Archive for November 20, 2023

Monday, November 20, 2023

The Hidden Secrets of the Fn Key

Adam Engst:

Apple began adding a globe icon to the Fn keycap a few years ago and, starting in macOS 14 Sonoma, began to call it the Globe key. This is likely for consistency with iPad keyboards, which dropped the lowercase “fn” letters entirely in favor of a globe icon.


Because Apple doesn’t include the Fn key in the public Hot Key API, macro utilities like Keyboard Maestro can’t access it for the most part, as Peter Lewis explains. However, the Fn key can now be treated more like a modifier key with the free Karabiner-Elements or the $10 BetterTouchTool, both of which can access the keyboard at a lower level than the public APIs.


With Monterey, Apple also started letting us remap one modifier key (other than Shift) to another, so the Fn key could mimic Control for those who reach for the lower-left corner without looking.


In recent macOS releases, Apple has continued to hard-code additional capabilities into the Fn key.

I have yet to find a third-party keyboard where the Fn key works like on an Apple keyboard.


Update (2023-12-11): See also: Hacker News.

HandBrake 1.7

HandBrake (Hacker News):

Improved performance on arm64 / aarch64 / Apple Silicon architectures


Added support for drag and drop of multiple files at once


Added support for VideoToolbox H.265/HEVC, H.264/AVC, ProRes, and VP9 hardware decoders on macOS 13 and later


Added GPU accelerated Crop & Scale, Rotate, Pad, Yadif, Bwdif, Chroma Smooth, Unsharp, Lasharp, Grayscale filters


Improved SVT-AV1 encoding performance by up to 4x on Apple Silicon Macs

It’s a cross-platform app, but with a real Mac user interface and whimsical icon, and it works back to macOS 10.13.

The Lack of Compensation in Open Source Software Is Unsustainable

Thomas Stringer (via Hacker News):

But… in the back of my mind I know that I have open source projects that need some attention. One happens to be heavily used. I’m nearly 3/4 million downloads, and it’s something that people seem to think has some level of usefullness. Those are the good parts. The bad parts are that there’s a dozen issues that I haven’t even reviewed much less triaged, investigated, and fixed. There are a few PRs from the community that I need to look through. There are dependencies that need to be updated. The list goes on and on. This project has hit a not-so-uncommon OSS milestone: Maintainer burnout.


What once resembled passion project is now unrecognizable from a motivation perspective. But the demand is high. There are lots of users, many in a corporate sense using my software to further progress their organization. And the bad news is, I get no money at all from it. So motivation is essentially nonexistent at this point.


This is Volunteering as a Service (VaaS). It is quite literally a free lunch at the expense of hard-working individuals.

Dave Dunfield (via Hacker News):

As I retire, my goal now is to release 40+ years of source code to “stuff I’ve written” in the hopes that others may find it useful or maybe learn a few things.


Lessons From a Bad Apple Repair Experience

Ric Ford:

It’s now clear that a new Mac, purchased directly from Apple, can fail completely and suddenly without any warning after running fine for a few weeks. Apple’s proprietary storage design means that a Mac failure is now also a storage failure that will prevent you from accessing any of your files in any way.


I don’t know what Apple’s policies are regarding access by Apple and any repair/recycling partners to your files, but an Apple Store will ask you to enter your Apple ID password (used for FileVault recovery keys, activation/erase unlock, and Find My) into another computer.


It’s now also clear from painful experience that Apple may hold a failed Mac and its storage hostage in an obtuse repair process for more than three weeks, even if it’s under warranty and less than 30 days old.


I discovered when Apple finally returned the failed Mac after repair that its replacement motherboard was used, not new, showing unexpected and heavy SSD wear, even though all the files were gone and the drive was initialized with a newer macOS than it had been running, an unwanted and problematic update that is almost impossible to revert.

Alan Forkosh:

In passing, Ric noted issues with the scheme of getting a loaner (I.e., purchasing a replacement and then returning it for a full refund when your repair/replacement is done). He notes that Apple Stores stock base configurations but often do not stock units in a custom configuration to duplicate the damaged unit. Another issue is that the return deadline (usually 14 days) may be shorter than the time it takes to process the damaged unit.


For decades our company has relied on clones for (what is essentially) instant recovery from catastrophic failure of disks. We’d simply boot from the clone and be working again in moments. We could move to a new machine, boot from the clone then clone back to the internal drive without the unreliable and agricultural Migration Assistant.

I’m starting to believe Ric has a very valid point. Don’t buy anything non-standard from Apple and keep data storage on the internal drive to a minimum so it can’t be ‘locked away’ by Apple.

To think you can be without a new machine for several weeks - with a real chance of complete data loss - is totally unacceptable.

Neil Laubenthal:

The issue is that you must have the internal drive recognizable and bootable and that the machine won’t boot with a corrupted/failed internal drive. I don’t know if that is an Apple decision or a physical/logical part of the security model. Making a bootable clone is as you say possible…and I personally wouldn’t mind if it was sealed and signed and only updatable if it was the current boot volume…Ric’s problem was that he may have had an up to date external boot volume with an associated data volume that had a current clone…but the machine itself is DOA with a bad internal drive. If that was a deliberate choice by Apple…bad idea IMO unless there’s something I don’t know/understand about the security model.