My Hackintosh 6 months in: specs, thoughts and useful links

In the summer of last year, I was in the process of leaving my job to go full-time as an indie. I arranged to keep the mid-2012 MacBook Pro that had served me so faithfully at my old job as a backup machine, but it was starting to show it’s age when running Photoshop or Illustrator. I set about looking for my next workhorse.

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My iOS to Mac screenshot workflow

I have long found it amusing that after all this time, messaging ones self a set of screenshots is still the most practical way to go about transferring them from iOS to OS X. For a while I had a better solution but we decided to stop working on Ember for iOS, so I went back to Messages.

After many years of this, I’ve finally come up with what I think is as close to a perfect workflow as I’m going to get. There are 3 parts to it: the iOS side, the middleman, and the Mac side. Not to worry though, two of them are handled automatically.

It all starts in the fantastic Workflow app that I only recently purchased to explore “its outstanding use of iOS accessibility features”. If you are unfamiliar with Workflow it is, in short, the most powerful automation tool currently available on iOS.

The middleman is unsurprisingly, Dropbox.

The Mac part of the workflow relies on Ember (get a free trial) and it’s auto-import feature. Full disclosure, it’s an app that we make.

Here’s a screen recording of the workflow in action (the Dropbox upload time will, naturally, vary depending on your connection speed):

If this looks like the sort of workflow that would work for you as well, here’s how to set it up.


Workflow

The action I use in Workflow is largely based on the “Upload Screenshots” action featured in the photos section of their built-in gallery. I’ve made the following changes to it:

  1. Under the “Save to Dropbox” option, I’ve set a specific “Destination Path”. Doing this means that it won’t prompt me to choose a folder every time I upload screenshots. The path I chose was Apps/Workflow/Screenshots/ but you can to set it to anywhere you want within your Dropbox.
  2. I added a home screen icon specifically for this workflow. To do this, tap once on the action under “My Workflows” to edit it, then tap on the cog in the upper right hand corner. In the menu, tap “Add to Home Screen” and follow the instructions.

Rather than setting all of this up yourself, you can just download my action from here if you want (open that link on an iOS device to get an install prompt.)

Dropbox

You will be asked to setup Dropbox in Workflow. As long as you already have a Dropbox account there really isn’t much to do here.

Ember

Open up Ember on your Mac and go to Preferences → Auto-Import. In the bottom left hand corner, click the ✚ icon and select the same folder you chose as your “Destination Path” back in the Workflow section. I like to have “Move original to Trash” turned on but that’s completely optional. The rest of the settings can be left as they are.

The settings in Ember’s auto import

That’s it, you’re good to go. It’s worth noting that Workflow doesn’t always handle a large number screenshots well though. I’ve found it’s best to do them half a dozen or so at a time if you have a lot.


Parts of the app could, I think, be improved but overall I’m very impressed with Workflow. As someone who enjoys experimenting with automation, I’m sure I’ll have another action to share at some point in the future.

Keeping track of unorganised photos in Photos.app

When Apple released Photos.app 5 months ago, I took the opportunity to subject my photo library a well needed reorganisation. I moved my photos over from Lightroom album by album, making sure I deleted any duplicates, bad shots and ones that—when being honest with myself—I knew I’d never look at again along the way.

It took a while but now that it’s done (and has been for some time) I feel much happier about the state of my photo archive.

Rather than having to do this again at some point in the future, I’m endeavouring to keep everything organised as I go along from now on. To help with this, I use 2 smart albums to help me keep track of things.

The first simply filters out screenshots to be deleted. There is only one condition for the smart album (“File” → “New Smart Album…”): Filename ends with .png.

A screenshot of my screenshot smart album settings

The second one is equally simple: it groups all of my photos that have yet to be assigned to an album. It’s condition is Album is not Any.

A screenshot of my unorganised smart album settings

So far Photos.app —with iCloud Photo Library turned off—combined with this system is working very well for me. If you have yet to try it out, I’d encourage you to do so.

A post WWDC link roundup

As per usual, a lot of content got published in the hours following this year’s WWDC. Here’s a roundup of what I found particularly interesting:

  • Dan Moren’s bullet point breakdown of everything new. He’s gone through Apple’s website and press releases and found plenty of things that didn’t even get a mention in the keynote. If you only read one of these, it should probably be this one.

  • I watched the keynote, read through Moren’s notes, Dieter Bohn’s post on The Verge and the Music page on Apple’s site. Despite what Bohn says 1, I’m still not entirely sure what Music wants to be though. This is what I’m most disappointed about, I had such high hopes. Overall then, I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Drang’s piece. More specifically, this portion:

    But while the advantages of a multifunction device are obvious, the advantages of a multifunction app aren’t. The App Store’s success is largely based on tightly focused apps, not sprawling suites.

  • Federico Viticci’s complete overview of iOS 9 isn’t required reading if you watched the event, I did really like this remark in it however:

    The iPad was at an inflection point – still failing to convince some tech circles of the benefits of a tablet – and the changes coming with iOS 9 are a reassuring sign of Apple’s commitment to the uniqueness of the device.

  • From Apple’s pre-release Mac Developer Library, Responding to Force Touch Events from JavaScript. This’ll be available for Safari, Dashboard, and WebKit-based applications.

  • Also from the pre-release Mac Developer Library, a redesigned web inspector is coming to Safari 9. I’m waiting to be convinced on this — that looks like an awful lot of chrome at the top of the window.

  • Last but not least, screenshots! Credit for the El Cap screenshots goes to Jonatan Castro. The iOS 9 ones come from /u/roonieone.


  1. “[W]hat I did see was a mostly functional and mostly straightforward music streaming app.”