apple music: stop after this track

Stop After This Track AppleScript

Say you’re listening to Apple’s Music app on your Mac. You know you want to quit pretty soon, but you want the break to come at the end of the track you are listening to, rather than abruptly quitting at this very instant. (What a vulgar concept.) So you start up this AppleScript I wrote. It keeps tabs on the track that is currently playing. When the Music app switches to the next track, the script will tell Music to stop playing.

(Note that the app has a “Stop” button. Pressing that button will not stop the Music app playing prematurely, as you might expect, but instead exits the AppleScript altogether, without it doing anything further.)

Yep, that’s its sole purpose. Does that sound trivial and pointless to you? I often wish I was that type of person myself. If you feel that way, feel free to move right along to any of the other near-infinite reading possibilities that the internet has to offer you!

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async/await cancellation

Flutter Async/Await Cancellation Demo App

The Problem

I spent about a decade working as an iOS programmer. On that platform, in that timeframe, if you wanted to write an operation that would take so long that it would disrupt the user interface, you needed to wire up callback functions for every eventuality. The most common example is a network request. You would typically need a callback that will be called if the request succeeds, and another one if it fails.

But now here we are in the bright shiny future. These days, callbacks are, like, so last-century. Who wants to write three functions — the network request itself, and its two mandatory callbacks — when you can instead write only one? Such is the promise of async/await, the brand-new hotness.

I could waste a lot of time and effort writing about whether we’ve gained anything with this move or not. (Spoiler alert: my own personal belief is that async/await is one step forward, two steps back.) But there is no point in bloviating on this topic any further. That ship has sailed. My side lost. (For the moment. These things have a way of going in cycles.) It’s better to just get on with it, and make peace with the status quo.

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flutter finger-signing

Flutter Finger-Signer Demo App

One of the first tasks I was given, as a professional Flutter developer, was to implement a widget that would allow users to create a signature by drawing on the surface of a mobile phone. So I did what most people do: I searched the internet to see how other programmers had dealt with this problem.

What I found was several finger-signing widgets, differing in most of the details, but all implemented pretty much exactly the same way. They all maintained the widget’s state as a list of Offset objects. (Flutter uses an Offset to represent what you would call a point in most other graphical environments.)

I tried the first one. Doing a test-signing, using the mouse on the surface of the iOS emulator, it quickly became unusably sluggish. You’d be surprised how quickly your finger-scribblings can add up to hundreds or thousands of saved points. And given that Flutter forces you to throw away all saved state and recreate it on every redraw, it was quickly adding up to thousands of line-draws per second.

Android has much worse graphical performance than iOS, so it was not surprising that the widget performed even worse on the Android simulator. On my mid-range Motorola Android phone that I used for testing, it was so bad that it routinely crashed after a mere second or two of screen-scribbling.

The other two or three finger-signing widgets I tested all suffered from the same issues: sluggish updates, close to unusable on iOS devices, crashing within seconds on Android devices.

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home, home on the web

On the occasion of implementing yet another iteration of my personal website, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on all my various web dalliances over the years.

In the Beginning

I created my very first personal website in roughly 1996. I was living in Miami at the time, and I had a dial-up account with Concentric. (Pretty sure that company was absorbed into some larger ISP about a million years ago.) This was before it was a “thing” for civilians to host on their own domains, so my site address was something like http://www.concentric.net/~username.

It was all poorly hand-coded HTML, which looked pretty shabby. My only saving grace was that everybody else was also making ugly personal websites, so mine didn’t seem all that out-of-place.

The end of my Concentric website came about in an unexpected way, in the year 2000. I was building a new page for my as-yet-unreleased BeOS newsreader, Pineapple News, but I was having some kind of technical problem. I posted a link to the new page in one of the BeOS-oriented USENET newsgroups, along with a technical question. Some kind soul helped me solve the problem I was having (pretty sure it involved editing the apache .htaccess file), but I also got a lot more than I bargained for.

The BeOS community saw what I was working on and went absolutely nuts. I got so many site visits in the next 12 hours that Concentric took my personal site offline. I got an email implying that they were going to terminate my account, if I did not find a way to curb the onslaught of traffic.

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mac backup script

Most backup systems assume you are lazy and inattentive, and if they don’t do pretty much everything for you, it won’t get done. So let’s say you dutifully set up your backup software as directed, “set and forget.” It starts humming along, doing backups every so often on its own schedule.

Fast forward to months or years later. Your primary copy of your data has been ripped away from you, due to misadventure, fire, theft, or equipment failure, and you want to get it back. Surprise! Your backups stopped working shortly after you enabled them, for whatever reason: the backup disk failed or is no longer connected to your computer, the disk filled up, or the software is misconfigured. The most recent “backup” you have is many months out of date.

Even if I could 100 percent trust that “automatic” backups would never fail, I still wouldn’t want to do it that way. If you’re a programmer, you would never set up git so that it automatically commits everything you’ve changed every hour or so, would you? Me neither. I feel the same way about my backup software. I want backups to occur only when my files are in a known-good, consistent state.

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