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The Missing Workhorse Mac

The Missing Workhorse Mac

Processing intensive workflows are higher in demand than ever, but the Mac lineup is missing a crucial piece to help pro customers of Apple.

AVM Fritz WiFi Mesh

AVM Fritz WiFi Mesh

AVM Fritz WiFi Mesh kam unerwartet ist aber ein Segen für den deutschen Markt

Turning iOS Extensibility to 11

Turning iOS Extensibility to 11

iOS is amazing but is lacking productivity basics


Community Hubs: Slack vs. Discourse


For the longest time I was convinced that providing a Discourse Forum is the turn key solution to communication and customer engagement problems everyone has been searching for all these years. It’s a ready to rock tool for civilised conversations around your company and the products that you offer.

While working for CircleCI I first came into contact with a Discourse Forum. My colleagues on the support team and I used it daily to communicate with customers about all kinds of things. We posted quick workarounds to issues for everyone to see or we sent out announcements about the pre installed software in our CI images just to give simple examples.
It was great to use and had a pretty high customer adoption rate. It was a very helpful tool to us managing the at times crazy amounts of inquiries came in.

When I then joined MacStadium they had already thought about hosting a Discourse Forum for their customers and I was very excited to get it setup. We paid Discourse for hosting and proudly announced that customers are more than welcome to join the conversation about Mac hosting a iOS CI stacks on dedicated hardware. Basically no one showed up and it was even very hard to motivate colleagues to use it. In hindsight they had every reason to ignore me since there wasn’t anything to do or talk about there. Months went by and we cross posted almost every blog post there for customers to leave comments underneath.
Still nothing.
Colleagues of mine really did try to make it work but we were absolutely unable to get it up and going and I eventually became so busy doing other tasks that I simply forgot to go back there and use it in order to attract others.

I had completely forgotten about all of this and how defeated I felt when we couldn’t get it to work, until I saw this tweet:


I remain convinced that a Discourse Forum is the better choice of the two options for most tech (and related) companies but I was very clearly wrong about it for MacStadium and I have the feeling that I now understand why. In most cases it will boil down to how you engage and do business with your customers.

If you require customers to talk to a Sales rep, or more general a human of any kind in order to get them to sign on and give you money for your product or service, they will naturally also always expect someone to find a solution to their issues with whatever you sold them.
If any customer can open your website though, select the service or product that they desire and leave their credit card information for it without interacting with a human at all in the process, it’s more likely that they will expect to help themselves. The only help you should provide in that case is either documentation for whatever they acquired, a community forum for customers to help each other or ideally both.
If your customer has never talked to a Sales rep or anyone else who are they supposed to contact and how, but if they have and especially if they did in order to sign up for your service you absolutely have to be prepared to deal with all those support requests.

For me personally I will always prefer a Discourse Forum over Slack for such a community place since Slack is expecting you to be there all the time in order to be part of the conversation. It’s a real time chat application after all and the conversation is always happening right now which leads to a much more hectic and fast paced single sentence posts. The Discourse Forum is much more asynchronous in that way. Customers can open the site and read much more at their own pace without sound effects playing or other indicators nagging them that the actual conversation is happening right now and that they’re not participating. Another major upside for me is the fact that each topic is siloed into it’s own thread. You may link back and forth or converse in multiple threads at the same time but it’s not one big mix of all kinds of conversations in one thread. If someone has something they’d like to talk about they’re free to open another thread. If there is interest in that thread others will join automatically, which makes it feel much more natural but still organised in comparison to Slack which will become an absolute disaster to follow after 6 or more people chat at the same time in the same thread.

In the end you’ll always have to decide for yourself and chose your own path but I absolutely applaud MacStadium for tearing the non functioning system down and trying something else.

iPhone eSim debugging


With iOS 12.1 available to anyone the latest iPhones models (iPhone XS / Max & iPhone XR) are able to make use of a second sim (physical or as an eSim) and phone line. The setup is fairly easy but I ran into the issue that something got very messed up deleting my iMessage activation and seemingly no way out.

If you happen to run into these issues, it appears to result from Apple still wanting you to use a physical sim card instead of the eSim as your primary line, which is what I was doing since no US carrier supported eSim. Once I got my new iPhone XS I scanned the eSims QR code for my german contract and had it setup right away. It almost feels a bit too futuristic. Debugging this can be very tedious but these steps worked for me

  1. Remove and delete all sim cards (in the case of the eSim you may have to call your provider to generate a new QR code for you so be aware of this)
  2. Add the sim (physical or virtual) that you want your iMessage to use first.
  3. Go into the Cellular settings and make sure that everything including mobile data uses this line. Especially for data. If not change mobile data to use the same line, since iMessage otherwise wont activate.
  4. Go through the steps of enabling iMessage in or even reboot the phone once.
  5. Make sure that it iMessage actually activated successfully and that your phone number was added.
  6. Insert / add the second sim card and disable the menu that pops up asking you to select which line to use for what.
  7. Go back into the Cellular settings and either change your Mobile Data to the line that’s supposed to be used or change the default line, at which point you should also check into the iMessage settings once again to see if the line there changed to the correct number and if it activated successfully.

All of this is still a bit tricky but once setup I had no further issues. I was able to switch the lines for calls right away and have been using that sweet sweet LTE at a local rate for two days now without any issues.

I have been waiting for such a feature for a while and it’s great that Apple makes this easy because the Telco companies around the world sure wouldn’t push for something like this in a million years. They simply make too much money from international roaming and it’s time for that to end!

Supporting Tapbots & Indie Developer


Yesterday Tweetbot 5 was released as a free update to every Tweetbot 4 customer. It must be a very difficult time at the moment justifying working on an application that is entirely dependent on a company so hostile to the people who made them. Twitter keeps ripping the band-aid off a bit only to stick it back on again, only to then rip it off a bit further. They have been doing this for a while now and from being a bystander to chatter about it at WWDC with people who have intel on this crisis it must be a huge mental burden on each and every developer of a third party client. I would like to help with that and I hope to convince you to do the same.

I absolutely adore Tweetbot by Tapbots and use it exclusively on iOS and macOS. There is just no f@¿!*∆% way in hell that I will install the first party Twitter client ever again on one of my devices. Twitter has proven over the last years that they don’t deserve to be trusted to any degree, leaving their lack of taste for design or any integrity.

Spending so much time in Tweetbot and getting so much value out of it I was expecting to happily pay yet again for a new major upgrade at some point but that wasn’t the case. The update was free to my surprise and the app is still a joy to use. Independent developers are the ones who push the App Store in terms of design, function and it’s policies and indies deserve a lot of credit for making the App Store what it is today. Even though a lot of indies have plenty of customers some have trouble making a living on the App Store these days and once I saw that I was able to hand the gentlemen at Tapbots a bit of money I happily did just that. The most that I was able to give was 5,49€ which I think is ok but I’d prefer to give back more.
Thinking about how much money I spend on shit I don’t get nearly as much value out of as out of my favorite apps I use every single day, I have decided to consciously seek out ways to give money to the developers of my favorite apps regularly and donate to things that either make my life easier or to things that I enjoy. None of this is to pat myself on the back or get any kind of special treatment but rather in a very selfish way ensure that the people who make the things that I enjoy keep doing just that. Make things for me to enjoy.

Producing anything of quality is hard so thank you very much to Paul, Mark and Todd for making products that delight me on a daily basis!
I hope that this money is partially spent on things your families need and partially on tires, race-fuel and on parts for yet another server to keep Paul warm.

Apple Banter on Twitter


Twitter has many issues and the overall used tone can be quite hostile in the Apple community on Twitter but yesterdays banter about Apple’s invites has been simply amazing!

Stephen Hackett was nice enough to collect all of them on his excellent blog but the responses to some of the art just killed me.

People riffed in the best way possible on the designs and I enjoyed these very much.
Please click on the images to get to the original tweets from which I took these images. The creators deserve all the credit!

macOS Menu Bar App Intervention


Menu bars on macOS all around are a fucking mess. Every developer of little helper apps are convinced that they need to put their little icon in my status bar on my Macs even though I set the damn thing up once and may only touch it rarely after. It has completely gotten out of hand and the thing that drove me over the edge is Night Owl. It’s a great little application that should have been part of the Dark Mode functionality on macOS Mojave in the first place and will probably get Sherlocked in macOS 10.15. It’s an application that triggers macOS Dark Mode at certain times throughout the day based on rules like certain hours or sunrise/sunset. This is great, but why am I forced to have this in my menu bar all the time? A way better place to put something like that is in the System alongside all the other system wide settings.

This issue has gotten so far out of hand that people make a living writing menu bar app manager for macOS. I’m not trying to throw shade at any of these apps or their developers since I really enjoy using these apps, I just don’t want to have 10 or 15 in my menu bar.

Many of these managers add additional value apart from being able to hide or rearrange menu bar apps but at some point we should reflect on where we came from and check whether or not we want to be where we’re at.

For now, this is all I want in a menu bar.

From left to right

iStat Menu CPU widget
iStat Menu Network traffic widget
  Rocket (I can’t hide it and it has to run all the time in the background)  
   Audio (connecting AirPods to a Mac is not great)   
      Battery (no percentage or anything else)      
         Notification Center         

tmutil and macOS Mojave Application Data Protections


macOS’ Time Machine is a great backup tool for the average user in my opinion. It safely creates a backup of all your data and provides a simple graphical interface to setup the backup and another one to restore a backup later if needed. As great as it’s very simple graphical user interface is for the average user, it’s not helpful at all when things go wrong and you wish for a million dials and nobs. Alongside the graphical interface Apple ships a great little tool called tmutil to do exactly that. It allows a power user to look under the hood of Time Machine and move things around manually if needed. That is until you try to alter anything about the backups manually under Mojave. I was provided a bunch of very weird and inexplicable error messages until I ran tmutil latestbackup out of frustration, which showed the following error

tmutil error

$ tmutil latestbackup The operation could not be completed because tmutil could not access private application data on the backup disk. Use the Privacy tab in the Security and Privacy preference pan to add Terminal to the list of application which can access Application Data.

The fix for this, as stated in the error message, is annoying, but very simple. You open System, navigate to the Security icon, click the Privacy tab, select Application Data from the list and finally select the button labeled + underneath. Done and done. Trying to be a bit of a smartass, I entered which tmutil into my Terminal session to find the path to tmutil. I was hoping to trick the system into only allowing ‘tmutil’ access to all the Application Data on the system but not grant outright access. Doing that sadly does not work, since the parent process needs to be granted access, which forced me to add to the list after all.

Ignoring entirely whether I’m of the opinon that this is a regression or not, it is nice to see that Apple’s engineers hit the exact same issues every other third party developer hits and does not grant itself specialized permission to get around it. The absence of training wheels in desktop OS’ is what makes them so clunky and insecure to use for many, but at the same time that insecurity is what allows a certain group of users who know the pitfalls well do incredible things. Steve Jobs Trucks vs. Cars analogy fits perfectly here. I think these issues will be worked out over the next couple of major releases and it will become an absolute non-issue. For now I’m happy to see that Apple’s own engineers have to find work arounds, or rather not so elegant solutions like the error message above. This way a couple of really smart people will sit down in a conference room somewhere in Cupertino and come up with a solution to all of this, simply based on necessity for Apple’s own software.

If you’re interested in reading more about this and related topics I can highly recommend this post by Felix Schwarz.