Archive for the ‘Hacking’ Category

Pushing the gist envelope: gists with pics and zips

People often don’t realize how powerful GitHub’s gist pasting service is. It’s more than just a “paste” site. Gist offers a full version control system extension to GitHub’s main site. I’ve been working on developing version control training materials and gist is a great way to introduce the fundamentals.

Many gist users know that the site offers you pushbutton convenience to paste one or more files. You can create open gists and “secret” ones hidden from public view. Gist also lets you fork, revise, and explore diffs between revisions.

For example, you can work in groups when writing. Collaborators can fork and make changes to offer content feedback. You can then use diffs to see what edits were made.

Here are some diffs from a recent Raw String proposal I worked on:

And this is the corresponding “rich diff”, which is slightly prettier:

And there’s a lot more you can do with gist. That’s because gists, as version control repositories, can be cloned to your computer, modified, and pushed back to GitHub. This means you can, for example, set up albums of pictures or host an easy-to-distribute zip file.

Each gist URL is a repository’s address:

git clone https://gist.github.com/erica/7cd24c6ab2f737735a9ab2b95628c549

As a gist’s owner, you have commit privileges, allowing you to edit your gist from your computer.

The command line enables you to add binary files that you can’t from the web interface. I grabbed a bunch of kitten pictures from Pexels and added them to my gist. A nice way to create simple albums:

If you click “Download ZIP” at the top right, GitHub zips up the repository contents (in this case five kitten PNGs) and copies them to your computer. This is not cloning; the zip file just stores the source files, not the full git repo.

It’s just as easy to host an archive file. When you have an Xcode project or playground that you need to share, Gist provides a great intermediate service alternative to iCloud or Dropbox. If you need privacy, use the “secret gist”  button when creating the gist.

This isn’t, of course, the end of what you can do with gists. Because each gist is a git repository, you can perform all the same commands you would in any git repo. Gist, of course, has a limited interface, so you won’t be able to, for example, switch between branches from the gist website. On the other hand, you can perform other tasks that don’t depend on a GitHub UI like listing diffs:

% git diff cb9271da5070f11602d3ab436a05fb9705409fd2
diff --git a/raw.md b/raw.md
index 8ed7306..ea4b5ed 100644
--- a/raw.md
+++ b/raw.md
@@ -104,9 +104,8 @@ Escaping hinders readability and interferes with inspection, especially in the l
 
 ### Candidates
 
-A good candidate for raw strings:
+A good candidate for raw strings is non-trivial and is burdened by escaping because it:
 
-* Is non-trivial.
 * Is obscured by escaping. Escaping actively harms code review and validation.
 * Is already escaped. Escaped material should not be pre-interpreted by the compiler.
 * Requires easy transport between source and code in both directions, whether for testing or just updating source.

I think GitHub’s gists are pretty awesome. And now, at least for me, they’ve gone from handy but mindless pastes to something really special.

Do you have a special way to use gists? I’d love to hear about unconventional ways to use this utility site to push boundaries and introduce new functionality. Drop a comment or an email and let me know.

Creating a low-cost ADD/ADHD refocusing band

My middle child recently had an evaluation regarding her processing and retention in reading. She has diagnosed ADD, and aside from the specific results of her tests, the specialist recommended we look for and purchase a device that would buzz her wrist at regular intervals when doing homework and reading. The goal is to refocus when one is easily distractable. It’s a bit like Apple’s “stand up and move” reminder.

However, when we headed over to Amazon, we were met by two realities. First, these things cost a lot. Second, they have terrible reviews. It occurred to me that I could probably put together a band with things we already had around the house.

Last summer, I did a little work exploring BLE, the low energy form of Bluetooth that works with iOS. My test platform was the 1st generation Mi Band step tracker, which I purchased for under $20. The second generation is similar and appears to cost under $30. (Here’s a link to the first gen model, which is sold by third parties.)

My build consisted of the following components:

  • I built a basic single-view app and added a single centered segmented control. The control specifies the time-out interval, which is simply a standard Timer.
  • When the Timer activates, it uses my Bluetooth helper type to write a single byte to the band, which causes it to buzz. It’s slightly more complicated than that because the code needs to scan for the device, discover it, stop scanning, and then write to the peripheral, but that’s all covered in my previous posts.
  • To keep the app running longer than 3 or 10 minutes in the background, I resort to the standard “play a silent wav file over and over”. I based my code on this simple github repo, which handles audio interrupts and restarts.
  • I added every background mode I thought potentially applicable: plays audio/video streams, uses CoreBluetooth, provides VoIP services. I could probably have dropped the first one but it does no harm so I kept it.

Testing was, as you’d expect, a bit tedious, especially trying to figure out whether I had beaten the automatic time out (which is why went from my custom code to the github version for keeping alive). I put the pedometer portion on an empty diet coke can, to make it buzz a lot louder without having to wear the band.

In the end for a few hours of my time and under $20 capital investment, I ended up with a handy little tool. My daughter has only been using it a few days so it’s still too early to see whether the refocusing component is actually effective.

If you want to give this a try, I’ve put up gists for the primary view controller and the bluetooth controller. You can grab the background handler from the above github  repo link. I didn’t bother cleaning up any of my code, so it is what it is, which is a working prototype. Don’t forget to add the background modes to your Info.plist.

If you build this yourself (or just intend to try it out), drop me a note or a comment and let me know how it goes.

Building automatic `OptionSet` entries

Last night Zev Eisenberg was asking about option sets. “Do you still have to specify 1 << _n_ manually for OptionSet conformance? There’s no magic?” So I decided to build him some magic. There’s really no reason you should have to manually put in numbers like this:

public struct Traits: OptionSet {
    public typealias RawValue = Int
    public var rawValue = 0
    public init(rawValue: Traits.RawValue) {
        self.rawValue = rawValue
    }
    
    public static let bolded = 1 << 0
    public static let italicized = 1 << 1
    public static let monospaced = 1 << 2
    public static let underlined = 1 << 3
    public static let outlined = 1 << 4
}

This approach requires unnecessary bookkeeping. You have to keep track of the bits you’ve used, especially if you add or insert new options, or reorder the options  you have. It gives unnecessary prominence to the implementation detail values. There should be a more magic way.

So I decided to write him a solution that automatically generated the bit flags and hid those details from the implementation. The result looks like this:

 public static let bolded = generateOption()
 public static let italicized = generateOption()
 public static let monospaced = generateOption()
 public static let underlined = generateOption()
 public static let outlined = generateOption()

You can move things around, add new items, delete old items. It really doesn’t make a difference from a code maintenance point of view (assuming you’re doing this all during development, not after deployment, where you’d want to use availability and deprecations).

To get here, I needed to create a function that would add type-specific options to any type that conforms to OptionSet. I created a global dictionary to store option counts:

private var _optionSetDict: [AnyHashable: Int] = [:]

To be honest, I hate unparented globals like this. However, Swift does not allow adding static stored values in extensions. I couldn’t think of another better way to handle this. I also built a second global to ensure this dictionary would prevent concurrent access, so my counts would be secure:

private var _optionSetAccessQueue = DispatchQueue(
    label: "sadun.OptionSetGeneration", attributes: [.concurrent])

I needed to box my type references since Swift doesn’t allow types to conform to Hashable. They won’t work out of the box with dictionaries. This solution let me use types as keys:

/// Wraps a type to enable it for use as a dictionary key
public struct TypeWrapper<Wrapped>: Hashable {
    private let type: Wrapped.Type
    public init(_ type: Wrapped.Type) {
        self.type = type
    }
    
    /// Conforms to Equatable
    public static func ==(lhs: TypeWrapper, rhs: TypeWrapper) -> Bool {
        return lhs.type == rhs.type
    }
    
    /// Conforms to Hashable
    public var hashValue: Int {
        return ObjectIdentifier(type).hashValue
    }
}

To create a hashable type entry, I just instantiate TypeWrapper with the type.

Sven Weidauer points out I can use ObjectIdentifier directly
Here’s the OptionSet extension that implements the generateOption() magic:

public extension OptionSet where RawValue == Int {
    public static func generateOption() -> Self { 
        let key = ObjectIdentifier(Self.self)
        return _optionSetAccessQueue.sync(flags: [.barrier]) {
            // This should be locked so there's a guarantee that
            // counts are unique for each generated option
            let count = _optionSetDict[key, default: 0]
            _optionSetDict[key] = count + 1
            return .init(rawValue: 1 << count)
        }
    }
}

I’m not sure that I’d ever actually use this approach in code but it was a fun exercise in problem solving. Sven W. adds “Another thing to keep in mind is that statics are initialised the first time they are used. So in different runs of the program the values can differ. Better not persist OptionSets created by this technique.”

You can see the full implementation over at Github. And if you’re curious, you can go back through the change history to see some earlier takes on the problem.

Like it? Hate it? Got suggestions and improvements? (I always mess something up, so there’s a pretty much 100% chance there’s room for improvement.) Drop a note, a tweet, an email, or a comment.

Thanks to Ian Keen, who suggested extending OptionSet directly.

Fixing Mail Plugins for High Sierra

Are all your flagged emails back? Do you want them gone? Mail plugins help make macOS mail a bit less awful. If your Mail bundles stopped working, it’s not hard to get them back up and running. The secret lies in adding a `Supported10.13PluginCompatibilityUUIDs` entry in to any mail plugin bundle’s internal Info.plist file. You can then move the plugin back from the disabled folder to the main plugin folder.

The overall technique changed in 10.12, requiring a separate entry field that’s OS-specific. You can pull the current compatibility key by issuing:

defaults read /Applications/Mail.app/Contents/Info.plist PluginCompatibilityUUID

This reads the compatibility UUID and prints it to the terminal command line. You need this UUID to edit the Info.plist file. Starting in 10.12, you need to use the XX.YY format as part of the key name. For example, here’s what the 10.13 version looks like:

<key>Supported10.13PluginCompatibilityUUIDs</key>
<array>
	<string>CompatibilityKeyHere</string>
</array>

Once you’ve done this, move the bundle back to the right folder and restart mail. The bundle should hopefully continue working.

Bluetooth Lessons I: Manager and Scanning

Last June, Izzy inspired me to do something with Bluetooth and playgrounds but honestly, I haven’t had the time and I couldn’t afford a Sphereo. I’ve wrapped up Swift Style. Attempting to write meaningfully about drawing while the Denver Public School system has for reasons I cannot begin to comprehend released my child to my recognizance for two entire weeks seems unlikely. (Another child has half days. Fun.)

To prepare, I purchased one of the cheapest BLE devices I could find, a Mi wristband (Amazon cost under $20 shipped), which has a reverse engineered API that lets you control vibration. A friend of mine just purchased the hugely expensive Buzzies for Autism bands. I’m  hoping I can mimic some of that functionality with a playground, a low-rent BLE device, and a full-price child.

Have I mentioned recently how awesome playgrounds are for playing around with and learning about new tech? They really are, especially because you can integrate just one concept at a time, and then test it live before expanding to the next.

I decided to go with Cocoa for my BLE exploration instead of iOS, although the tech is more or less the same on both platforms. When you work in Cocoa, using a macOS playground, the startup speed is phenomenal because you don’t have to work with a simulator.

My first project simply sets up a central manager (CBCentralManager), monitors its state, and lists any devices it finds. I’m pretty happy for this as a first day, not many hours to spend on it, playing around and doing something marginally useful result.

The CoreBluetooth documentation is pretty dire. For example, this is the Swift docs for CBManagerStatePoweredOn.  After SE-0005, the constant is actually .poweredOn, as you see in the following sample code, not CBManagerStatePoweredOn. And there’s no documentation in that documentation.

Nonetheless, I persevered and my first child-full day produced a basic helper class. You really need to work in NSObject land for this because of all the delegation. So I set up an objc-friendly class, set it as a manager delegate, and implemented the one required callback method, which follows the manger state.

Try sticking the Bluetooth icon in your system menu bar.  (System Preferences > Bluetooth > Show Bluetooth in menu bar.) It’s a lot of fun to toggle it on and off and watch your playground keep tabs on that state.

Next, I added a basic peripheral scan. You need to scan only when the manager achieves poweredOn state.

Apple writes, “Before you call CBCentralManager methods, the state of the central manager object must be powered on, as indicated by the CBCentralManagerStatePoweredOn constant. This state indicates that the central device (your iPhone or iPad, for instance) supports Bluetooth low energy and that Bluetooth is on and available to use.”

That’s why I added the scan to the playground’s “update state” callback. You’ll want to stop scans when the BLE powers off.

Finally, I implemented one more callback, which asynchronously lists discovered peripherals. It picked up nicely on my Apple TV and when I enabled and disabled a hotspot on my iPhone. Great fun.

Here’s the code involved. You can see how very short it is. The struggle wasn’t in the lines of code or complexity, it’s mostly about how very badly documented most everything seems to be.

I’ll post more as time allows.

https://gist.github.com/erica/d249ff13aec353e8a8d72a1f5e77d3f8

Programming Cozmo

Anki has been kind enough to let me play with their new Cozmo unit and explore their SDK. Cozmo is a wonderful device, developed by people who understand a lot of core principles about human interaction and engagement.

Cozmo is adorable. When it recognizes your face, it wriggles with happiness. It explores its environment. When it’s bored, it sets up a game to play with you. It can get “upset” and demand attention. It’s one of the most personable and delightful robots I’ve played with.

At its heart is a well-chosen collection of minimal elements. The unit can move around the room, with a 4-wheel/2-tread system. It includes an onboard forklift that can rise and fall, an OLED “face” that expresses emotion, and a camera system that ties into a computer vision system, which I believe is based on PIL, the Python Image Library. (Anki tells me that Cozmo’s vision system “does not use PIL or Python in any way, though the Python SDK interface uses PIL for decoding jpegs, drawing animations, etc.”)

Three lightweight blocks with easily-identified markings complete the Cozmo package, which Cozmo can tap, lift, stack, and roll.

Between its remarkable cuteness and its vision-based API, it’s a perfect system for introducing kids to programming. I was really excited to jump into the SDK and see how far I could push it.

Here is Anki’s “Hello World” code (more or less, I’ve tweaked it a little) from their first developer tutorial:

import sys
import cozmo

'''
Hello Human
Make Cozmo say 'Hello Human' in this simple
Cozmo SDK example program.
'''

def run(sdk_conn):
    robot = sdk_conn.wait_for_robot()
    robot.say_text("Hello Human").wait_for_completed()
    print("Success")

if __name__ == '__main__':
    cozmo.setup_basic_logging()    
    try:
        cozmo.connect(run)
    except cozmo.ConnectionError as err:
        sys.exit("Connection error ????: %s" % err)

Although simple, this “Hello World” includes quite a lot of implementation details that can scare off young learners. For comparison, here’s the start of Apple’s tutorial on Swift “Learn to Code”:

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-11-45-24-am

There’s such a huge difference here. In Apple’s case, everything that Byte (the main character) does is limited to easy-to-understand, simple calls. The entire implementation is abstracted away, and all that’s left are instructions and very directed calls, which the student can put together, re-order, and explore with immediate feedback.

In Anki’s code, you’re presented with material that’s dealing with set-up, exceptions, asynchronous calls, and more. That is a huge amount of information to put in front of a learner, and to then say “ignore all of this”. Cozmo is underserved by this approach. Real life robots are always going to be a lot more fun to work with than on-screen animations. Cozmo deserved as simple a vocabulary as Byte. That difference set me on the road to create a proof of concept.

In this effort, I’ve tried to develop a more engaging system of interaction that better mirrors the way kids learn. By creating high level abstractions, I wanted to support the same kind of learning as “Learn to Code”. Learn to Code begins with procedural calls, and then conditional ones, and moving on to iteration and functional abstraction, and so forth.

My yardstick of success has been, “can my son use these building blocks to express goals and master basic procedural and conditional code?” (I haven’t gotten him up to iteration yet.) So far, so good, actually.  Here is what my updated “Hello World” looks like for Cozmo, after creating a more structured entry into robot control functionality:

from Cozmo import *

# run, cozmo, run
def actions(cozmoLink):
    '''Specify actions for cozmo to run.'''
    
    # Fetch robot
    coz = Cozmo.robot(cozmoLink)

    # Say something
    coz.say("Hello Human")

Cozmo.startUp(actions)

Not quite as clean as “Learn to Code” but I think it’s a vast improvement on the original. Calls now go through a central Cozmo class. I’ve chunked together common behavior and I’ve abstracted away most implementation details, which are not of immediate interest to a student learner.

Although I haven’t had the time to really take this as far as I want, my Cozmo system can now talk, drive, turn, and engage (a little) with light cubes. What follows is a slightly more involved example. Cozmo runs several actions in sequence, and then conditionally responds to an interaction:

from Cozmo import *
from Colors import *

# Run, Cozmo, run
def actions(cozmoLink):
    '''Specify actions for cozmo to run.'''
    
    # Fetch robot
    coz = Cozmo.robot(cozmoLink)

    # Say something
    coz.say("Hello")

    # Drive a little
    coz.drive(time = 3, direction = Direction.forward)
    
    # Turn
    coz.turn(degrees = 180)
    
    # Drive a little more
    coz.drive(time = 3, direction = Direction.forward)

    # Light up a cube
    cube = coz.cube(0)
    cube.setColor(colorLime)
    
    # Tap it!
    coz.say("Tap it")    
    if cube.waitForTap():
        coz.say("You tapped it")
    else:
        coz.say("Why no tap?")
    cube.switchOff()

Cozmo.startUp(actions)

And here is a video showing Cozmo executing this code:

If you’d like to explore this a little further:

  • Here is a video showing the SDK feedback during that execution. You can see how the commands translate to base Cozmo directives.
  • I’ve left a bit of source code over at GitHub if you have a Cozmo or are just interested in my approach.

As you might expect, creating a usable student-focused learning system is time consuming and exhausting. On top of providing controlled functionality, what’s missing here is a lesson plan and a list of skills to master framed into “Let’s learn Python with Cozmo”. What’s here is just a sense of how that functionality might look when directed into more manageable chunks.

Given my time frame, I’ve focused more on “can this device be made student friendly” than producing an actual product. I believe my proof of concept shows that the right kind of engagement can support this kind of learning with this real-world robot.

The thing that appeals most to me about Cozmo from the start has been its rich computer vision capabilities. What I haven’t had a chance to really touch on yet is its high level features like “search for a cube”, “lift it and place it on another cube”, all of which are provided as building blocks in its existing API, and all of which are terrific touch points for a lesson plan.

I can easily see where I’d want to develop some new games with the robot, like lowering reaction time (it gets really hard under about three quarters of a second to tap that darn cube) and creating cube-to-cube sequences of light. I’d also love to discover whether I can extend detection to some leftovers my son brought home from our library’s 3D printer reject bin.

Cozmo does not offer a voice input SDK. It’s only real way to interact is through its cameras (and vision system) and through taps on its cubes. Even so, there’s a pretty rich basis to craft new ways to interact.

As for Anki’s built-ins, they’re quite rich. Cozmo can flip cubes, pull wheelies, and interact in a respectably rich range of physical and (via its face screen) emotional ways.

Even if you’re not programming the system, it’s a delightful toy. Add in the SDK though, and there’s a fantastic basis for learning.

Cozmo: The Unboxening

I recently reached out to Anki, creators of the Cozmo robot, to  ask if I could explore the device from a developer’s perspective. Shipping with a Python SDK, Cozmo offers some surprisingly sophisticated image processing and recognition features, analogous to Apple’s Core Image.

Before jumping into the programming side of things, let me acknowledge that I am primarily an Apple developer. Therefore I must categorically kick off by evaluating package design.

I didn’t get to start unboxing last night. When my unit arrived during a cold snap, the package window was all fogged up. I opened the top, added a desiccant unit, and let the package dry out and warm out overnight.

czm6qavweaadneu

This morning, I finally could explore. As you’d expect with high end consumer goods (Cozmo retails for $180), the box used satisfyingly thick cardboard, was easy to open, and presented the product nicely while hiding the user manual, power cord, and accessories.

Unexpectedly, my favorite part of the entire boxing system was Cozmo’s perch. Made of quality yellow plastic, this industrial presentation feature is practically a toy in itself.

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-9-00-16-am

Flip it over, and instead of expected wire wraps, there’s an ingenious system to release the Cozmo unit. Pull up the yellow spacer and pinch the two white tabs. It all comes apart, allowing you to remove Cozmo, and start him charging.

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-9-01-55-am

Then while he charges, you can spend time putting the pieces back together and taking them apart over and over. It’s practically an extra free toy that ships with the robot. Beautiful design and completely unexpected.

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-9-04-28-am

The full complement of parts include the Cozmo robot, a USB charging dock with a separate a wall-adapter, a trio of play blocks (“Interactive Power Cubes”), and a welcome packet.

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-9-09-51-am

The instructions say to place him on an open table in a well lit room, with room to move around. Charging from empty to full is specified at 10-12 minutes, with a rated play time of 1-2 hours. (I wouldn’t be surprised if that number drops once you start putting extra demands on his processors.)

That 10-12 minutes subjectively lasts approximately 3-4 months after you first finish unboxing. Child and I got into a heated debate as to whether we’d name him after Cosimo de’ Medici, founder of the Medici political dynasty, or Cosmog, nebula Pokemon and opener of “Ultra Wormholes”.

I don’t want to spoil the instruction booklet for you so let me just say, the writeup is adorable, clever, and simple. The consumer warnings in particular made me laugh out loud. It’s a great example of technical writing and communication, focusing on simplicity and clarity. It’s really well done.

You must install a separate Cozmo application you on an iOS or Android device. It just shipped a 1.1.0 update, so make sure you’re running the latest version. It helps if you watch this video before trying to set-up.

Open Settings and connect to the Cozmo WiFi network. Lift Cozmo’s front arm to display the password, and then use Settings to log in, making sure to type everything using exact upper casing. The password is random mix of upper case letters and numbers, and the iPhone’s keypad doesn’t remember casing when moving between number input and text input.

Anki recommends typing the password into your Notes app, and I endorse this suggestion, especially when I point out how many times I tried to get it to connect. That’s because at first I didn’t realize Cloak VPN was trying to secure the Cozmo WiFi connection. It really really helps if you set it up to trust the Cozmo network. This one detail put a huge crimp into my set-up, causing immeasurable pain and frustration. I finally found this support write-up, which mentions VPN issues at the very bottom.

I haven’t spent much time playing with Cozmo yet but speaking as an iOS dev, there are quite a few things Anki could do to tighten up their app. There’s great content and some terrific games but the app reads as “cross platform with compromise”. (It seems to have Unity under its cover.)

To give just a couple of examples, the cursor controls in a custom text field don’t follow iOS standards. When you use cursor arrows during typing, the active cursor position does not update. That’s iOS 101.

In terms of user interface flow, it’s missing iOS’s inherent “deference to the user”. For example, there’s no “try again” button when attempting to connect without having to go to the help screen over and over again. (Which I did, over and over and over, through an hour or so of set-up until I found that VPN advice.) When you’re using games and other features, the ability to quickly switch tasks is somewhat limited.

The app would benefit from a HIG/GUI once-over for usability but that’s really the only weak spot in the big package that I’ve encountered.

As for Cozmo himself, he’s a delight. As part of set-up, he learned my face and that of my daughter. Who cannot love a robot that wakes up from charging, sees your face, recognizes you, greets you by name and then wiggles with happiness?!? It’s phenomenally adorable.

Of course, my interest lies primarily in the SDK, and that exploration will have to wait for another write-up. For now, a summary to date:

  • Adorable robot with amazing humanizing affect display.
  • Top notch Apple-worthy packaging.
  • Great starter games to inspire development possibilities.
  • There’s an app.

Cozmo is right now exploring the floor of my office, making random offhand comments in robotese about what he’s finding and generally having a ball. I think I’ll stop writing for a short while and join him in having fun.

Kid-fu: Pay for play

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 7.24.19 PMHow do you get your kid to try on all his shirts and pants before school starts? So you can sort them into trash, donate, wear, and “for playtime use only”? Answer: Playgrounds. Thank you playground team!

We used the “deal or no deal” rule. Two spins. You can “stick” or you can re-try, but no peeking at the next roll. Payment for each garment  after trying it on, taking it off and folding it. Coins placed into a cauldron (thank you Harry Potter camp) to be counted after we’re done. Any stained items treated with Oxyclean and thrown into the hamper.

For less than a couple of dollars, we got through his entire wardrobe with no complaints except “Don’t I have anything else that needs trying on?”

Source code follows:

Bouncing AirDrop contents to my desktop

I never use my Downloads folder. It’s a fusion drive, so it’s precious, fast, and expensive. I don’t need a thousand downloaded copies of Xcode and firmware updates littering its limited space. Instead, I point all my browsers and other apps to download to my secondary data disk.

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 12.57.18 PM

And before you ask, I use numerical and alphabetic prefixes so everything shows up in the right place and the right order for quick reference and single-letter typing access. Whatever data I can offload from my main drive, I do offload:

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 12.59.42 PM

However, when it comes to airdropping, it’s generally true that whatever I’m sending back and forth is of immediate interest. In such case, I don’t want it heading into my Downloads folder. I want it on my desktop as soon as it lands. As  I’m updating my Playgrounds Book right now, I’m doing a lot more airdropping than I normally would.

I’m not a big user of smart folders and Automator actions. I have a smallish bunch that I occasionally use. Still, they have their place and today was a perfect occasion to bring a new one into the mix.

I just had had it with the Downloads folder and decided to build a bouncer that would automatically throw any item added to ~/Downloads up to the desktop. I thought I’d share how to do this.

Step 1. Create a new Folder Action

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 1.03.48 PM

Step 2. Choose the Downloads folder.

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 1.05.50 PM

Step 3. Drag “Move Finder Items” onto “Drag actions or files here to build your workflow”

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 1.06.37 PM

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 1.06.48 PM

This creates the following action, with Desktop selected by default. (If it’s not, choose Desktop for the destination.)

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 1.07.24 PM

Step 4. Then save:

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 1.09.12 PM

Your new automator action is stored in ~/Library/Workflows/Applications/Folder\ Actions:

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 1.11.43 PM

Step 5. Test. Drop a file into Downloads and confirm that it moves to the desktop. You should now be ready to airdrop to your desktop.

Note: I’m sure there’s a better way to do this, but I actually wrote an app that quickly opens AirDrop windows on the Mac side of things. I found an appropriate AppleScript online, compiled it to an app, and use Spotlight to launch it. Very handy when I’m more focused on iOS than OS X at the moment.