting:

There are some modern, nice conveniences in this. It's a little ways behind Mac (based on the NeXTstep Terminal from 1990), and vastly far behind iTerm2, but it's more advanced than the usual Linux terminals like rxvt, urxvt, or cross-platform Alacritty or Hyper.

Between this and WSL2 being a full Linux, it's plausible that the best Linux dev environment now (well, this summer when it's released) is Windows. The Year of the Linux Desktop is 2019, and it is owned by Microsoft®. Can you hear the tiny, distant screams of the FSF cultists?

Comparison based on code, reviews, and reddit thread with MS devs involved:

  • Scrollback: The single most important thing a terminal can do. MS does this, but doesn't have logging.

    Surprisingly, a lot of them only support a few pages. I keep mine at 10,000 lines or so, which is probably wasteful but so handy; I don't bother logging since my .zhistory keeps everything I typed, and I have and iTerm2 set to not close tabs automatically.

    Alacritty only just added scrollback last year.

  • Prompt Marking: Nope.

    This is a feature it's hard to live without once you've had it, no more paging up trying to see prompt lines (I have a red ANSI-colored prompt and it's still hard to see). In, Edit, Marks, Automatically Mark Prompt Lines, and then ⌘↑ and ⌘↓ move between them. iTerm2 has it enabled by default, and ⇑⌘↑ ⇑⌘↓ are the keys, which took me some re-learning.

    Nothing else has this, as far as I've seen.

  • Fonts: MS has programming ligatures and displays emoji, finally. Does not support RTL languages.

    I use Fira Code in all my editors and shells, and it's enormously helpful, more readable, and catches bugs: I look for === as a fat-equals symbol in JS, etc.

    Hyper, urxvt, Alacritty support Unicode fonts. rxvt stopped development almost 20 years ago so it barely shows 8-bit fonts correctly.

  • Tabs: MS has tabs! They're currently invisible until you add a second tab, same shit does, which annoys the hell out of me; I don't like UI that reshapes itself, reminds me of T-1000 Terminators (also makes it hard to tile my windows up correctly when they get resized).

    It's not clear if you can drag Windows Terminal tabs around to different windows.

    In iTerm2, I normally keep: First window with tabs for home shell, ssh into my server (running screen, so that has many open shells). Second window with 2 tabs for REPL, editor/running/compiling tasks, and sometimes a third tab for reading local docs. If I need more shells, I usually open them on the first window. I rarely open a third window for monitoring some long-running task; I just drag a tab out to its own window. All terminal windows are stacked on the left side of my screen, because there's no icons under that side of the Desktop.

    urxvt has tabs, but they're kind of a hack, not fully usable.

    Hyper has tabs, but they replace the title bar. Which is cool but also awful like a lot of things it does.

    rxvt and Alacritty don't do tabs, because they insist you use screen or tmux. Which sucks if you want to move a process from one window to another.

  • Profiles: MS supports multiple profiles, so you can use different ones for each task.

    So does, iTerm2, urxvt (but it's buried in a text file config).

    Alacritty, rxvt, and Hyper have a single profile and no UI for changing anything, hope you like editing text files and reloading.

    As far as I can tell, nothing else does automatic profile switching like iTerm2; when I cd to my ~/Code/CodeScheme folder, iTerm2 switches to my dark red transparent profile, including Scheme-specific triggers and copy/paste filtering.

    You can probably do that in urxvt's Perl(!) scripting, but it's not normal or easy.

  • Copy/Paste Filtering: Nope.

    iTerm2 and urxvt both let you set a bunch of regexp to run over lines to get selections correctly matching boundaries, not just space-delimited.

  • URL Highlighting: Nope.

    iTerm2, Hyper, and urxvt notice URLs and filenames, and let you click on them. In iTerm2, hold down ⌘ and click on any URL or path (like in an ls or find result!) and it does some useful action: Opens the URL in your browser or file path in your editor, by default, but you can configure that in the profile.

  • Custom Keybindings: Sorta? Doesn't seem complete, no idea if there's UI for it, but it does exist in their config.

    Most terminals can do this, but most can only remap a few actions. I like iTerm2's, as usual, which lets you bind any action, menu, or run a program on any keybinding. I mostly just use it to launch different profiles with starting paths & scripts. only lets you send specific text for a key.

  • Images: Sorta? Only if they're embedded in fonts.

    This is a neat trick in iTerm2: images. I use imgls all the time to see a thumbnail of every file with details (protip: I changed ls -ld in the script to ls -1Fskd for a more concise listing), and then ⌘-click to open what I want in Acorn; it's better than opening Finder and trying to read a long filename under a thumbnail.

    I'm unaware of anyone else being able to do this.


I'm yet again frustrated by the state of checklist TODO apps. I had a perfect one once, ToDo on the Palm Pilot; aesthetically it was of its time, but for usability on a stylus-based PDA it was perfect. Everything since then has been a compromise.


  1. Run locally on iPhone and Mac.
  2. Sync automagically, preferably with iCloud and/or Dropbox.
  3. Have multiple lists, though does not need nested folders.
  4. Show a list of items I can check on/off.
  5. Be able to show or hide checked items, delete checked items with a command.
  6. Be able to reorder by hand (or sort with a command).
  7. Start up instantly right back where I was.
  8. Be usable while drunk, stoned, tired, or hungry. UI cannot be a giant pile of fiddly little switches.

Nice to Have:

  1. Due dates/expire dates.
  2. Priority tags.
  3. Search screen to show "What's next?", showing date, priority, list, item in that order.
  4. Notifications. But local notifications require a recent app launch, so you might miss stuff; or interacts with calendar which many people find annoying; or uses push notifications, which costs real money past a small number of users.
  5. Emoji & color tags, photos, long notes, etc.

Must Not:

  1. Give my information to Google, Microsoft, Facebook, or other evil mega-corporation who will weaponize my shopping for killer drones or advertising, or both. I'm dubious of Apple & Amazon, but at worst they seem to be venal, not evil.
  2. Be subscription-based.

Don't Care:

  1. Other platforms. Android, Linux, Windows, I don't use these so they're not a pain point for me. If mulle-objc works out, I could think about that.
  2. Pomodoro, GTD, and other fetishistic rituals.

State of the Field

  • Clear was good on iOS, but it's been "dead"/rebooting at Impending for 2 years already, and they won't be making a new Mac version.
  • Apple's Reminders is awful on the Mac (try finding the "show all" button, and keeping your list in order).
  • Things, Trello, OmniFocus, etc. are too slow & heavy for a grocery list.
  • Text files in Editorial or Drafts don't have usable (finger-sized) checkboxes.
  • Wunderlist got bought by Microsoft and destroyed as per usual. They're getting to be as bad a product graveyard as Yahoo! was.
  • RememberTheMilk is not super useful until you pay $40/year, which is not what a dumb todo list should cost.

What Am I Doing?

Thinking about this. I could write the app I want, release it for $5 on each platform, use Marzipan to make it use the same codebase. In theory, this is pretty easy; I can write a database-backed table view thing in a week. Making it nice is a while longer. Marketing is my least favorite thing, who do I use to get it in front of millions of people?

But I'd have to pay Apple to get back into the sharecropping business, and deal with their shitty Xcode tools and the rotting corpse of which got fucked over by Apple marketing so you can't get to the FUCKING DOCUMENTATION. @invalidname went to work for them and got sucked into the black hole.

Interactive Python IDLE

When using Python from a shell, the REPL is fairly awful and doesn't let you copy-paste or save, except through the shell itself. I especially find that copy-pasting functions in is error-prone. There's a nice interactive environment for Python called IDLE (after Eric ): It's probably an application in your /Applications/Python 3.7 folder, or whatever other OS's do, or can be run with IDLE3 from the shell. Other than using ^N/^P for next/previous history line, it works pretty much exactly as you'd expect a GUI REPL to work, and lets you save your session as a text file, easy to extract some functions from later or use as a doctest.

Trouble is, IDLE doesn't automatically pick up the ~/.pystartup script; I had to remember to call it with IDLE3 -s, and there's no easy way to do that from the desktop, where I'm often lazily clicking. This has been frustrating me very slightly for years.

So: open Automator, new Document, add Utilities/Run Shell Script, and paste in:

IDLE3 -s

Save as an Application, name it IdleStart. The icon's ugly and generic, so I made a half-assed icon, copy it from an image editor or Preview, and paste into the icon in Get Info on the application.


Now I have a nice stupid foot to click on, and get a proper REPL. The running program has a hideous 16x16 or 32x32 icon scaled up, which I don't think I can easily solve; I looked at the idlelib source and while I could patch it, it's not easily configured. Maybe later. There's also no way to specify the window location, which I'd like to have mid-left of my screen, but again, maybe later.

While I'm at it, the themes are garish, and the customizer is unpleasant. So I just edited this in ~/.idlerc/config-highlight.cfg, then picked Mark's Dark theme:

[Mark's Dark]
normal-foreground = 
normal-background = 
keyword-foreground = 
keyword-background = 
builtin-foreground = 
builtin-background = 
comment-foreground = 
comment-background = 
string-foreground = 
string-background = 
definition-foreground = 
definition-background = 
hilite-foreground = 
hilite-background = 
break-foreground = 
break-background = 
hit-foreground = 
hit-background = 
error-foreground = 
error-background = 
cursor-foreground = 
stdout-foreground = 
stdout-background = 
stderr-foreground = 
stderr-background = 
console-foreground = 
console-background = 
context-foreground = 
context-background = 

My current ~/.pystartup is short (in python2 it was much longer, since nothing worked right), just some common imports and functions I use enough to miss:

import os, sys
import math
import random as R
import re
import time
import turtle as T

def dice(n, s):
    t = 0
    for i in range(n):
        t += R.randint(1, s)
    return t

def roundup(n):
    return math.floor(n+0.5)

def sign(i):
    if i > 0: return 1
    elif i == 0: return 0
    return -1


Now if I click the foot and see "READY" above >>>, it's all working.

Apple is a Symbol

"If anyone reads this post I'm sure loads of people will tell me that my problems are all my own making and if only I invested in an iPhone all my problems would go away. Well you know what? APPLE IS A SYMBOL OF PRETENTIOUSNESS AND IGNORANCE - YOU DO NOT EVEN KNOW HOW YOUR PHONE WORKS - I DO NOT HAVE TO PAY A TAX TO APPLE TO LISTEN TO MY MUSIC."
Do I really need to get out the soldering-iron again?

Cash, grass, or ass, nobody rides for free.

You can pay the "Apple Tax" for a working system, and as someone who's written low-level audio software: A working system with the lowest-latency, least horrible (not nice, but least horrible) audio APIs in the industry. An iPod touch is still sold with 128GB for $299, which compares favorably to the $500 CD player with 10 seconds of skip protection I had before iPods.

Or, if this is just going to be a home system, how about buying a real stereo system with an amp, and play through that?

Or you can pay with a pile of wiring and an ugly box under a cheap CD player.

Or you can commit to spending the next decade of your life on low-level software and audio hardware trying to make Android audio that doesn't sound like a backfiring Chevy. Nobody else has succeeded, but maybe you'll be the one.

I love these things where someone creates a problem for themselves and then blames THE MAN for it.

Resize Windows with Applescript

So I downloaded it with youtube-dl (after more annoyances with MacPorts updates ) and a helper script ytplaylist:

youtube-dl -i --yes-playlist --restrict-filenames -o '%(playlist)s/%(playlist_index)s-%(title)s.%(ext)s' "$1"
osascript -e 'display notification "Youtube playlist downloaded"'

where $1 is the actual playlist URL; "show video list" under the video player or pick from DNA Lounge playlists

Now I have a folder full of properly-named videos. VLC can be opened from the shell with:

~/Applications/ jwz_mixtape_200 &

Frustrated by VLC constantly resizing, I then ignored the problem for most of the morning, finally wrote resizeWindow.applescript:


global appName
global windowX, windowY, windowW, windowH

on run argv
end run

on parseArgs(argv)
    set argc to (count of argv)
    if argc ≠ 5 then
        display dialog "Usage: resizeWindow.applescript APPNAME X Y W H"
        error number -128 -- User canceled
    end if
    set appName to item 1 of argv
    set windowX to item 2 of argv as number
    set windowY to item 3 of argv as number
    set windowW to item 4 of argv as number
    set windowH to item 5 of argv as number
end parseArgs

-- Wrap negative coords around to other side
on wrapCoords()
    tell application "Finder"
        set desktopBounds to bounds of window of desktop
    end tell
    if windowX ≥ 0 then
        -- no changes
        set windowX to windowX + (item 3 of desktopBounds) - windowW
    end if
    if windowY ≥ 0 then
        set windowY to windowY + 24 -- menu bar
        set windowY to windowY + (item 4 of desktopBounds) - windowH
    end if
end wrapCoords

on resizeWindow()
    tell application "System Events"
        tell process appName
            set frontWindow to the first window
            set appPos to position of frontWindow
            set appSize to size of frontWindow
            -- display dialog ("front window of " & appName & ": " & (item 1 of appPos) & ", " & (item 2 of appPos) & ", " & (item 1 of appSize) & ", " & (item 2 of appSize))
            -- display dialog (appName & " at " & windowX & ", " & windowY & ", " & windowW & ", " & windowH)
            set size of frontWindow to {windowW, windowH}
            set position of frontWindow to {windowX, windowY}
        end tell
    end tell
end resizeWindow

Now I can just leave it running to update every 5 seconds:

while true; do resizeWindow.applescript VLC 0 -64 720 640; sleep 5; done

Slight annoyance, sometimes it's still expanding the size further down than it should until I size it smaller, and then it works. Fucking software.

I don't know that what I've done is productive in any way, but I have my MTV.

The kids are disco-dancing
They're tired of rock and roll
I try to tell them, "Hey, that drum machine ain't got no soul"
But they don't want to listen, no
They think they've heard it all
They trade those guitars in for drum machines and disco balls
We can't rewind now; we've gone too far
Internet killed the video star
—The Limousines, "Internet Killed the Video Star"

No Aesthetic Sense

You may think "Mark, you're exaggerating when you say:"

In order to run Windows, you need to have a total lack of aesthetic sense, a willingness to put up with "updates" that brick your computer, a tolerance for Microsoft-Quality™ software ("let's add more buttons to a ribbon bar and ship it!"), and a willingness to use junk hardware that consumes twice as much power as needed and makes noise all the time.
me, yesterday

And then immediately an argument broke out on Mastodon where someone (I'll not shame him here) claims aesthetics are unnecessary and ruining the world, artists are frauds, a computer held together with zip-ties is good, and runs better than a pretty, well-built machine (what's EM interference? what's noise? why doesn't Windows wifi work? He does not know.)

These people exist, and are the majority of the customers of Microsoft and other artistically-void software companies.

And I have to point back to Steve Jobs, in 1995, just before NeXT got "acquired" by Apple and immediately took over:

Steve Jobs-1995

The Stubbornness of Windows Users

What we've got here is, a total failure to understand the purpose of the device or the OS.

A somewhat long sidebar here, state of the world in desktop operating systems:

  • Windows: Redmond still ships a garbage toy OS which is the bastard child of VMS and MS-DOS, that costs a lot of money, but runs on cheap (but not sub-$200) computers, many of which come in every shape and size. In order to run Windows, you need to have a total lack of aesthetic sense, a willingness to put up with "updates" that brick your computer, a tolerance for Microsoft-Quality™ software ("let's add more buttons to a ribbon bar and ship it!"), and a willingness to use junk hardware that consumes twice as much power as needed and makes noise all the time.
    Slightly positive, the graphics and sound systems work, and you get all the games; if that's all you're after, though, a PS4 or Xbox OnePlus+Ultra/190 (whatever the name is) is a better deal. You can generally browse the web on Windows, and you'll get some viruses and ransomware but it works. Dev tools on Windows are expensive and shitty, so in order to get real dev work done, Redmond now also ships Linux inside Windows. My bias shows, sure: I've never owned a Microsoft product in my life, and I'd eat broken glass before doing so, but I've had to use them in some workplaces. Dire, but minimally functional.

  • Linux: Distros ship a garbage OS for free that runs on garbage computers, including sub-$200 microcontrollers. In order to run Linux, you need to be masochistic, technically educated, not have any need for desktop apps, sound support, graphics support, games (some Steam stuff now works, sometimes, on higher-end machines!). As a server or microcontroller OS, or a very nerdy dev machine (emacs and C), it's adequate and somewhat supported. Only insane people use Linux as a working desktop. I say that as someone who ran it as a working desktop for a decade, and I loathed it.

  • FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD: Great server OS's, that ship for free and run on slightly more demanding computers. Only the most technical nerds will even know that these exist. Software, you basically write your own or port from other POSIX systems, which half the time is written for broken Linux APIs and so doesn't work right. On the bright side, they have such limited sound and graphics driver support that if you do have compatible hardware, you'll have working sound and graphics. If Mac OS X didn't exist, I'd be using FreeBSD.

  • Haiku (aka BeOS): Seriously, they shipped a working beta, and it seems nice. Great desktop, graphics and sound support if you're on compatible hardware. Down side, minimal software for it, and if you want to write your own the APIs are in C++. Fuck that, no. But… I do like BeOS, probably tolerable as a nerdy dev computer.

  • Mac OS X (or "tacOS", er, "macOS" as they now style it): The last of the UNIX® workstation OS's, that only runs on expensive devices Apple makes (it's possible to "Hackintosh" a garbage computer to run Mac OS X, but half the services won't work; don't do it unless you're nerdier than a FreeBSD user). Everything actually fucking works. Sound has no latency, and always works. Graphics, aside from low-end devices having a shitty Intel GPU, always works; I'm unhappy with them deprecating OpenGL and going with Metal instead of Vulkan, but Vulkan libraries have been ported. It's fine.
    There are games, Elder Scrolls Online and World of Warcraft in particular, and Steam's full of Mac games. Desktop applications on the Mac are adequate to amazing; there's no "you must use this one shitty program because it's all we've got" like GIMP on Linux. As a dev machine, it's unmatched. I don't touch Xcode unless I have to anymore, but that's what you use to make iOS and Mac apps, and it has some good dev tools like Xcode Server.

Of course, I say that, and:

libswiftcore-crash Good job, Apple, ship it.

So, end sidebar, the reason you buy Mac hardware is to run Mac OS X, the least bad hardware/software combination available in this horrible century.

What you'd use a Mac Mini for is what you'd use an iMac for, but cheaper and often hidden away:

  • Switch to the Mac from another OS. Steal the keyboard and screen from your garbage computer. You may need some dongles to convert the cables. Learn how to use a Mac. Buy something better when you need it, and re-sell the Mini, which will still be worth 2/3 or more of the original price.

  • Run a multimedia display. Put a playlist of music, photos, or videos on one or a bunch of LCD panels; you can't do this with a Linux microcontroller like Peter suggests, because their graphics and sound don't work worth a fuck. Just try playing a random folder of media on Linux, you'll throw it through the window. It's worth $800 to not fight with Linux.

  • Run a build farm for Xcode Server. Probably need a mid-priced Mini for this, but speed won't matter much because it's an invisible server. It can't be rack-mounted, because not every workplace has a machine room with racks, they just need a little device in some (well-ventilated) cupboard to support the developers.

  • Streaming audio, video, or other server. Put this in a colo farm with a static IP, and deliver whatever media you want. Your podcast and web site has to live somewhere. Now, you can do that with AWS/EC2 and other shared servers, much cheaper, but you don't control the computer, they mostly run Linux (ugh), and often you've written software for the Mac.
    I have an old Mini at colo that runs Minecraft, some file shares, holds backups, used to run Xcode builds but I don't need that now, sometimes runs one-off networking services I want to try out. I may upgrade to a new one, but my needs aren't quite as heavy on it as they were. Invalidstream is currently run from an old Mac pro, but I think he'd be fine on a higher-end Mini now.

  • Literally any other use that doesn't require using it on the move, or extremely heavy CPU or GPU loads. Not a top-of-the-line gaming, Photoshop, or movie editing device by itself, but an external GPU could put it on par with an iMac, maybe even an iMac Pro for some jobs. Probably not a stage DJ device, there they'd use a MacBook Air or even an iPad, but ideal for sticking in an audio booth and doing podcast recording and mixing. Unlike a garbage computer, you can be in the room with a Mini and not be blasted off the air by the overheating fans and clicking drives, and unlike a MacBook it has enough ports.

Most of those tasks require it to be small, quiet, and still attractive if it is visible.

The $799 base model is for only the most minimal uses. For $1,599, you can get:

3.2GHz 6‑core 8th‑generation Intel Core i7 (Turbo Boost up to 4.6GHz)
8GB 2666MHz DDR4
Intel UHD Graphics 630
512GB SSD storage
10 Gigabit Ethernet (Nbase-T Ethernet with support for 1Gb, 2.5Gb, 5Gb, and 10Gb Ethernet using RJ‑45 connector)

That seems like a reasonable Mac workstation, if it had more RAM. +$200 to get 16GB RAM is OK, +$600 to get 32GB RAM is overpriced, +$1400 for 64GB is "bend over and squeal like a pig". You can get 64GB of the same RAM for under $500, and there's a Snazzy Labs RAM Upgrade Tutorial and Teardown; the disassembly doesn't look fun, but worth doing if you're going to use it as a server. A casual user can live on somewhat less RAM with the Apple RAM tax.

lain-s1e3-open navi

Windows and Linux users, people who've only used garbage computers, are confused by Apple's attitude on pricing, upgrades, and repairs because they've never thought about non-garbage computing.

Apple doesn't price based on hardware costs (except for RAM, which they tax 50-300% over cost), but on where it fits in a Portability/Power chart, starting at $1000, because you're buying "machine that runs Mac OS X", not "random collection of parts that does not run Mac OS X". You'll never see Apple micro-adjust prices day to day as part prices or exchange rates change, because it has nothing to do with that.

If you want to upgrade an Apple device, other than RAM in some models, you sell it at a high resale value and buy a better one. Garbage computers are useless in a couple years, cost more to replace parts than they're worth, and have no resale value at all.

If you want to repair an Apple device, it's either free for as long as your AppleCare lasts, or $100 in most cases. Don't keep open containers of liquid on your desk (*), don't abuse your expensive hardware, and the repair isn't a problem (notably, the same guy at Snazzy Labs fucked up his iMac Pro and Apple unsurprisingly told him to go piss up a rope).

*: I wanted to link in the episodes where John warns about this, and then gets to say "I told you so", but I can't find them with obvious keywords.