Archive for July 5, 2023

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

How to Diagnose and Control Login and Background Items

Howard Oakley:

[From] Ventura onwards property lists that previously had to be installed in Library LaunchDaemons and LaunchAgents folders can now be kept inside their app, making them even harder to locate.


If your Mac has been in use some years, or has been migrated from an older system, you’re likely to see many Background Items listed here. However, your control over them is limited: all you can do is turn them off and on. If you try disabling some of them, you may see that they’re automatically re-enabled. Many appear unidentifiable. A few have Info buttons, revealing where they are on your Mac, but many don’t.


To remove all third-party Login Items and reset to installation defaults, you can use the undocumented command:

sudo sfltool resetbtm


A better and more systematic approach is to obtain a detailed listing of all those Background Items, and uninstall or delete those you no longer need, or are just old and unnecessary. For this, you need a BTM dump, using another undocumented option to the sfltool command:

sudo sfltool dumpbtm > ~/Documents/btmdump.text


If you see the right name [on a new machine/VM], it’s likely that your product is built correctly. If that same product shows the wrong name in other environments, it’s reasonable to assume that this is a bug in macOS.

Such bugs are very common on development machines. The code that gets the name of your product relies on the Launch Services database, and it’s not uncommon for the building and rebuilding you do on your development machine to thoroughly scramble that database. That’s why testing on a fresh machine is so important.

OTOH, if this test shows the wrong value you need to start looking at your code.


Update (2023-07-11): Howard Oakley:

At any given time your Mac has several hundred background activities scheduled, most of them by macOS. These include important services like making scheduled Time Machine backups, and a great many whose benefits may be less apparent, such as running medianalysisd to keep your Photos library and other media up to date. When one or more of those stop working, they can be hard to detect, with backups being one of the more obvious. Because most of these are run by a hidden scheduling system, there are essentially no user controls, and recognising the problem requires browsing the log. So what can you do if they stop running reliably?

Family Passwords and Passkey Providers

Juli Clover:

In iOS 17, Family Passwords is designed to let you share your passwords and passkeys with friends and family members. Using the Passwords section of the Settings app, you can create a group of people to share passwords with.

Using a setup process, you can select trusted contacts to share information with. Each person who is in the group can select passwords and passkeys to share with others. You can, for example, share passwords to streaming services and online bill paying sites without having to share the password for your bank.


Like regular passwords, shared passwords are stored in iCloud Keychain and are end-to-end encrypted. Passkeys, Apple’s device-verified alternative to passwords, can also be shared.

This is really cool.

Ricky Mondello:

The feature that allows you to share passkeys and passwords in iOS 17 and macOS Sonoma is not at all limited to families. You can set up shared groups with any collection of close contacts. And you can set up as many groups as you’d like. :)

Apple (Hacker News):

Passkeys can now be synced using external providers[…] Password manager apps can save and offer passkeys on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.

Notably, there still doesn’t seem to be a way to actually export passkeys. I guess you could use an external provider that offers this, but then you would lose the benefits of iCloud Keychain.

See also: Deploy passkeys at work.

macOS 14 release notes:

The Credential Provider API for password managers has been expanded to support passkeys. Credential providers can save and offer passkeys for apps and websites across the system

Paulo Andrade:

While Secrets could potentially generate and store Passkeys, they would be challenging to use in any app or browser without a Secrets extension installed.

Unlike password-based authentication, you can’t simply copy and paste a Passkey into an authentication form. And that’s precisely why this announcement is so important.


By allowing third-party password managers to store and use Passkeys in both apps and websites, Apple is taking another step in that direction. It also prevents locking you into the ecosystem.

Dan Moren:

I was glad to see that Apple has now added the ability to log in to your Apple ID or using a passkey instead of your password.


I do find it a little bit odd that the macOS implementation currently doesn’t seem to let you use Touch ID on your Mac to log in, rather kicking you to verify via your mobile device. On the one hand, that does bestow the additional security of using a second factor—an item that you have—but that’s not required on iOS or iPadOS, which would seem to be at more risk of being lost or stolen.

Another interesting tidbit: I can’t locate the saved passkey in the Passwords section of System Settings on my MacBook Air running Sonoma.


A Vatican-Sized Flag Mystery

Nick Heer:

Reddit user “horizontalhole” discovered something curious:

From 2017–2022 the Vatican flag SVG on Wikimedia Commons contained a mistake. You can now tell which flag manufacturers/emoji platforms used the file.


Indeed, Becker includes a series of flags with variations in the colour used for the keys, the cord element, and the tiara, in the 1980s through 2013. Even well past the publication of what the Vatican deemed its official flag, versions shown in and around Vatican City have differences in the shading of each of these elements. Becker goes on to write that these “variations suggest that Vatican authorities could clarify the flag’s details more precisely”, and laments how “local flagmakers often rely on questionable sources (e.g., Wikipedia)” (106).

It does seem that, officially, the version of the Vatican flag with a white-filled tiara is the most correct option. But even within Vatican City itself and in official use, there is considerable variation. Perhaps most relevant to the original post, it is not necessarily true that a Vatican flag with a red-filled tiara is derived from the 2017–2022 Wikimedia image. However, with a more correct version in the world’s most-used encyclopaedia, it may be a productive case of citogenesis.

See also: Emojipedia.


Adobe at 40

Harry McCracken (2022, via Hacker News):

It’s a milestone that only a few of today’s highest-profile tech companies—such as Apple and Microsoft—have reached. And much of Adobe’s long history is tangibly present in its current business, which is full of products—such as, Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat, After Effects, and Premiere Pro—that have been around for longer than a meaningful percentage of the people who use them.


Adobe has been so dominant for so long in so many of the categories in which it competes that it’s easy to forget it was once a scrappy upstart with an uncertain future. In fact, if photocopying kingpin Xerox had been more adept at monetizing the breakthroughs of the brilliant scientists who worked for its PARC research lab, there might never have been an Adobe at all.


There are even alternate universes where Adobe itself didn’t make it into the 21st century. According to Pamela Pfiffner’s 2003 book, Inside the Publishing Revolution: The Adobe Story, Steve Jobs was so enamored with Adobe’s technology that he tried to acquire the company for $5 million in 1983, well before it had released any products. Prizing their independence, Warnock and Geschke turned down the offer, but later accepted a $2.5 million investment in return for 20% of Adobe. (Apple cashed out in 1989.) In 1998, when Adobe was experiencing a rare downturn in its business, it was even the target of a hostile takeover bid by its smaller rival Quark.

Brendan Dawes (2019):

No longer will you find Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator on any of the Macs I use. You will find Premiere but that’s only kept around in case I need to load an old project. After twenty three years of using Adobe products in a professional capacity, I’ve now moved away from them as a company as I find there subscription model not something I can partake in, especially when they can suddenly decide to switch off older versions of the CS suite, making those programs you might use everyday useless — unless you stump up more money.

Via Colin Devroe (2019):

I think the Adobe products are worth the price tag. I think most software is, in fact, under-priced. But the way they’ve been treating their longest, most faithful, customers is beginning to wear people down. This isn’t an issue of price or value.

I think we’re going to see either Adobe acquiring more of their competitors through brute force, or they will need to make some adjustments to their model over the next 5 years.

People are still grumbling about Adobe and subscriptions years later, but most seem to be paying. Rather than Adobe making adjustments, it seems like more companies are following their lead. However, there is more competition now, e.g. from Affinity and Figma, which Adobe is in the process of acquiring.

Like many, I’m conflicted about Adobe. The apps themselves continue to work well for me, but the associated installers and daemons seem to be increasingly bloated and janky.

Paul Bischoff (via Hacker News):

Nearly 7.5 million Adobe Creative Cloud user records were left exposed to anyone with a web browser, including email addresses, account information, and which Adobe products they use.

Deceptive Patterns (Hacker News):

How Adobe tricks users into a 12 month contract.


It took me a while to get the facts, but it turns out that by clicking “Start free trial”, we are tied into an annual contract.

If we want to leave, we have to pay 50% of the outstanding ANNUAL BALANCE!

Marc Edwards:

Adobe’s sub cancellation policy would have to be the single worst decision the company has made in its entire history.

Are Sundnes:

So, I wanted to cancel a couple of our @Adobe licenses. I’m THIS close to cancelling all of them. What the hell is up with this?


I can afford Adobe software. I just can’t afford their bullshit.

Marc Edwards:

The script for cancelling your Adobe CC sub is: I’m changing jobs and my new employer already has a sub for me, so I don’t need my current one. If they ask who the company is, say you can’t tell them because you’ve signed an NDA.

Managing subscriptions is one problem that the App Store does do a good job of solving. But the main Adobe apps are not in the Mac App Store.

And the grass may not be much greener with Figma…


We had to migrate files across different accounts. The only way we found possible was to add the origin account as editor and transfer the files and ownership. Anything else resulted in losing edit privileges during the process.

A month later, we get a notice that we owe 15$.

During the interaction of adding another editor, we never got any feedback from Figma about that costing an extra 15$.

Now, we got a ticket about the issue but, as usual, it delays days to be handled (another drawback that needs to be addressed).

Last but not least, even the editor account that was paid for one year in advance is now locked.


Now it is way too easy to add editors unintentionally and there is no warning about extra change for each one of them. I understand that it’s very beneficial for the company but not very friendly for designers, especially freelancers that are working with different external teams. I’m keeping getting charged for people I accidentally gave editing rights some time ago.