noun: skills in many areas. a little of this and that.

PSA Newsletter 16: Privacy, Security, Automation!

WiFi Tracking Prevention, Cryptomator + M-Disc + Cyberduck Recommendation, An iOS Messages Away Message Shortcut, and more...


It's been covered before, but this is a friendly reminder that WiFi Probe Requests are often used to track people when they're out and about. Think of it as your phone constantly shouting a list of every wireless network it's ever connected to in the hopes that one will shout back. Your phone's list of wireless networks is unique and therefore easy to track from one place to another. When leaving the house, make sure to turn your WiFi off. [1]


While archiving old photo libraries using the Cryptomator and M-Disc technique from Newsletter 14, I ran into a small annoyance. When opening the vault as Read Only, macOS was taking extremely long to read the disc and the Blu-ray drive got stuck, constantly seeking in a loop. My guess is that Finder got bogged down trying to enumerate all the files on disc. Since we're dealing with large amounts of data, it's faster to use a program that doesn't do that. Enter Cyberduck, a "libre server and cloud storage browser for Mac and Windows". Cyberduck includes native support for Cryptomator vaults and navigates read-only vaults on optical media much faster than macOS Finder. Using Cyberduck, I was able to verify and retrieve photos from my burned M-Discs quickly. [2] [3]


It's possible to create a rudimentary iOS Messages autoresponder (think AOL Instant Messenger away messages) using nothing more than the built-in Shortcuts app in about a minute.

First, a few caveats:

  • This automation will not activate if you receive a message without a space in it. Short messages like "Hello" won't trigger it, although you can cover those bases by repeating the steps below with the words you want responses to.
  • Autoreplies will trigger for each message received, accompanied by a notification in Notification Center that Shortcuts ran your automation. If the same person messages you again, they'll receive the autoreply message again. There's no "smart" waiting period or filtering based on message frequency like with email providers.
  • No fun HTML or fonts, so it's not quite the AIM experience. But it's close!
  • This is a fun hack I discovered while trying to deal with after-hours messages. I make no guarantees that this won't cause issues, problems, hurt feelings, or anything of that sort. Use at your own risk. Also be prepared to launch into a lengthy nostalgic speech about how awesome AIM was.

With all that out of the way, follow the steps below to create an AIM-style Away Message. If you're a more visual learner, click or tap here to view a workflow image with instructions.

  1. Launch the Shortcuts app
  2. Tap the Automation tab at the bottom-center of the screen
  3. Tap the + button in the top-right of the screen to create a new Automation
  4. Under Personal Automation, tap Message
  5. Tap Message Contains and enter a single space in the window that pops up, then tap Done to dismiss that window
  6. Tap Run Immediately
  7. Tap Next
  8. On the "When I Get a Message Containing ' '" screen, tap New Blank Automation under Get Started >
  9. If present, tap Send Message under Next Action Suggestions. If not present-
    1. Tap the Search bar at the bottom of the screen. A drawer will slide up.
    2. Search for "Messages"
    3. Look for Send Message and tap that button
  10. Long-press on Recipients in the new Action and select "Shortcut Input" from the popup menu
  11. Tap on Message in the new Action and fill in the text that will be sent automatically
  12. Tap Done. You'll be back at the Automation screen with your new autoresponder listed.

At this point, you now have an autoresponder that will immediately send a message of your choosing to all who message you. Congratulations! But what if you want to turn it off? Easy:

  1. Just tap the Automation you created
  2. Tap Automation and select Don't Run from the popup menu
  3. Tap Done

To re-enable the automation, repeat the three steps above, and select Run Immediately from the popup menu.

Honestly, I'm a little surprised at how easy it was to set this automation up and more surprised that it works at all. Enjoy the trip down memory lane and remember: The tools are there; use them! [4]


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