Posts Tagged ‘professional computer operator’

If It’s Worth Doing, It’s Worth Doing At Least Three Times

Monday, January 14th, 2013

In my last post about web-driven automation, we took on the creation of Apple IDs in a way that would require a credit card before actually letting you download apps(even free ones.) This is fine to speed up the creation process when actual billing will be applied to each account one at a time, but for education or training purposes where non-volume license purchases wouldn’t be a factor, there is the aforementioned ‘BatchAppleIDCreator‘ applescript. It hasn’t been updated recently, though, and I still had more automation tools I wanted to let have a crack at a repetitive workflow like this use case.

SikuliScript was born out of MIT research in screen reading, which roughly approximates what humans do as they scan the screen for a pattern and then take action. One can build a Sikuli script from scratch by taking screenshots and then tying together the actions you’d like to take in its IDE(which essentially renders HTML pages of the ‘code’.) You can integrate Python or Java, although it needs(system) Java and the Sikuli tools to be in place in the Applications folder to work at all. For Apple ID creation in iTunes, which is the documented way to create an ID with the “None” payment method, Apple endorses the steps in this knowledge base document.Sikuli AutoAppleID Creator Project

When running, the script does a search for iBooks, clicks the “Free” button to trigger Apple ID login, clicks the Create Apple ID button, clicks through a splash screen, accepts the terms and conditions, and proceeds to type in information for you. It gets this info from a spreadsheet(ids.csv) that I adapted from the BatchAppleIDCreator project, but currently hard-codes just the security questions and answers. There is guidance in the first row on how to enter each field, and you must leave that instruction row in, although the NOT IMPLEMENTED section will not be used as of this first version.

It’s fastest to type selections and use the tab and/or arrow keys to navigate between the many fields in the two forms(first the ID selection/password/security question/birthdate options, then the users purchase information,) so I didn’t screenshot every question and make conditionals. It takes less than 45 seconds to do one Apple ID creation, and I made a 12 second timeout between each step in case of a slow network when running. It’s available on Github, please give us feedback with what you think.

…’Til You Make It

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Say you need a bunch of Apple IDs, and you need them pronto. There’s a form you can fill out, a bunch of questions floating in a window in some application, it can feel very… manual. A gentleman on the Enterprise iOS site entered, filling the void with an Applescript that could batch create ID’s with iTunes (and has seen updates thanks to Aaron Friemark.)

That bikeshed, though, was just not quite the color I was looking for. I decided to Fake it. Are we not Professional Computer Operators?

Before I go into the details, a different hypothetical use case: say you just migrated mail servers, and didn’t do quite enough archiving previously. Client-side moves may be impractical or resource-intensive. So you’d rather archive server-side, but can’t manipulate the mail server directly, and the webmail GUI is a touch cumbersome: are we relegated to ‘select all -> move -> choose folder -> confirm’ while our life-force drains away?

Fake is described as a tool for web automation and testing. It’s been around for a bit, but took an ‘Aha!’ moment while pondering these use cases for me to realize its power. What makes it genius is you don’t need to scour html source to find the id of the element you want to interact with! Control-drag to the element, specify what you want to do with it. (There are top-knotch videos describing these options on the website.) And it can loop. And delay(either globally or between tasks,) and the tasks can be grouped and disabled in sections and organized in a workflow and saved for later use. (Can you tell I’m a bit giddy about it?)

Fakeinaction-MailSo that mail archive can loop away while you do dishes. Got to the end of a date range? Pause it, change the destination folder mid-loop, and keep it going. (There is a way to look at the elements and make a conditional when it reads a date stamp, but I didn’t get that crazy with it… yet.)

And now even verifying the email addresses used with the Apple ID can be automated! Blessed be the lazy sysadmin.

Leopard: Making the Top Menu Bar Solid

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

In Leopard the Top Menu Bar is fairly transparent and will overlay on top of the background image. For those who want to disable it the following command will do so: write /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.WindowServer 'EnvironmentVariables' -dict 'CI_NO_BACKGROUND_IMAGE' 1

We have seen some reports that this command didn’t work for users; therefore it is important to point out that when you’re using the command you need to unload and load the launch daemon.  Or just reboot.  If you later start to miss this menu bar then you can undo this change by using the following command:

defaults write /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.WindowServer 'EnvironmentVariables' -dict 'CI_NO_BACKGROUND_IMAGE' 0

Get Your PC to Work More Like a Mac

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

10 Essential Keyboard Shortcuts for Microsoft Windows Users to Get More from their PCs

Keyboards: We all use them. Those of us that work for Three18 happen to use ours for anywhere between 6 and 18 hours a day, hopefully not more. With that kind of time, we’ve learned to be especially crafty in our pursuit to be as efficient as possible. We don’t know all the keyboard shortcuts, but we do know a bunch. Here are a few shortcuts that will have you keyboard jockeying like a pro in no time.

10 & 9: Ctrl-Tab and Alt-Tab. These 2 gems will cycle you through tabs in a window and through all open windows, respectively.

8: Ctrl-Alt-Delete. This well known keystroke combination will give you access to a plethora of information about your computer. Your task manager, current login, change password dialogue, are just a few. Explore this one, there’s more here than you think.

7: Just type! In any explorer window, or open folder you can jump to the file you’re looking for without using the scroll bars or buttons. It’s far more efficient than the scroll and read technique, just type the first few letters and you’ll jump right to it.

6: Windows-r: This combination will have the same effect as Clicking ‘Start’ and ‘Run’, leaving you with an open Run dialogue.

5: Alt-Enter: Instead of Right-clicking and choosing ‘Properties’, use this. It’s especially handy if you already have your right hand on the keyboard. Perhaps because you just used tip #7?

4: Hold Shift while inserting a CD/DVD: Need something off a disc, but don’t want to wait for the autoplay? Hold shift, and it will disable autoplay while mounting the disc.

3: Esc: In almost any window that has a ‘Cancel’ button, Esc is mapped to it.

2: Windows-m: If you’ve used a Mac for any length of time, you’ve probably used the Apple-H command to hide all windows. Here’s your Windows equivalent.

1: Hold Shift while closing a window: Open folders cascading out of control? The keystroke Alt-Shift-F4 or just holding Shift and clicking on the X to close your current window will also close all its parent windows.