I think I’ve been going about this Everything is Fiddly thing all wrong. I should have created a segment about what’s not fiddly. That would have created unique and unusual stories. With Everything is Fiddly, there’s just too darn much material to work with.
Let’s start with the name Everything is Fiddly. I knew when I created the phrase that I’d be typing it really often, so I immediately created a TextExpander snippet for it – “eif;”. Ever since I coined the term, I’ve been getting a lot of use out of that TextExpander snippet.
A few months ago I decided to invest in the app Ulysses after testing it out from within Setapp. Ulysses makes a great blog post writing app for me because it syncs really well between macOS and iPad OS, and most importantly because it supports TextExpander. I rely so heavily on TextExpander that I can’t stand to work on the podcast without it. With TextExpander support inside Ulysses, and syncing between the iPad and Mac, I can finally use the iPad for blogging.
But guess what? While I’m trying to write this very Everything is Fiddly article, the TextExpander snippet for that just that phrase isn’t working. Every other snippet I want to expand in Ulysses is working. The only thing worse than not having TextExpander support is having intermittent TextExpander support. This has happened before with Ulysses and the folks there have tried to help me fix it, but I’m too exhausted to ask them again.
Let’s stick with TextExpander for a moment longer. This is one of the most rock-solid applications I’ve ever used and I’ve been using TextExpander for well over a decade. But recently it started intermittently failing on my Mac. By failing I mean I type in an abbreviation and the snippet simply doesn’t expand. I have a keyboard shortcut set up for opening search, and recently that stopped working too. I type command-semicolon and the little search window just doesn’t come up. When these symptoms occur, I click on the menu bar item and instead of showing me the new fancy view of the app, it’s the old menu from the previous version. Smile is trying to help me figure this out but so far we haven’t stopped the problem.
I love my Magic Trackpad and Keyboard for my Mac. Except when, with no apparent provocation, it gets wonky. The symptoms are SUPER fun. When the trackpad goes wonky, the cursor jumps around unpredictably making it really hard to select things on screen. It appears to be a Bluetooth interference problem, because if I just plug it in via a Lightning cable, the problem goes away.
But whenever the trackpad goes wonky, it takes the keyboard along for the same ride. The keyboard works but the text on screen comes out reeeeeaaaallllly slowly. And the caps lock key doesn’t work. I know, you probably think that’s a good thing, but I learned to type properly from my mother’s 1942 typing book and I’ll never be convinced the caps lock key doesn’t have a place in this world.
The only solution for this problem is to plug the keyboard into my Mac via Lightning. When I pull the cable from the trackpad and plug it into the keyboard, my typing is snappy and I have my precious caps lock but…the trackpad goes wonky again! I know, I could have TWO Lightning cables hanging out on my desk, but darn it, I paid for Bluetooth devices and I want ZERO cables!
This week I had a new fiddly bit I’d never seen before. In 1Password you can set up two-factor authentication. When a website asks for a user name and password, 1Password will auto-fill the information, and when it asks for the six-digit code, you go back to 1Password and click on the code and a little popup shows that you’ve copied the code. It works great!
Except this week, when four times in a row, I copied the code (and it told me I’d copied the code) and when I pasted it into the appropriate field, was a completely different set of text. In one case I didn’t even recognize the text that it pasted as it wasn’t anything I’d copied recently. I’m not sure this was a 1Password problem because I noticed a few other copy/paste problems but then everything started working again.
Maybe it’s just me, but lately my Macs reboot themselves spontaneously. I have three Macs and they all do it. It seems to happen when I leave them alone too long. The other day, I needed to use my M1 Mac mini to test a theory about a problem on my laptop. I swapped my Thunderbolt cables from my MacBook Pro to the Mac mini and logged in. It had been a while so I didn’t remember what had been running the last time, so imagine my joy when I saw a pop up that said, “Your Mac rebooted because of a problem. Want to send notice of this to Apple who will absolutely never respond to you about and in fact never ever even look at it? Please spend time filling out this little form talking about what you were doing when it happened.” I WAS DOING NOTHING!!!
After I reported that reboot to Apple who will never look at it, I tried to use Spotlight to launch some apps. Spotlight returned zero results no matter what I typed. Yeah, I know, its’ a Spotlight indexing problem and all I have to do is open System Preferences, Spotlight, put my entire drive in the exclusion list, close System Preferences, remove the drive, and then wait a while for it to reindex everything. But why should I have to know that by heart? Maybe if it didn’t reboot spontaneously it would remember where my stuff was! I don’t want to spend time doing this, I want to use my computer.
Entitling Photos in Apple Photos
Are there problems on your Mac that you just live with? They’ve been happening so long that you don’t even bother to think about how you’re plagued with it over and over again? I think there are about 238 things like that for me.
One of the huge ones for me started probably more than a year ago and continues to this day. I like to add titles to my photos in Apple Photos. I must be the only person on earth who does this because if everyone did it, there would be an uproar about how hard and actually broken it is. In order to add titles you have to be on the Mac. No idea why they won’t let me on iPad OS, but I’ve learned to live with that.
In macOS Photos, if you select View > Metadata > Titles, you’ll see the title field below each image. The default name will be the image name created by your camera, such as IMG_3265.HEIC. To change it to a title, simply type in that little field on top of the image name. That stopped working recently. When I type in that field it starts entering what I’m typing, but then suddenly everything I’ve typed disappears, and the original file name reappears with my cursor at the end of the name so as I continue typing it gets added to the file name extension! I spend a lot of time trying to figure out if I type really quickly will I get the whole thing in before this happens, or maybe if I typed more slowly it would work.
Ok, no worries, there’s another way to add titles to your photos in Photos. Open the Info window by selecting the little “i” in the upper right of the main window or use the keystroke command-I. In that window you can see the title field and start typing the desired title. But that no long works consistently. Halfway through typing a title, the info window loses focus and decides arbitrarily that I have hit the Enter key. Enter is the keystroke to switch to Editing mode on an image so instead of being able to continue typing my title, I’m suddenly faced with options to change brightness and saturation and crop and all that.
This happens on both my 2019 MacBook Pro and my M1 Mac mini, so it’s not just one Mac that’s afflicted in this way. I know I have a huge Photos Library at over 800GB but I can’t imagine that I’m the only one with this problem. Have I called Apple about it? Nope. That would be an hour and a half on the phone, the advisor telling me it’s not a known issue and then sending it to engineering who would never reply.
Internal Keyboard Failure
Here’s a fun quick one – the other day I was typing away using my external keyboard on my MacBook Pro and suddenly nothing I was typing was coming out on screen. Suspecting the constant Bluetooth nonsense I’m plagued with, I reached over and tried typing on the internal keyboard for the MacBook Pro. And nothing came out from that keyboard either! Good grief. Reboot and I was back in business.
Crashing Google Drive
Google Drive was recently renamed Backup and Sync. For me, it crashes a half dozen times a day. I have completely uninstalled it including letting Hazel find and remove all of the little plists and caches and stuff, rebooted, and reinstalled. Twice. And it still happens. No one on the Internet is having this problem if my searching is any indication.
I rely heavily on a lot of apps from the awesome company Rogue Amoeba. The two absolutely mission-critical ones are Loopback and Audio Hijack. Loopback allows me to combine applications and physical microphones into virtual audio input devices. This allows me to pipe both my microphone and my audio recording application, Hindenburg into the live show so the listeners can hear playback.
I use Audio Hijack to sweeten audio and record interviews for Chit Chat Across the Pond. In Audio Hijack I can literally hijack the audio from any application, such as Skype, and record it on a separate track from my own voice. I’ve been using this combination of Loopback and Audio Hijack for years and years and it’s awesome.
This week, Audio Hijack decided not to be able to hijack Skype. At first I thought it was a bug in the latest version of Skype but then I did more experiments. I tested every application I could think of on my Mac to see if Audio Hijack could still hijack its audio. It could hijack QuickTime and Hindenburg and Telegram and Voice Memos and Amadeus Pro, but it couldn’t record ANY browser-based app. It couldn’t hijack audio from Safari, Chrome, Edge, Firefox along with all Electron apps such as Discord, and Skype! I was about to send a screenshot of my test results to Rogue Amoeba when I had a crazy idea.
I uninstalled my beloved Audio Hijack (including letting Hazel clean up after it), rebooted and reinstalled and Audio Hijack happily started recording web apps again. I’ll never know why it went wrong but I’m really glad it’s sorted!
You might think this is a list of months and months of fiddliness, but every single thing on this list happened within a few days of each other. Death by a thousand paper cuts is my world lately and I have to say, it’s wearing on my very last nerve.
Maybe I really should start recording what does work. I guess I could call it, “This one thing right here isn’t fiddly. It works every time.” It would be a short segment though…