Blog This Shortcut for iOS or macOS

Blog This shortcut button image I’ve been working for the past few days on constructing a Shortcut to use for quickly sending a link and block of text to whatever blogging software I’m using on whichever device I’m on at the moment. As of today, I’ve hit a point where it does everything I wanted it to when I started playing, so I’m designating this an official “version one” release (for posterity’s sake, I suppose I can refer to the prior two versions as the alpha and beta releases).

The Shortcut is now cross-platform, with many thanks to Jason Snell for giving me exactly the final pieces I needed.

Selecting some text on a webpage and then using the Share Sheet on iOS or the Services menu on macOS will grab the webpage link and the selected text, convert it to Markdown format, convert any relative URLs in the selected text to absolute URLs, and then place the final text into a new Ulysses sheet on iOS or MarsEdit post on macOS, all ready for any final edits before publishing to your blog.

If this shortcut might be of use to you, either as-is or with some modifications for your particular needs, download, tweak if necessary, use, and (hopefully) enjoy!

Blog This service menu item on macOS MarsEdit window with shortcut output text

Repairing my Music library after Apple Music Library Sync destroyed the metadata

Today I finally finished repairing my Music (iTunes) library after it got mangled when I signed up for Apple Music (the service) a few months ago.

Apple Music has its benefits, but apparently signing up automatically activated the library sync feature, which started overwriting my local metadata with data from the cloud. I caught it before it got all the way through and figured out how to turn it off, but a large chunk of my music library lost a lot of the edits I’d made over the years. From song titles to artist names to custom artwork, covering tracks that I’d purchased from the iTunes Music Store, purchased from Bandcamp, ripped from my own CDs, or even imported from my vinyl collection. Titles and names were changes, artwork was either replaced or removed…probably somewhere between a third and a half of my 37,416 item, 285 GB music library was affected.

The only reason I was even able to repair it all was that, well, Music (and iTunes before it) has been historically tweaky for long enough that I’ve gotten into the habit of making a manual backup of my music library every so often, separate from the Time Machine backup that’s done automatically, just because I don’t trust Music not to screw something up at some point.

I also discovered that Music reads metadata from two places: the metadata embedded in the individual files, and in the “Music Library” file stored within the /user/Music/ folder. Much of the bad data that was being displayed in Music was actually being read from the “Music Library” file; apparently that was where the data from the cloud had been written. When I opened the info window on a track to fix it, Music would then read the embedded metadata from the actual track file, and the data (some of it, at least) would switch back to the correct information.

Of course, manually going through and loading every one of my 37,416 tracks wasn’t at all realistic — but the Refresh a track from its file’s metadata script from Doug’s Applescrpts allowed me to select a chunk (I was able to do as many as 600 tracks at at time without it timing out) and let the script repair the metadata in the background. There were still some final corrections that needed to be made (this trick didn’t fix the artwork that got lost or replaced, and many of the “Album Artist” fields still needed to be corrected manually), but those were easier to do once the script handled the bulk of the work.

So, a few months after signing up for Apple Music, I finally have my local library back to a useable state.

Hey, Apple? Local data should NEVER be replaced by cloud data without warning, without explanation, and without active affirmative confirmation by the user. That was years of work I could have lost, and months of work repairing it. Get this bit of your system fixed, please. This sucked.

Also, trying to write a post about my music, the application Music, the service Apple Music, and Apple the company, and make it all coherent, is not an easy thing to do. I get that iTunes was a bloated beast and needed to be split up — though, really, Music isn’t that much better, is still missing a lot of features (like a usable in-app search feature) — but did it have to be renamed so generically?

The two top things I want from Apple’s Music (formerly iTunes) app:

  1. Functional search. The drastic decrease in functionality in the iTunes to Music transition is incredibly frustrating.

  2. Either a ‘tag’ field, or for the ‘Genre’ field to be tags, rather than single-value.

🎶

Just found out my trusty first-generation Retina 5K iMac (late 2014) is now on Apple’s ‘vintage products’ list.

I’ll happily upgrade as soon as they announce an Apple Silicon replacement! But current rumors don’t have that until late ’21 or early ’22. :( Not soon enough!

This Means Nothing

Pet peeve: The little fake level meter animation that Music shows when a track is playing drives me up the wall. It’s just a looped animation that bears no relation to what’s actually playing. Give me real data or a static icon, but this is useless.

Five-second clip of Apple's Music app UI.

But if you need it…

The new Mac Pro is available for order today. I’m not even remotely in the market for one of these powerhouses, but for fun, I maxed out the configuration options.

A 2019 Mac Pro with a 2.5GHz 28-core Xeon W processor, 1.5TB of RAM, two Radeon Pro Vega II Duo video cards, 4TB SSD storage, an Afterburner card, wheels, and both the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad is a mere $52,748.

Tack on the new Pro Display XDR —- with nano-texture glass and stand, of course — for $6,998….

Grand total: $59,746 (before taxes).

Just in case you were wondering.

Today’s geeky triumph: Figuring out how to use Automator to create a service that pipes selected text through pandoc to speed up converting old posts on my blog to proper markdown format from the current HTML/markdown hodepodge.

Me: 1, Apple Support: 0 (So far…)

Today’s morning entertainment: Stumping Apple support.

Long story short (if I can manage that…(spoiler: I can’t)):

Sometime in the early 2000s, I signed up for Apple’s then-new iTools service (later rebranded as .Mac, and then MobileMe), and was issued an @mac.com account and email address.

Over time, that service became what is now AppleID, and while I at some unremembered point stopped using my original @mac.com email address, it carried on as my AppleID account name.

I’ve noticed on and off for quite some time now (as in, years) that I haven’t been getting receipts from iTunes (or the iOS or Mac App Stores), and had a vague idea in my head that it might be because they were getting sent to the old @mac.com address instead of an actual active email address, but it was never important enough for me to be concerned about. Every so often I’d get curious and poke around in the settings on my hardware or the online tools, fail to find a way to fix it, and then get bored or distracted and decide to figure it out “later”.

Well, “later” apparently ended up being this morning (as I’m suspecting that there may be more communications from Apple that I’m not receiving), so I ended up on the phone with an Apple support tech for close to an hour as I explained what I was sure of and what I suspected, and as they dug around in their tools to see what they could figure out. End result: I’m probably right in my guess, but they’re stumped as to why they couldn’t find any way to fix it, or even be entirely sure that that was what was actually going on, in large part because all the @mac.com servers and systems have been offline for years.

So they’re going to write my case notes up, bump them up to the next level and the backend engineering team, and hope to be able to get back to me next week. Best case scenario, they’ll be able to make sure that all communications get sent to an active email address as they should. The more probable (and hopefully worst-case) scenario is that I’ll have to change my AppleID — which they think will fix the issue, because that old @mac.com address won’t be in the system even as an account name anymore, but would be a bit of a shame, since I’ve had that account name for close to two decades now, and it would be kind of a shame to lose it. But still, if it’s breaking things, I’d rather lose that than continue not receiving information I should be getting out of silly nostalgia.

All in all, it’s an entertaining situation, the tech was friendly and competent (and entertainingly confused), and this obviously isn’t a high-priority issue for me, so I’m content to wait to see what information they come up with.

Plus, the way I look at it, I bought my first personal Mac in 1991, and after almost three decades of Mac geeking, if I’m going to get to the point of calling Apple support, it’s going to be for a damn good reason. :)