How can I use Simon to check for an expired website SSL certificate?

I received a customer query asking how to use Simon to check for an expired website SSL certificate.

Of course, Simon is very flexible, so even if there isn’t a built-in service for this specific case, if you can do it in the Terminal, you can probably create a custom script-based service in Simon to do it, too.

There are a number of ways to get certificate information, but this is one simple approach (if you know of a better way, let me know!).

I created a new script-based service, using the basic C shell, a one-line command, and a custom variable for the host name:

Website Certificate service screenshot

I then created a new test using this service. When accessing a server with an expired certificate, the output includes a “verify return code” message of “certificate has expired“, so I used a Block filter to look at just that text (I pasted “Verify return code: ” in the Start text, and an Option-Return in the End text), then a Find Required filter to make the test result in a failure if it doesn’t find “ok“, and finally an Override Custom filter if a failure, to output the error message:

Website Certificate test screenshot

For the success case, the last filter doesn’t apply, so it just outputs the “ok”:

Website Certificate test screenshot

Want to use this service? You can easily add it yourself, or import it by downloading from the Simon Extras page.

I hope you found the techniques in this post helpful.

How can I add lunchtime & night breaks to Time Out?

On Twitter, Abbey Jackson asked:

Sure! Here’s the Schedule page for my Time Out preferences, showing my Lunchtime break configuration:

Lunchtime schedule screenshot

There are two important steps to do this: firstly, set the frequency to Every 1 day, and secondly, use the Available options to set a fixed start time of noon. In my example, I have this break only occur on weekdays. I also have the natural break option set to Continue Countdown, since I want the break to start immediately, not get pushed back due to idle time.

Didn’t realize that you can set daily breaks? Yep! Click, arrow, or tab to the units of the duration (“Break for“) and frequency (“Every“) fields to change between various units: seconds, minutes, hours for the duration, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years for the frequency.

As a bonus, here’s my Night break, that tells me to go to bed:

Night schedule screenshot

This is similar, but a longer duration. And yes, I did go to bed rather early when this screenshot was taken, as I usually got up at 05:30 (but didn’t get to my Mac till after breakfast).

Hope this helps!

Can I add Time Out breaks to my Calendar?

I had a customer wish that Time Out could track breaks taken in their Calendar app. That is definitely an interesting idea, so I added it to my feature concepts list for consideration in a future version, but it occurred to me that we could probably do that now with AppleScript actions.

As you may know, Time Out has the ability to perform various actions before, during, or after a break occurs. I made two AppleScripts based on Apple’s sample code for the Calendar app, and added them to the Time Out Extras page.

Download the scripts now.

The “Add to Calendar Start” script creates a new “Time Out break” event in the first available calendar, at the current time, with a duration of an hour. To use this in Time Out, install it as normal (reveal the scripts folder via the + button on the Break Actions page, and add the two scripts there), then add an action set to be performed “After Start”.

The “Add to Calendar End” script finds that event (assuming it is still within that hour), and updates the end time to the current time. So to use this, add an action set to be performed “After Any End” (i.e. when the break finishes, done or not).

Here’s how it’ll look in Time Out (with a couple of sound actions for good measure):

Time Out actions

If you want to add the events to a different calendar, you can edit the scripts (I included a commented out example). Just make sure you change both the same way.

I may add a more integrated calendar feature in the future, but in the meantime, it’s great that such enhancements can be done immediately. I hope this is helpful to some people.

Hot take on the Apple Vision Pro

Yesterday at the WWDC23 keynote, Apple introduced a new hardware platform, the Vision Pro.

It’s always fun to give hot-takes and first impressions on a new technology, especially when I haven’t tried it yet, so here’s mine, for what it’s worth.

I’m excited about it. While the initial device is far short of the ideal of unobtrusive glasses or similar, that let you overlay information on the world (augmented reality, or AR), it has an impressive array of technology and concepts, showing great potential.

I don’t know how comfortable it would be to wear for hours, or how well the virtual windows within the AR space would turn out for real work, but if anyone can get these sorts of things right, it’s Apple. And remember that this first one is the worst offering; Apple has a history of iterating and improving over the years, so it will get better and better.

For myself, I could imagine using this device to give me larger screen space for my app development work. I currently work from a laptop in my motorhome, sometimes with a magnetically attached screen. So being able to wear a headset and have vastly larger screen space is quite attractive.

Of course, using it with a Mac seems a bit limited at present, just expanding the existing screen. So that is less useful, since my development work is done on a Mac. But that may change over time, either by enhancing Mac integration, or by moving the Xcode development tools to the visionOS platform.

For non-work purposes, the Vision Pro seems like it would make a great entertainment device. I don’t watch TV nowadays, and have never been a gamer, but I could imagine the device being perfect for such activities, with its ability to make the show/game as immersive as desired.

I really like the reality dial thingy — the ability to twist a knob to change between an AR experience, with the outside world visible, to a fully VR environment. Great for plane trips or other distracting environments.

I don’t suffer from motion sickness, but for those who do, it sounds like Apple has done a lot of work to reduce those symptoms. And the aforementioned dial should help, by keeping the outside world visible to reduce nausea.

Another interesting feature is the external screen that shows the eyes of the user when interacting with others. Time will tell how well that works; it could be a disturbing uncanny valley situation, or it could work really well. It reminds me of transparency mode with the AirPods Pro; a way to interact with the outside world, while being immersed in another world.

I was amused by first-day hot-takes from people saying that they’d never buy one of these, or would refuse to interact with someone wearing one. It’s too soon to tell; I think like with other technologies, if they become widespread, people will get used to them. It won’t be a big deal.

Like with other new platforms Apple has introduced in the past, the initial version is just a starting point. As people get the devices and developers make apps for it, usage patterns will become clear. Apple introduced the iPhone as “an iPod with touch controls, a phone, and a breakthrough internet communications device”. At the time (I was there), people applauded the iPod and phone aspects, and were a little confused by the internet communications part. But it turned out that the iPod and phone were minor features of the device, and it’s all about the internet aspects. Similarly, the Watch was promoted as a communication device (Digital Touch?!), but evolved into primarily a fitness and notifications device. The Vision devices will no doubt similarly evolve based on how people end up using them.

All in all, I am excited for the potential. I may or may not get the first model (it’s rather expensive!), but I’m very tempted.