Categories
Podcasts Shortcuts

Automating blog posts for my podcast Supercomputer

If you were a visitor to my site in November, you might’ve noticed a lack of posts on the blog. While I’ve been producing videos and podcasts the whole time, I had a mental block on creating the short posts here on my website for each and just didn’t bother to write them up.

As we’re approaching the end of the year, I decided to get my act together and automate more of blog posts for my work, starting with podcast episodes.

That way I’d have no excuse not to do them, I could spread the news for my podcast more easily, and along the way put together a handy shortcut that I repurpose for my YouTube videos, articles on other sites, and eventually embedded shortcuts here on my blog.

To accomplish this, I built a Post Podcast shortcut that I can run each Friday when we release a new episode of Supercomputer.

Categories
Tips & Tricks

How to buy Disney/Marvel/Star Wars movies to watch on Apple TV in 4K

When you’re trying to buy any of the latest 4K Disney films like Star Wars and the Marvel movies, you’ll quickly find they’re not available in iTunes. For some reason the partnership hasn’t shaken out properly, which I’m hoping changes soon, but for now if you buy one in iTunes Movies it will only be 1080p for $19.99.

You might think that Movies Anywhere would handle this, because it makes movies you’ve bought on iTunes, Prime Video, VUDU, Google Play, or Fandango Now available to watch on each of the other services. But, it’s not that easy.

All of these Disney movies are available in 1080p on iTunes for $19.99 and on VUDU the 4K version (called UHD on their site) costs $24.99. However, even if you’ve unlocked the HD version by buying it in iTunes, you can’t just split the difference and pay $5 to upgrade to 4K within VUDU.

Instead, you’re stuck buying a second version of the same movie for full price, like I had to do for The Last Jedi.

But, if you buy through VUDU first in 4K, you can watch it in full resolution using their own Apple TV app1 instead of iTunes.

Note: When you’re trying to Own the movie instead of Rent, make sure to hit the dropdown and select UHD for 4K instead of HDX for 1080p quality.

And if you want watch it on a smaller screen in HD or add it offline on one of your devices, the movie purchase will still automatically sync to your iTunes account via Movies Anywhere in the background.

I just bought Avengers: Infinity War on VUDU’s website, and when I opened it in the TV app moments later I could already hit Play and start watching.


For me, this is a pretty solid solution, because now I can watch the same thing on my TV or iPhone or iPad—in the best quality available for the device—without paying for it twice.


  1. If you get the regular app and you have automatic downloads turned on for your Apple TV, the app should just appear once you’ve “purchased” it. 
Categories
Apps

Controlling your HomePod volume with iTunes and a simple Mac app

If you’ve picked up Apple’s HomePod in the past few weeks and tried to use iTunes on your Mac to Airplay something to the speaker, you probably got blasted with the music playing at full volume.

This occurs since HomePod uses iTunes’ in-app volume slider to adjust its levels rather than your Mac volume, and iTunes is usually at 100% because the hardware keys are used control my computer’s overall sound instead1. Plus, if I want to change the volume on HomePod after the music starts, I have to go into iTunes and drag the slider – you can’t turn it down that quickly.

Screenshot of iTunes Volume Control running in a Mac menu bar

To get around this, I installed a Mac app called iTunes Volume Control that’s available on GitHub. Created by Andrea Alberti, it’s an app that lives entirely in your menu bar and changes the Mac’s hardware volume keys to control iTunes instead. When it’s running, it can entirely take over mute, volume up, and volume down – or, you can set it so you have to hold a modifier key like Command before hitting the keys. I use the latter option, so I can control my Mac volume with the keys normally and then use ⌘ + or ⌘ – to adjust iTunes when I need to.

Once you’ve installed the app, you’ll find it’s much better experience playing music from iTunes with HomePod as your speaker. I set iTunes Volume Control to launch at login, so it’s basically always running when I use my computer and I never have to turn it on when I need it2. I’ll usually open iTunes, use ⌘ – to turn down the volume, then pick my song and AirPlay to my HomePod.

iTunes Volume Control also provides an option to change the step size for each press, so the volume can be changed in more specific intervals – you can set it go up 3% each time, for example, rather than the default 10% at a time. This gives you fine-grained control of the HomePod volume, right from your keyboard.3

I could see improving this setup using iTunes and AppleScript – you could set up a command to launch iTunes already set to 30% and set to AirPlay to the HomePod, avoiding the setup process each time I want to listen from my Mac on my HomePod. However, I have no experience there and that’s a project for another day.

The best part of this setup is that iTunes Volume Control is entirely free to download and use. Check out the documentation first, but use this link to get the app and start controlling your HomePod from your Mac.

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  1. Instead of adjusting the levels in iTunes and on your Mac separately, it’s much more common to leave iTunes at 100% and change the volume on the whole computer instead. 
  2. I normally hide it in the menu bar using Bartender, so I can click on the Bartender icon to reveal it but keep it away from view otherwise. 
  3. I do the same thing with HomePod normally by using my Apple Watch. Once you change the source in Control Center on your iPhone to the HomePod, the Now Playing controls show up on Apple Watch and let you control the smart speaker from your wrist.