Current Age Shortcut

Josh Holtz ( had posted about his iOS widget called “What’s My Age Again” which does one thing… Tells you your current age! I’m much older than Josh but I guess we both suffer from not knowing our age. I think it’s mainly the issue that my birthday is in middle of the year and I am a different age for the two halves of the year. Anyway… You can read Josh’s post about his widget.

When I started messing around with Shortcuts for iOS and macOS I got inspired by Josh and ended up making my own “Current Age” shortcut which is slightly similar to what Josh created, at least in the output.

My Shortcut doesn’t display my age all the time though, you need to touch the Shortcut to run it, which is fine. I like the fact I was able to easily add this functionality to my phone.

The other neat thing is that you can create Shortcuts on macOS, and some of them will work on the desktop or mobile… and some will work on the Apple Watch I guess. (I don’t have one, and probably will not have one in the future.)

I guess you can also share / publish these Shortcuts so others can use them, you know, so others can know when my birthday is!

I was a user of AppleScript many (many, many) years ago, and while Automator has been around awhile, I never really liked it. And even though it was fun playing with Shortcuts for a bit, on the desktop I was using Quicksilver for a few things, but recently stepped up to Keyboard Maestro, which is simply amazing for automation on macOS, but I should probably save that for another post.


2022 2018 Mac Update

Up until February I was using a 2010 Mac Pro as my main desktop machine at home. (MacPro5,1 Quad-Core Intel Xeon 2.4 GHz with 36GB of RAM) I had all the drive bays filled and upgraded the video card to a SAPPHIRE Radeon 580 a few years ago. It actually worked pretty well, but was definitely showing its age, and with me doing more video work the slowness was starting to get noticeable.

About two years ago at work we upgraded a few machines and I ended up with a Mac mini (3.2 Ghz 6-Core Intel Core i7 with 32GB of RAM) I’ve actually still got a 2007 Mac mini at home in my shop that mainly runs as a music player, but it’s been years (obviously!) since it’s been a useful desktop machine.

Anyway, I was pleased with the Mac mini at work so I figured I’d get one for home. I’m still not quite ready to shell out for an M1 machine, so I grabbed a 2018 Mac mini. It’s only an i3 but I did stick 32GB of RAM into it, and while it’s got a small 256GB internal SSD I picked up an external 1TB SSD which the system boots from. (There’s also a 4TB external backup drive connected for Time Machine backups.)

The Mac mini isn’t screaming fast, but it’s way faster than an old 2010 Mac Pro, and was about $700 USD, which is not a bad price for a “new” Mac. I know the base model M1 Mac mini starts around $600 but I wasn’t quite ready to jump to the M1 architecture and the older Mac Minis have a few features I really like.

So I’ve been using the Mac mini for a few months now, and it’s been great. Exporting videos and rendering 3D models is faster than the old Mac Pro, and I was easily able to upgrade to Monterey macOS 12 without issue (which the Mac Pro could not do). All in all I consider it a solid upgrade. And since it was about $700 even if I only get a few years of use out of it, that’ll be fine with me.

Oh, worth mentioning! I got the Mac mini from Other World Computing. I’ve been a customer for… I don’t even know, maybe 20 years? They’ve always been great to deal with and have good products.


Comparing Macs

I’ve been using Macs for about 30 years (and Apple hardware for nearly 40 years) and I’ve said this before, but I’m not a latest-and-greatest kind of user. I don’t buy the first version (anymore) or the fastest bestest (ever) and I try to make do with the hardware I have. I use the old Macs for various things around the house/shop. There’s a MacPro3,1 running the laser cutter, and a Macmini2,1 used strictly for playing music and the occasional web search.

I still have two “main” computers I use daily. One is a MacBookPro9,2 that has been my “everyday carry” (when I used to go places) and the other is MacPro5,1 I got for super-duper cheap from a video producer friend of mine. The Mac Pro was stuck on High Sierra due to the lack of a Metal GPU, so I grabbed one recently to keep the old box going. I figured it was time to compare the two computers to see what they could do.

I’ll also mention that I probably don’t do as much heavy computing that I used to do. Things that would be “heavy” for me would be some 3D modeling/rendering, a bit of video/audio editing, and processing/editing RAW photos. As I said, I don’t need the fastest most powerful computer, and that’s good, because I don’t have one.

Here’s a quick comparison of the computers:

MacPro5,1 (Mid 2010) MacBookPro9,2 (13″ Mid 2012)
2 x 2.4 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon 2.8 GHz Intel Core i5
Intel Xeon E5620 2400 MHz (8 cores) Intel Core i5-3210M 2500 MHz (2 cores)
36GB RAM 1066 MHz DDR3 12GB 1600 Mhz DDR3
Radeon RX 580 8 GB Intel HD Graphics 4000 1536 MB

I used Geekbench 5 to get the following numbers:

Score MacPro5,1 MacBookPro9,2
Single-Core 458 554
Multi-Core 3682 1131
OpenCL 46089 992
Metal 50937 183

Whew! Those are some differences in those numbers. My main concern with these two computers is that I can continue to upgrade the OS for a few years, if possible. I just got the Mac Pro up to Mojave (and will get Catalina on it soon using OpenCore.) I’ve tried a few Mojave installs on the MacBook Pro, but they keep failing. I’ve got a new SSD coming to get that taken care of, so we’ll see how it goes.


Remap F14 & F15 on macOS

Here’s a fun one. On some Macs the screen brightness keys are actually recognized as the F14 and F15 function keys. Which means when you build your own keyboard with those keys they change the screen brightness. Yuk. I found a post that explained how to change that, which involved going into System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Shortcuts -> Display, except… it’s not there. (See the image above? Not there.)

But wait, it is there after you plug in a device you built that has F14 and F15 keys. (See below.) So once you plug in a device you built that has F14 and F15 keys, the Display option will appear and you can disable the brightness thing by deselecting things. And yes, you can still totally adjust the screen brightness by using the keys on your normal keyboard.

This post is about 95% for future me, and 5% for someone who needs to figure it out and finds this post. You’re Welcome!


New New Mac

I recently posted about my New Old Mac so it’s fitting to also mention my New New Mac. I mean, technically it’s not mine, it belongs to my employer, but I’m the one using it every day. It’s a 13″ MacBook Pro acquired in December 2019.

There are a few very striking features of this MacBook Pro. First, it is very thin, and very light. It makes my New Old MacBook Pro feel like a boat anchor. It fact, it’s almost too light. How is this even a computer!? Of course the size and weight comes at a price. When I took it out of the box I looked at it and turned it round and round and only saw Thunderbolt 3 ports. No USB, no SD card reader, no HDMI, no Mini DisplayPort… Nothing else.

So in order to use anything (that isn’t wireless) you need a dongle. Yeah, #DongleLife. It’s a little ridiculous, but as they say “everything is wonderful and terrible”. It is nice being able to use your MacBook Pro as a desktop and just unplug one thing to make it portable and go to a meeting. Of course if you need to connect to anything (that isn’t wireless) at the meeting, you’re bringing a dongle with you.

This isn’t even my full dongle setup. I added a USB cable for an Arduino and I’ve also got a USB thumb drive I use all the time. So after you buy a MacBook Pro you can get yourself a VAVA USB C Hub 9-in-1 Adapter with PD Power Delivery, 4K USB C to HDMI, USB 3.0 Ports, 1Gbps Ethernet Port, SD/TF Cards Reader along with an Anker 4-Port USB 3.0 Ultra Slim Data Hub and $75 USD later you’ve probably got the connections you need.

I suppose there are use cases where these things aren’t needed, but I connect to things all the time. Speaking of connecting to things, the other feature of the MacBook Pro is the Touch Bar. It’s a context-sensitive control that changes all the time. It’s, neat… I guess. I used it a bit at first but once I added a 4K display, and a keyboard and mouse to my setup I really don’t see the Touch Bar unless I’m using the computer at a meeting with the built-in keyboard. Speaking of keyboard, while I (mostly) love the keyboard on my old 2012 MacBook Pro, the keyboard on the super-thin 2019 MacBook Pro is a little anemic. The keys don’t have much travel, and as someone who has been typing for 40 years, I like a little travel in my keys. Of course I also realize that keyboard have become thinner and less mechanical over the years and it’s just the way things go… march of progress and all that.

So don’t take this post as a review, it’s really just personal observations. I’m sure someday I’ll get used to all the new stuff, but then again, I’m the sort of person who just purchased a serial to USB converter because I want to connect a pen plotter made in 1983 to a laptop computer made in 2012, so I’m probably an edge case…