Program Post-Release Updates

This page is a supplemental resource for the application programs and other software available on this site. Initially posted after the first major applications release on June 15, 2017, this page hosts two content sections with their own indexes (which toggle here if JavaScript is enabled in your browser):

Aug-14-2017 Frigcal and PyMailGUI Mac Apps Rerelease: Broken-Pipe Workaround
Sep-28-2017 PyGadgets GUI "Toy Box" Added to the Applications Lineup
Oct-5-2017 PyGadgets Rerelease: PyClock Optimization + Hand Redraws Fix
Oct-17-2017 tagpix: New Industrial-Strength Version of Photos Organizer
Nov-1-2017 PyGadgets Rerelease: PyPhoto Mod for Single-File Thumbnails Cache
Dec-9-2017 Mergeall Rerelease: Folder Modtimes, Linux Flushes, Scripts "-u"
Apr-28-2018 All Apps' User Guides: New Mobile-Friendly Versions Online
Sep-28-2018 PyGadgets Rerelease: PyPhoto Image Auto-Rotation + Pillow Fixes
May-6-2020 thumbspage: Updated Image-Gallery Builder (Off Page)
Apr-11-2020 ziptools: Updated zipfile Create/Extract System (Off Page)

Jun-2017 All Apps: Ignore First-Run Warnings
Jun-2017 Windows Exes: Don't Install to "C:\Program Files"
Jun-2017 Mac Apps and Source: Homebrew Tk 8.6 is DOA (today)
Aug-2017 PyEdit Auto-Saves: Converting from UTF-8 Encoding
Aug-2017 Mac Apps: Avoid Dock-Menu Zombies with 3-Finger Downswipes
Aug-2017 Mac Apps: Avoid Installing to Desktop if Apps Fail?
Sep-2017 PyEdit RunCode: Package Imports May Require Files
Sep-2017 Mac Apps: Assign to All Desktops for Quick Access Everywhere
Oct-2017 PyEdit on Mac: Restart if Memory Use Grows Too High
Oct-2017 Mergeall: Mac OS Sierra's Finder Hides ".DS_Store" Files
Nov-2017 Mergeall: Tailing Redirected Output of the diffall Utility
Dec-2017 Mergeall: Unzipped Files May Trigger Differences and Copies
Mar-2018 PyEdit: Dropping the BOM in Unicode Files
Mar-2018 PyEdit: More About Unicode Encoding Defaults
Apr-2018 All Apps: User Guides Mobile-Friendly Makeover
May-2018 Mac Source: New Python Installers Include Tk 8.6
Aug-2018 PyGadgets on Mac: PyPhoto Source, "Too many open files"
Sep-2018 showcode and PyEdit: The Perils of Mixed Unicode Encodings
Sep-2018 Mergeall on Android: It Runs — but It Doesn't Work
Jan-2019 Mergeall on Android: It Works — but with Constraints
Feb-2019 All Apps: How to Run tkinter GUIs on Android
Mar-2020 All Apps: Use SSDs or Source for Faster Windows Starts
Apr-2020 Mac OS: That Upper-Left Artifact May Be a Tk Console
Apr-2020 Mac Apps: More on Ignoring First-Run Warnings
Apr-2020 Mac OS Sierra+: Restore Own-Folder Access for Non-Store Apps
Apr-2020 Mac OS Catalina+: All Your Root Folder Are Belong to Us
May-2020 Windows Apps: More on Ignoring First-Run Warnings
May-2020 Windows 10, PyMailGUI: SSL Email May Kill 64-Bit App—Only
May-2020 Windows 10: How to Fix Blurry tkinter GUIs
May-2020 Windows, Mergeall, ziptools: Path-Limit Option in Python 3.6+
Dec-2020 Mergeall on Linux: exFAT, FAT32, and modtimes
Dec-2020 PyEdit on Linux: Associate Files to Open on Clicks, Etc.
Dec-2020 All Apps: Use Source-Code Instead of Executables on Linux
Jan-2021 Mergeall: Mac OS Munges Illegal Characters on FAT32 and exFAT
Feb-2021 Mergeall: Android 11 breaks the program — USB, storage
Feb-2021 Mac OS Mojave: Fix Start-Up Issues Caused by New Dark Mode

Why this page? Although each application program comes with a README.txt file that describes known issues and workarounds at the time of its latest publication, new items are bound to arise over time in any nontrivial software. This page documents issues uncovered after major releases and hence unmentioned in prior versions' documentation, and logs later software releases. Users are invited to consider this page a virtual docs appendix, and check back for updates over time.

The latest content update here: March 25, 2021.

Release Announcements

This section announces new releases of published applications and programs. Note that this list is primarily focused on the larger apps enumerated here; see the Programs page at large for other programs not covered on this page. To see this section's index, go to the TOC.


Frigcal and PyMailGUI Mac Apps Rerelease: Broken-Pipe Workaround (Aug-14-2017)

The Mac app packages of the Frigcal and PyMailGUI programs were rereleased on August 14, 2017, to address a rare output error that likely stems from an issue in the Mac's app-launcher system. Users of prior releases of the Mac app versions of Frigcal and PyMailGUI are encouraged to fetch and install the new versions; see your program's main README file for upgrade pointers. The source-code packages of these two programs were also rereleased with the fix's code, but just as examples for developers; the error occurs only when these two programs are run as Mac apps—not when they are run as source code on Macs, and never on other platforms. No other program packages were updated.

The complete description of the fix applied to Frigcal and PyMailGUI apps is off-page here, because it is mostly of interest to developers. In short, the main GUI in these two programs runs as a child process spawned by a launcher GUI. Likely due to a misfeature or bug in the Mac's app-launching system, it was not impossible that printed console output generated by these apps' main GUIs could eventually trigger a broken-pipe exception after the launcher GUI exited. Though rare, generally harmless, and an issue in Mac apps only, these failures would manifest as GUI popup error messages naming "Broken Pipe" as cause. The only observed consequence to date was the need to rerun a calendar save operation in Frigcal just once in nearly one year of daily usage.


PyGadgets GUI "Toy Box" Added to the Applications Lineup (Sep-28-2017)

PyGadgets, a set of 4 smaller GUI programs, was released as an addition to the applications available on this site. Its main page lives here, and its entry on the main programs page is here. Though less broadly focused than the other applications here, the PyGadgets toolset—a calculator, clock, photo viewer, and game—are both potentially useful and educational; work the same on all major desktop platforms; and are available as both stand-alone executables and full source code. Note that this was a separate, additional package release; no other application packages were updated.


PyGadgets Rerelease: PyClock Optimization + Hand Redraws Fix (Oct-5-2017)

PyGadgets was rereleased (all its packages) to fix a minor defect in PyClock, which delayed redraws of the analog display's minute and hour hands too long in some contexts. These two hands are normally not redrawn until the second hand reaches 12, as a valid and important optimization. This delay can be problematic, though, if used after any state that precludes analog clock updates — including window minimization, digital-display mode, system suspend, and menu and modal-dialog view on some platforms. In all such cases, the analog time might not be current or correct until the second hand again reaches 12. To avoid this lag, PyClock now monitors the last-analog-redraw time to force all hands to be redrawn immediately in all these contexts.

As a related optimization, PyClock now also avoids updating the analog display's AM/PM label every second, just like the minute and hour hands. This seems to have further reduced the memory leakage that occurs while the analog display window is open on Macs: open-window growth is now just 1M per 20 minutes, which translates to 3M/hour, 72M/day, and 500M/week. This is roughly half what it was formerly — a compelling reason to retain the prior paragraph's optimization — and some popular Mac apps use substantially more memory over time (see your Mac Activity Monitor). Oddly, the digital display now leaks memory fastest, but is likely lesser-used; optimizing it remains a low-priority TBD.

Also changed PyCalc to automatically set the focus on new "cmd" popups' entry fields (which also shifts focus to their windows on Windows), and added a Mac All Desktops tip (below) to the README.


tagpix: New Industrial-Strength Version of Photos Organizer (Oct-17-2017)

tagpix—a command-line script used to normalize photo collections—has been released in a much-enhanced version, with new support for duplicates resolution, error recovery, by-year grouping, and much more. For the full story, including a list of changes in this version, see the new User Guide. To download a copy, visit the tagpix web page.

Update: tagpix was released again in 2018 with new support for copy-based file transfer modes, customizable subfolder skips, prior-result-deletion verifications, and improved duplicates handling. For more details, see its release notes.


PyGadgets Rerelease: PyPhoto Mod for Single-File Thumbnails Cache (Nov-1-2017)

PyGadgets was rereleased (all its packages) to include a new version of PyPhoto, which stores a folder's thumbnail images in a single pickle file, instead of individual image files in a subfolder. This new design requires no more space or time, but avoids extra files (15k images formerly meant 15k thumbnail files); multiple file loads and saves; and nasty modtime-copy issues for backup programs too rare and complex to cover here. See the source code for full details.

This is a mildly backward-incompatible change. Prior PyGadgets/PyPhoto version users: when upgrading to a newer release, run the included script (or its frozen executable) from a command line to delete all former PyPhoto thumbnail subfolders. This program is run with no command line arguments, and asks for a folder path and delete verifications. In the Mac app, it's an executable at (see Show Package Contents); in other packages, it's in your install folder. PyPhoto will still work if you don't delete the former subfolders, but they will be unused trash.

Apart from this compatibility fix, the main user-visible artifact of this upgrade is a single _PyPhoto-thumbs.pkl file per opened folder, instead of the former thumbs subfolder. This thumbnail cache is still built on first open and auto-updated on changes as before, to make later opens fast. Though less prominent, the new PyPhoto also displays images in the same order everywhere; uses a placeholder thumbnail for photos with errors (instead of omitting); and works on unwritable folders (though slowly).

PyPhoto now also supports a new NoThumbChanges configuration-file setting and command-line argument, which can be used to prevent rare but spurious thumbnail regenerations for large, static archives, when file modification times are skewed between platforms or filesystems. See This setting's False default need not be changed in typical usage. For example, PyPhoto photo archives and thumb caches have been seen to work correctly without this change when used on a single platform, burned to BD-R discs, or transferred between Mac OS and Windows on exFAT drives.

This release also applied a minor change to PyCalc, to allow fractional floating-point numbers to be entered with a leading . instead of 0.. To halve a number, for instance, 24 * .5 and 24 * 0.5 both now work. Numbers with E exponents allow both forms too: .1E-99 or 0.1E-99.


Mergeall Rerelease: Folder Modtimes, Linux Flushes, Scripts "-u" (Dec-9-2017)

Version 3.1 of the Mergeall content backup and propagation application includes multiple minor enhancements for all download packages, and is a recommended upgrade for all users (be sure to save and restore your customizations). In this release:

For the full story on these changes, see the release notes.


PyGadgets Rerelease: PyPhoto Image Auto-Rotation + Pillow Fixes (Sep-28-2018)

The PyPhoto image-viewer GUI program included in the PyGadgets bundle has been updated to include three enhancements, the first two of which were borrowed from the thumbspage image-gallery builder. The new PyPhoto:

This PyPhoto upgrade is now available in all PyGadgets download packages. Users of the prior PyPhoto version should delete their _PyPhoto-thumbs.pkl cache files in image folders to enable the image auto-rotation enhancement. Otherwise, images will rotate when viewed, but already-created thumbnails will remain askew till deleted and recreated.

For more details, see the version 2.2 release notes in code files here and here

More Usage Pointers

This section collects usage tips for published applications that arose after releases, and hence are not covered in earlier releases' documentation. Note that dates below reflect first postings; some items have been revised later, per their entries' updates. To see this section's index, go to the TOC


All Apps: Ignore First-Run Warnings (Jun-2017)

On recent Mac OS X systems, and on Windows 7, 8, and 10, you may get a warning when first trying to use this site's applications, because of defaults regarding unverified sources — arguably overkill at best, and a step towards proprietary lockdown at worst. You can safely ignore these, but may have to approve a program the first time you use it; see the warning popup for more details, where available. On Macs, for example, Open in the two-finger-press or control-click menu approves a program quickly and permanently, and may be faster than opening the Security & Privacy preferences screen.

This inconvenience is regrettable, but this site's proprietor is an independent developer who does not work for Apple or Microsoft, and has no interest in the supplication inherent in program registration. Some web browsers can be Orwellian about zipfiles too; and Windows 10 S, unfortunately, is right out.

Update: there's more on the first-run story ahead on this page—jump to the 2020 addendums for expanded coverage of launching this site's apps on Mac OS and Windows 10. Synopsis: the warnings may be growing nastier, but you can still use trusted independent apps freely after an initial rightclick+Open on Macs, and a Run or click+Run anyway on Windows. For now?


Windows Exes: Don't Install to "C:\Program Files" (Jun-2017)

On Windows, you should generally avoid saving unzipped exe folders in C:\Program Files because neither you nor programs may have permission to save files there. The current program READMEs suggest this location as one possibility, but this can lead to issues. For instance, using that folder can complicate config-file edits (you may need to run editors as administrator), and can even prevent the Frigcal launcher from closing (it won't find a sentinel file because one cannot be written in its install folder). To avoid such issues, save your unzipped exe folders to your Desktop or elsewhere instead (despite the advice!).


Mac Apps and Source: Homebrew Tk 8.6 is DOA (Jun-2017..May-2018)

On Mac OS X, the apps have not been tested or built with Python 3.X and Tk 8.6 from Homebrew (a leading alternative distribution that supports the newer Tk) because the Homebrew install is currently broken—Python and Tk build correctly, but crash immediately with an "Abort trap: 6." This is a widespread issue that impacts both app builds and source-code use, and makes it difficult to explore possible fixes for Tk 8.5 Mac issues (e.g., Dock zombies and scroll speed). Given the requirements of a manual build, this effectively puts further research on hold.

You can read others' reports about this issue here and here. The latter includes a curt refusal to fix from the project, delegating the job to impacted users. No, really. It's not clear where this bug lies, but projects that publish a product clearly have some responsibility for that product. That is: broken + rude = punt; Homebrew is currently neither viable nor recommended. Hopefully,'s Mac Python3 will support Tk 8.6 soon.

Update: as of August 7, it appears that this critical Homebrew Tk 8.6 bug may have been fixed, per later posts on the GitHub thread. Apparently, an early release of the next version of Tk was required. This is good news if true (and the Mac apps here may be revisited soon), but the outright crash on startup doesn't exactly instill confidence in Homebrew and/or its Tk on Macs going forward. To be fair, though, the Mac's rich user interface is stateful enough to pose challenges to any GUI toolkit.

Update: after testing Homebrew Python 3.6 + Tk 8.6 on Mac OS Sierra in September, 2017, it now appears that Tk 8.6 on Mac is a non-starter. It does indeed fix the Dock menu zombies problem of ActiveState's Tk 8.5. But 8.6 also:

Alas, Tk on Mac is not always all it should be. It's possible to use it for programs like those on this site, but this requires substantial workarounds (of the duct-tape-and-twine sort), and the resulting programs have to live with a set of defects that varies per Mac Tk release. If you're developing commercial-grade GUIs, see PyQt for one portable alternative, and PyObjC for a non-portable option; and mind the pitfalls inherent in development under the open-source "batteries included" banner, and its proprietary cousins.

Update: as of spring 2018, now offers Python 2.7 and 3.6 installers for Mac OS 10.9 and later that include Tk 8.6. This is welcome news and obviates the need to install Tk separately from third-party sources, though early testing suggests that the new install may pose issues and bugs of its own. See the details ahead.


PyEdit Auto-Saves: Converting from UTF-8 Encoding (Aug-2017)

A technical note for PyEdit users only: as documented in PyEdit's UserGuide.html and, its auto-save feature always writes text with unsaved changes to files using the general UTF-8 Unicode encoding scheme. This is necessary, because there may be no known encoding (e.g., the text may not yet have been saved to a file), and a known encoding may fail (e.g., Unicode symbols may be inserted into the text of a file originally opened as ASCII, precluding ASCII encoding on saves).

This UTF-8 policy may cause issues, however, for HTML files that declare a different encoding explicitly using <meta> tags. If you must recover such a file from the auto-saves folder, you can either change its <meta> tag to declare UTF-8, or convert its text back to the original encoding. For the latter, you can easily restore the original encoding by:

  1. Opening the auto-saved file in PyEdit as UTF-8
  2. Clicking the File=>Save As menu action (or typing its control/Alt-s accelerator)
  3. Entering your desired Unicode encoding name in the popup issued in the GUI

Naturally, this assumes your text is still compatible with the encoding you enter (else, PyEdit will generally fall back on UTF-8 again), and be sure to use Save As (Save silently uses the encoding provided on Open if the text came from a file). This issue is both rare and subtle, but unavoidable in files with explicit and usage-specific encoding declarations that may diverge from actual content. For more encoding-conversion options, see savesUseKnownEncoding in, and the command-line conversion utility script unicodemod.


Mac Apps: Avoid Dock-Menu Zombies with 3-Finger Downswipes (Aug-2017)

As mentioned in the main README files of all the complete applications available on this site, the current releases of the Mac apps can leave zombie entries for closed windows in their Dock menus due to a bug in the underlying Tk 8.5 GUI library used. This remains a to-be-fixed item, pending adoption of a new Tk version (which now seems unlikely; see above).

Fortunately, it turns out that there is a standard and easy way to see the apps' truly active windows anyhow: simply use a 3-finger downswipe on the trackpad (or its control+downarrow keyboard equivalent) to activate the "App Exposé" view of active app windows. This gesture can be performed on any of the app's windows, or on its Dock icon. When run on the Dock icon, this is no more difficult than opening the Dock menu with a 2-finger click, and yields an arguably better and full-screen display that does not include any zombie entries.

This is a standard Mac feature, but may be unknown to some users, and is mentioned only in passing in the apps' READMEs. You may need to enable it once in System Preferences by clicking the App Exposé checkmark. Once enabled, though, this provides a simple way to view an app's open windows, and is immune to Tk 8.5 zombies.

Semi-related tip: as noted in app docs, Mac OS Tk also scrolls text slowly, which impacts the Mergeall program's status display of log messages on this platform (only). If this grows too slow to tolerate, and Mergeall's toggle for suppressing comparison messages doesn't suffice, you may be able to skip scrolls by simply minimizing the program's window to the Dock; on reopening, scrolls will be either advanced or finished.


Mac Apps: Avoid Installing to Desktop if Apps Fail? (Aug-2017)

Similar to the Windows exes note above: one user has reported that the Frigcal Mac app can fail if copied to and run from Desktop on Mac OS X Sierra, because the app does not have permission to write files (Frigcal needs to create an initial calendar file on first run, and a sentinel file on each run). This couldn't be recreated on El Capitan or Sierra machines, may be user-specific, and is outside the apps' scope. If your apps have similar problems on your Desktop, though, copy them to your /Applications folder instead; this has the added advantage of adding the app to Launchpad for quick access.


PyEdit RunCode: Package Imports May Require Files (Sep-2017)

For reasons to be determined, import statements in code run by PyEdit's RunCode can fail if they attempt to import a module package having no file. That is, Python 3.3+ namespace packages don't seem to be fully operative in code run by a normal compile()/exec() pair, despite all the run-time context set up by PyEdit's code proxy. This may reflect an anomaly or bug in Python's import machinery (which changes so often as to be fairly accused of thrashing), and may require use of Python's runpy module or similar code.

Barring a future fix, though, the workaround is simple: simply make sure all your package folders to be used in RunCode have an, even if it's completely empty. Unless your use case really requires namespace packages (and almost none do), an is good and recommended practice anyhow. It makes your package imports more efficient, and your code's structure more explicit. For more on PyEdit's RunCode, see its Tools menu docs. For a primer on 3.3+ namespace packages, try Chapter 24 in Learning Python, 5th Edition.


Mac Apps: Assign to All Desktops for Quick Access Everywhere (Sep-2017)

Here's another Mac user-level tip that may not be obvious to everyone, but is especially relevant to utility programs like PyGadgets: to have access to an app on every Mac desktop, right-click its Dock app icon, select Options, and choose the Assign To section's All Desktops. Once you do so, single-clicking the minimized program's Dock icon will reopen it on whatever desktop you happen to be viewing at the time.

PyGadgets' calculator and clock, for example, are the sorts of desktop utilities you might want to access occasionally and quickly. Simply open once and set to All Desktops per above, then minimize when not in use, and click the Dock icon to reopen. This both displays an open gadget on every desktop, and reopens a hidden gadget immediately on the current desktop. Perhaps best of all, this avoids the annoying and attention-shattering desktop switches that occur by default when you reopen an app assigned to its single, original desktop.

Two fine points here. First, this works whether your Dock preferences set "Minimize windows into application icon" or not, but the All Desktops setting is in the Dock's application icon. Second, this can also be used for the Frigcal calendar GUI (which also reopens its month image on the current desktop), but may be less desirable for apps like the PyEdit text editor that create many windows or take special actions on Dock clicks (see Programs for both).


PyEdit on Mac: Restart if Memory Use Grows Too High (Oct-2017)

Though usually not a concern, PyEdit's memory usage on Mac OS might grow high if used for a long time without a restart. The exact cause remains to be isolated, but this seems to occur when using PyEdit's Run Code option to run edited programs; is noticeable only after intense work spanning multiple days; and isn't particularly grievous by Mac standards. The worst case to date saw PyEdit reach 2G memory (from its 36M start) on El Capitan, but it was still #3 on the worst-memory-offenders list at the time, behind both Firefox and WindowServer, and just ahead of Excel. Moreover, almost all of PyEdit's memory space was compressed (not in active use).

Still, if this grows problematic on your machine, the simplest solution is to periodically close all PyEdit windows and restart—an unfortunately common cure for Mac app ills. For a related topic, see the memory leak workarounds in the PyClock program of PyGadgets, covered in its README; though nonfatal, memory issues seem a recurring theme for Tk apps on Macs.


Mergeall: Mac OS Sierra's Finder Hides ".DS_Store" Files (Oct-2017)

The Mergeall backup/mirroring application goes to great lengths to avoid propagating "cruft" files (platform-specific trash), and in its User Guide points to the numerous .DS_Store hidden files on Mac OS as prime offenders. These files can be pathological on Macs for anyone involved in programming or content production, and were responsible for many of the changes required to support the Mac platform.

As of Mac OS Sierra (10.12), setting your defaults to display hidden files as described in that guide still works as before, but Finder has been special-cased to never display .DS_Store files. That is, the .DS_Store files are still there (and can be seen via an ls -a in Terminal, or an os.listdir() in Python), but Finder will no longer show them to you; even if you ask it to.

You can read more about this curious new Finder policy on the web. This seems the worst of both worlds. Not only does Finder still create these files in every folder you view (changing your folders' modification times in the process), but not displaying them can easily lead to major problems if they wind up being inadvertently uploaded, transferred, or otherwise included with actual content. Pretending a problem doesn't exist is not a valid solution to a problem—especially when users may have to pay the price for the deception!

Luckily, you can still take control of cruft like .DS_Store files with tools like Mergeall and ziptools that callout such items explicitly to help you minimize their impacts. We can also hope that Apple someday finds a better way to record Finder information than dumping it in hidden-but-real .DS_Store files all over your drives. Sadly, this still seems wishful thinking as of the new High Sierra and its oddly mandatory APFS filesystem.

Footnote: also in the oddly column, Mac OS High Sierra abruptly dropped the longstanding and widely used ftp client program, in yet another agendas-versus-customers move. See the web for discussion; in short, secure sftp is still present, but works only for sites that support it, and this doesn't help programs or users that relied on the functionality removed. Alas, open-source software is not the only domain where the whims of the few can rudely trounce the needs of the many. On the upside, a simple Python script can shatter many an Orwellian decree...

Postscript: and in the too-ironic-to-bear department, Mac OS High Sierra also came with a massive security flaw which allowed anyone to gain root access to a machine without a password, and required an emergency overnight patch. But ftp was too risky to ship.


Mergeall: Tailing Redirected Output of the diffall Utility (Nov-2017)

The Mergeall content backup/propagation program is usually run from its GUI launcher, but can also be run from a command-line, and includes some extra command-line scripts useful for managing archives. The most notable of the extras may be diffall, a program which does a byte-by-byte comparison of everything in two folder trees, as described in Mergeall's User Guide.

Because diffall can run for a long time on large trees, it's convenient on Unix to run it in the background and monitor its output file with a tail using command-lines like the following (typed in Terminal on Mac OS):

~$ python3 /MY-STUFF /MY-COPY -skipcruft > Desktop/temp.txt &
~$ tail -f Desktop/temp.txt 

That works on Mac OS's El Capitan release, but not quite on its High Sierra. For reasons that aren't clear, when redirected to a file, Python 3.5's stdout stream—the target for basic print() calls—is not buffered (or not buffered as much) on the former, but is fully buffered on the latter. Hence the tail may not show anything for quite some time on High Sierra, and even then, will print only in spurts. Technically, El Capitan may buffer stdout too, but its buffer blocksize may be so small that its output appears regularly, while High Sierra's does not.

To make printed text show up in the output file immediately on both Mac OS versions (as well as other Unix-like platforms), pass Python's -u unbuffered flag in the first command above:

~$ python3 -u /MY-STUFF /MY-COPY -skipcruft > Desktop/temp.txt &

Or, set the equivalent environment variable in your shell (e.g., in ~/.bash_profile) and skip the -u argument in the command line:

~$ vi ~/.bash_profile

Either way, this forces Python print() calls to send their output immediately on all platforms, so that it can be watched with a Unix tail. Unfortunately, -u doesn't apply and the environment variable has no effect in the Mac app's frozen diffall executable, so app users will want to grab the source-code version to tail its stdout on platforms where stdout is buffered. This isn't required on El Capitan, because the frozen diffall's stdout is not buffered much there either (though to be fair, it's not clear which systems are broken!).

For more possible-but-unverified ideas, see also this discussion thread. Per preliminary testing, however, its export NSUnbufferedIO=YES suggestion appears to have no effect on the app's frozen diffall.

And if you're willing to change code, you can also reset sys.stdout to an object whose write() method always calls flush(), or, in Python 3.3+ only, use the extended form print(x, flush=True) for all prints. It's not clear that this should be done, though, as buffering is an optimization, and diffall's output can be large (e.g., it's 6MB big and 144K-lines long for an archive with 101K files and 10k folders); if implemented, this should probably be a diffall command-line option. Consider these suggested exercises—until the next Mergeall release (spoiler: it grew its own dedicated -u).


Mergeall: Unzipped Files May Trigger Differences and Copies (Dec-2017)

Short story: Mergeall may report unexpected differences for files extracted by unzipping a zipfile, due to unzip tools' inconsistent handling of modification times across time changes. There is no complete fix for this, but you can use the same unzip tool each time to lessen impact; use this site's ziptools for zips and unzips to neutralize the issue in full; allow Mergeall to recopy unzipped files after they are extracted; or avoid including frequently unzipped files in your archive—include their zipfile instead.


Due to inconsistent handling of file-modification times across the many unzipping tools in use, it is not guaranteed that a given file's times will survive a zip and unzip combination. Just as for FAT32, zipfiles generally record file times in "local" time, which may or may not be adjusted on unzips for daylight savings time (DST), and may be impossible to adjust on unzips for time-zone changes. This can in turn throw off any program that relies on file-modification times, including Mergeall; its change-detection is fully dependent on timestamps.

As discussed in more detail in Mergeall's User Guide, the FAT32 issue can be addressed by using a different file system such as exFAT for cross-platform drives to use Unix UTC time. The unzip issue, however, is much more thorny: an unzipping program may actually modify a file's recorded modification time as it recreates the file, and only for files last modified in a given time zone or DST phase. Hence, the differences reported by Mergeall are real but spurious (timestamps differ even if content does not), and globally adjusting all files' times up or down with a script like this isn't an option (only a subset of files may have their times changed on extracts).

Perhaps worse, different unzip tools may apply time-adjustment rules differently, precluding an automatic workaround. For example, unzips in both the ziptools system available at this site and the unzip command on Unix produce modtime results which have been observed to differ from those of the Archive Manager used by Finder on Mac OS—even when zipping and unzipping in the same DST phase. Finder's results may be askew, but they preclude a universally relevant adjustment.

In more detail, ziptools currently inherits the time.localtime() local-time creation in Python's zipfile module for zips, and defers to the local-time reversals of Python's time.mktime() for unzips. When zip archives are created by ziptools' using this scheme and unzipped in the same DST phase, Finder clicks produce modtimes that erroneously differ from the original data for some (but not all) files, but both the Unix command-line unzip and ziptools' own yield no modtime differences. Finder seems to expect a skew in the zip that does not exist. For more background on this issue, try a web search like this one.

The upshot of all these factors is that Mergeall may report differences and run recopies for arbitrarily many files in an archive after they are re-unzipped from a zipfile. This is a rare issue (and has arisen just once in 4 years of regular Mergeall use), but has no absolute fix. It may be minimized by using the same unzipping tool every time for a given set of files (see ziptools for a portable option). Barring this, you'll need to allow Mergeall to recopy the unzipped files that differ after unzips, or avoid keeping their unzipped versions in a Mergeall archive tree in the first place. The latter may be the simplest approach for files that will be unzipped often.

Interestingly, standard zip-file times are also limited to two-second precision just like FAT32, but Mergeall automatically accommodates this thanks to former fixes. The bizarre munging of time by some unzip tools can also impact thumbnail-change management in the PyPhoto gadget, but in this context would simply trigger one-time thumb rebuilds. Other programs may fare worse after unzips.

A full solution here, of course, may lie in either abandoning zipfiles altogether, or standardizing time formats across all computer systems in use today. Given both the popularity of zip and this industry's tendency towards fragmentation and flux, the odds of either solution appearing in our lifetimes seem about as good as those of an open-source project settling on a feature set...

Update: per the docs in release 1.1 of ziptools, both DST and timezone issues in zipfiles can be addressed by storing items' UTC timestamps in the zipfile using one of the "extra fields" defined by the zip standard. In particular, the "extended timestamp" extra field (code 0x5455) added by Info-ZIP seems ideal for this purpose. When present on unzips, these extra fields can override the main local-time field, and are simply ignored by other zip tools that don't support them.

This is a full fix to zip's local-time issues, because UTC timestamps are relative to a fixed point, and thus timezone- and DST-agnostic. Naturally, this won't help for zipfiles created by tools that don't record the extra field, and is difficult to code for Python's zipfile library module. Still, it's likely to appear in a ziptools release near you soon.

Update: the UTC timestamp scheme of the prior note was indeed implemented in release 1.2 of ziptools, in April 2020. At least for zipfiles it makes, ziptools' modtimes are at last fully immune to changes in both DST and timezone. See its documentation for the whole story.


PyEdit: Dropping the BOM in Unicode Files (Mar-2018)

Short story: if you wish to use PyEdit to edit Unicode text files that begin with a BOM character, be sure to open them with an encoding name that discards the BOM if present (e.g., 'utf-8-sig' for UTF-8, and 'utf-16' for UTF-16). You can also delete their BOMs permanently by opening the same way and saving with an encoding that doesn't add a BOM on output (e.g., 'utf-8' for UTF-8), or removing the BOM in the edit window as it is displayed. PyEdit doesn't add BOMs unless your encodings ask it to, but other editors may insert them automatically. If not accommodated or removed, a BOM will make the first line render oddly and difficult to edit, though the effect varies per platform.

The Issue

To understand this issue, you need to know a bit about one of Unicode's darker corners. In brief, text may start with an identifying marker known as a BOM, in the UTF-8, UTF-16, and UTF-32 encoding schemes. This marker can be used to declare the bit order (little- or big-endian) and encoding scheme of the encoded text that follows.

Widely used UTF-8 files, for example, can begin with a BOM or not. When present, the BOM in such files is a nonprintable Unicode character with code point \ufeff, which is encoded as bytes b'\xef\xbb\xbf'. Because encodings handle BOMs differently, selecting the right one can be crucial. In Python (and Python programs like PyEdit), neither 'utf-8' nor 'utf-8-sig' require a BOM to be present, but only the latter discards a BOM on input and adds one back on output.

It's easy to see this in code. A binary-mode file read always retains an encoded BOM at the front, and text mode gives the BOM's decoded code point unless it is discarded by 'utf-8-sig'. Here's the story for a BOM-laden UTF-8 file in Python 3.X, the version PyEdit uses ( works essentially the same for text mode in 2.X, sans endline transforms):

$ python3
>>> b = open('purchase-pointers.html', 'rb').read()
>>> b[:50]
b'\xef\xbb\xbf$DOCTYPE$\n\n<HTML>\n\n<HEAD>\n\n<TITLE>Python Books:'
>>> t1 = open('purchase-pointers.html', 'r', encoding='utf-8').read()
>>> t2 = open('purchase-pointers.html', 'r', encoding='utf-8-sig').read()
>>> t1[:10]
>>> t2[:10]
>>> t1[1:] == t2     # Just the added BOM differs

This issue is rare, but it cropped up recently in the HTML of a web page edited in PyEdit. Somewhere along the way, a text editor on Windows or Mac OS silently inserted a BOM at the start of the file's UTF-8 content (as usual, Windows Notepad is the prime suspect). The covertly added BOM is harmless in web pages with content-type UTF-8, but causes the file's first line to be munged in PyEdit when opened with its 'utf-8' encoding default.

Specifically—and for reasons known only to the underlying Tk GUI library it uses—PyEdit displays the first line of a file oddly if it begins with a Unicode BOM character not discarded by the encoding used to open it. The BOM's impact, though, varies per PyEdit platform:

On Linux
The effect is mild: the BOM renders as a blank character at the start of the first line, which you can skip over or delete as usual.

On Windows
The effect is moderate: the BOM renders as an invisible character at the start of the first line, which requires an extra right-arrow to skip over. It can, however, be deleted with a normal Delete press at the start of the first line (and a leap of faith...).

On Mac OS
The effect is worst: the first line's content appears to be doubled, and editing it is chaotic at best. The BOM is actually the first character of the duplicate-text line; it can be removed by deleting the first character displayed in the line, but this isn't obvious, and retyping the line may seem the only recourse.

In other words, the BOM is rendered as the first character of the first line—whether you can tell or not. To see what happens on your machine, run code like the following to emulate the BOM-happy policies of editors like Notepad, and open the created file in PyEdit as 'utf-8':

>>> open('spam.txt', 'w', encoding='utf-8-sig').write('spam\nSPAM\n')
>>> open('spam.txt', 'r', encoding='utf-8').read()

By contrast, PyEdit never discards or adds BOMs automatically, because it supports the full spectrum of Python Unicode encodings for both opens and saves, as a major distinguishing feature; it could not guess your wishes for BOMs in output, especially if they were stripped; and it refuses to enforce implicit global policies that are invariably incorrect in some contexts eventually. The last point is paramount; to be blunt, the simple-minded policies in other editors are the reason that HTML files sprouted unwanted and error-prone BOMs in the first place!

The Fix

Because explicit beats implicit in programs that you trust with your content, PyEdit expects you to clarify your BOM goals, by either:

Either approach works because 'utf-8-sig' discards a BOM if present on input, and only 'utf-8-sig' adds one back on output. If you go with the first option, be sure to use the correct encoding name on each PyEdit Open; the second option is a one-time delete, after which 'utf-8' will suffice for every Open.

You can arrange these combinations in PyEdit's configurations file by either fixing the open and/or save encodings, or having PyEdit ask for them (save's encoding defaults to open's if not fixed; see the end of your install's for more details). Some might even propose that PyEdit should automatically use the 'utf-8-sig' of these schemes for opens and/or saves, but magic is a very slippery slope: implicit BOM deletions and additions seem equally error-prone (and rude); this wouldn't work for people using other encodings like Latin-1; and most PyEdit users can safely ignore the issue altogether and stick with the preset 'utf-8' default.

In fact, if you don't care to deal with encoding names, you can generally accept the default 'utf-8' for both opens and saves, and simply delete any BOM characters as they are displayed in PyEdit, if and when they are added by other editors. The platform-specific renderings above give display details, but a delete at the top of the file suffices for all. This works well, but may not be as intuitive as explicit encoding names.

Either way, the net effect of deleting BOMs in PyEdit is also easy to verify in Python. The following was run after using the PyEdit Open/Save As combination on the UTF-8 web-page file we met earlier, to save to a "-nobom" BOM-free copy:

>>> b1 = open('purchase-pointers.html', 'rb').read()
>>> b2 = open('purchase-pointers-nobom.html', 'rb').read()
>>> b1[:50]
b'\xef\xbb\xbf$DOCTYPE$\n\n<HTML>\n\n<HEAD>\n\n<TITLE>Python Books:'
>>> b2[:50]
b'$DOCTYPE$\n\n<HTML>\n\n<HEAD>\n\n<TITLE>Python Books: Pu'
>>> b1[3:] == b2     # Just the dropped BOM differs

UTF-8 is common for web pages, but it's not the only offender. UTF-16 and UTF-32 files may also be BOM-ridden, though their encodings work oppositely. In UTF-16, the general 'utf-16' always both discards a BOM on input and adds one on output (like the specific 'utf-8-sig'); but the more specific 'utf-16-le' does neither (like the general 'utf-8'); and ditto for UTF-32. To you, this means 'utf-16' and 'utf-32' generally suffice in PyEdit, because they both strip and restore BOMs in files:

>>> open('spam16.txt', 'w', encoding='utf-16').write('1\n2\n3\n')
>>> open('spam16.txt', 'rb').read()
>>> open('spam16.txt', 'r', encoding='utf-16').read()
>>> open('spam16.txt', 'r', encoding='utf-16-le').read()

Finally, if you want to see which files in a folder tree may be clandestinely harboring BOMs, try something like the following (this code looks for UTF-8 BOMs in all HTML files in the current working directory; tweak as needed):

import os
for (adir, subs, files) in os.walk('.'):
    for file in files:
        if file.endswith(('.htm', '.html')):
            path = os.path.join(adir, file)
                text = open(path, 'r', encoding='utf8').read()
                print('Not UTF8:', path)
                if text[:1] == '\ufeff':         # Or try
                    print('BOM=>', path)         # This file has a BOM 

When run by command line, file click, IDLE, or PyEdit's own Run Code, your output will be similar to this:

Not UTF8: ./lp3e-updates-notes-python.html
Not UTF8: ./lp4e-preface-preview.html
BOM=> ./lp4e-updates-clarifications-first-printing.html
BOM=> ./lp4e-updates-clarifications-recent.html

For more background on the Unicode BOM—including more about its behavior in the UTF-16 and UTF-32 encodings omitted here for space—see the documentation at the top of the script on this site, as well as the more in-depth coverage in the Advanced Topics part of the book Learning Python. For related tips, also see the Unicode conversion note earlier on this page, and the next note.


PyEdit: More About Unicode Encoding Defaults (Mar-2018)

Speaking of PyEdit's configurations file: if you look at the Unicode settings near the end of, you'll notice that its fallback and prefill default encoding is sys.getdefaultencoding()—which is Python 3.X's default for string-object methods, and not locale.getpreferredencoding()—which is Python 3.X's default for open().

This is by design, because the former's UTF-8 setting is the same everywhere. If PyEdit used the latter, default file encodings could vary per platform. The net effect would be that people who work across multiple machines with different locale results (e.g., Unix and Windows) might have to remember where each file was last edited in order to provide an encoding that opens it properly! This is a major downside of 3.X's open() defaults, and one more reason that you should use explicit encodings whenever possible.

That said, if you generally work on just one platform and really want to use the locale module's setting (or any other value) as your PyEdit encoding default, it's easy to do so; the configurations file is just a Python module, after all:

import locale
opensEncoding = savesEncoding = locale.getpreferredencoding()

If you use locale and skip the encoding-input dialog, though, please remember that your files' encodings may vary per editing platform. Python 2.X allows the sys module's setting to vary too (it can be changed at start-up, and by dark hackery intentionally omitted here), but Python 3.X, PyEdit's implementation language, makes it more of a constant. For additional coverage of Python 3.X's encoding defaults, see the manuals or the overview in this article.

Update: be aware that 3.X file-encoding defaults in the locale module might also vary per environment settings, and this can have substantial consequences in some contexts. CGI scripts run on a server in a generic-user process, for example, might not have expected or required settings, and thus run with a basic encoding default like ASCII that won't handle richer types of text. Former victims of this subtle trap can be explored at this site's code-viewer and site-search CGI scripts.


All Apps: User Guides Mobile-Friendly Makeover (Apr-2018..Aug-2018)

This update is half release announcement and half usage pointer, so it shows up in both tables on this page. As of April 2018, the user guides of all major apps (i.e., programs) on this site are now mobile-friendly. These guides' content is unchanged, but they have been restyled for viewing on both desktop and mobile browsers and devices. They have also improved in general, if only cosmetically, marginally, and subjectively.

At this writing, the new mobile-friendly versions are currently available online only. The original desktop versions are still shipped in product zipfiles, and are opened by in-program help widgets by default (these are desktop-only programs, after all). The original versions are no longer kept online, as they are prone to fall out of sync with upgrades; see your zipfile for prior versions.

You can find the new mobile-friendly user guides on program pages, as well as here:

There are additional examples of how these render on mobile devices here and here; their desktop rendering is similar. These new versions may eventually find their way into zipped packages in future builds. For now, to use any one of the new user guides locally on your machine, simply save the new page's UserGuide.html file in your browser (e.g., via right-click), and place it in the root folder of your program's install location. These docs are self-contained HTML files.

Notice that the PyGadgets program is not listed above, because it has no user guide document; for usage pointers, see its README.txt file and the in-program help of each of the programs it launches. Also note that the screenshot pages of major desktop apps are still not mobile-friendly; given that they span some 75 indexes among 25 zipped products (5 apps, 5 products each, and 3 platform pages apiece), they too await future app releases.

Update: as of August 2018, the online versions of all apps' screenshots have now also been converted to be mobile-friendly, and have been refreshed to use the latest version of thumbspage and its viewer-navigation pages. Updating online was a smaller-scale task (just 15 index pages and folders among 5 zipfiles, one for each app including PyGadgets). The new screenshot galleries will be incorporated into app zip packages over time as they are rereleased. To see the new screenshots now, visit app screenshot pages here, or browse the full set in the live demos list here.


Mac Source: New Python Installers Include Tk 8.6 (May-2018)

As of spring 2018 and Pythons 3.6.5 and 2.7.15, now offers installers for Mac OS 10.9 and later that bundle Tcl/Tk 8.6. Assuming the new installs' Tks work properly, this means that users of any of the source-code versions of apps on this site who install these Pythons no longer need to install a Tk GUI library separately.

There are additional notes about this change on this page, and three fine points to keep in mind:

Verification results for the apps on this site will be posted here as time allows. As always, though, solutions of the past are still available if those of the present come up short.

Update: per early testing in May 2018, it now appears that the new Mac Python 3.6 + Tk 8.6 install may have serious issues, if not outright bugs. Notably, the new install crashed on a simple file-save dialog immediately after it was launched. While this does not impact apps or executables, such results make it difficult to recommend the new install for users of GUI source-code packages on this site. At the least, users of the new install should expect to find and resolve an arbitrary number of issues.

For the full story on the new install's testing results, see this post.


PyGadgets on Mac: PyPhoto Source, "Too many open files" (Aug-2018)

As uncovered in thumbspage, the third-party Pillow image library has a bug that can make it run into Too many open files errors during thumbnails generation in the PyPhoto program shipped with PyGadgets. In short, Pillow doesn't close image files when it should, which can cause it to breach system limits.

This can occur only for very large folders, and runs that generate very many new thumbnails (several hundred suffice). Moreover, it is generally a concern only when running PyPhoto's source code from a shell (a.k.a. Terminal) on Mac OS, because that platform's shell imposes a low open-files limit by default. This bug has not been seen to impact Windows, Linux, or users of PyPhoto in the PyGadgets Mac OS app. Where it does occur, the bug kills the PyPhoto GUI, but doesn't write or corrupt thumbnail information.

Luckily, the workaround is simple. When using source-code PyPhoto in a Mac OS shell, simply run the following command to raise the open-files limit before starting PyPhoto to view a large folder:

ulimit -n 9999

This handles as many images as you're ever likely to have in one folder, but use a higher number if needed. After running the above, launch PyPhoto's source code as usual:

python3 .../pygadgets/_PyPhoto/PIL/ -InitialFolder bigfolder

You can read much more about this Pillow issue in thumbspage's forked version of the module, available here. That module uses a code workaround that makes the ulimit fix above unnecessary, supports arbitrarily large folders everywhere, and may find its way into a future PyPhoto (the trick is to take manual control of file opens and closes). Given the obscurity of both the bug and use of PyPhoto's source code in general (even its author had to scrounge for details...), this is a low-priority item.

Update: PyPhoto eventually incorporated the thumbspage workaround too, in its 2.2 release that was included in PyGadgets' September 2018 rerelease. This means that PyPhoto, like thumbspage, is immune to the Pillow file-close bug. There's more on the PyPhoto patch release above.


showcode and PyEdit: The Perils of Mixed Unicode Encodings (Sep-2018)

This tip comes from showcode—a CGI script that loads files by trying candidate Unicode encodings in a list, and is used in conjunction with an Apache rewrite rule to display this site's code and other text files in HTML pages. showcode doesn't belong to the apps category, but this note's principles are widely applicable. Notably, they also touch on both genhtml, which uses a similar Unicode-choices scheme, and PyEdit, which relies on user inputs and defaults to correctly open and save files. Coders and users of any such system may find relevance here.

Short story: when using the showcode script, a site's displayable text files should generally all use a common Unicode encoding type for reliable display (e.g., UTF-8, which handles all text, and is the preset first candidate). Else, it's possible that some files may be loaded per an incorrect encoding if their data passes under other schemes. This is especially possible if files use several incompatible 8-bit encoding schemes: the first on the encodings list that successfully loads the data will win, and may munge some characters in the process.

The Issue

This issue cropped up in an older file at this site created with the CP-1252 (a.k.a. Windows-1252) encoding on Windows, whose tools have a nasty habit of silently using its native encodings. This file's slanted quotes failed to display correctly in showcode because Python happily loads the file as Latin-1 (a.k.a. ISO-8859-1), despite its non-Latin-1 quotes. The loaded text encodes as UTF-8 for transmission, but decodes with junk bytes.

Here's the story in code. Python does not allow the character to be encoded as Latin-1, in either manual method calls or implicit file-object writes. This is as it should be: the quote's 0x201c Unicode code point maps to and from byte value 0x93 in Windows' CP-1252, but is not defined in Latin-1's 8-bit-oriented character set:

>>> c = '“'               # run in Python 3.X 
>>> hex(ord(c))           # same in 2.X (using u'“',, print)

>>> c.encode('cp1252')    # valid in CP-1252, but not Latin-1
>>> c.encode('latin1')
UnicodeEncodeError: 'latin-1' codec can't encode character '\u201c' in position 0: ordinal not in range(256)

>>> n = open('temp', 'w', encoding='cp1252').write(c)
>>> n = open('temp', 'w', encoding='latin1').write(c)
UnicodeEncodeError: 'latin-1' codec can't encode character '\u201c' in position 0: ordinal not in range(256)

Conversely, decoding this character's CP-1252 byte to Latin-1 works both in manual method calls and file-object reads. This is presumably because byte value 0x93 maps to an obscure and unprintable "STS" C1 control character in some Latin-1 definitions, though the decoder may simply allow any 8-bit value to pass. It's not a CP-1252 quote in any event:

>>> b = b'\x93'
>>> b.decode('cp1252')    # the proper translation
>>> b.decode('latin1')    # but it's not a quote in latin1

>>> n = open('temp', 'wb').write(b)
>>> open('temp', encoding='cp1252').read()
>>> open('temp', encoding='latin1').read()    # <= what showcode did

This is problematic in showcode, because this script relies on encoding failures to find one that matches the data and translates its content to code points correctly. Because a CP-1252 file loads without error as Latin-1, its UTF-8 encoding for reply transmission is erroneous; the quote's code point never makes the cut:

>>> b.decode('cp1252').encode('utf8').decode('utf8')    # load, reply, browser
>>> b.decode('latin1').encode('utf8').decode('utf8')    # the Latin-1 munge...

>>> n = open('temp', 'w', encoding='utf8').write(b.decode('cp1252'))
>>> open('temp', encoding='utf8').read()
>>> n = open('temp', 'w', encoding='utf8').write(b.decode('latin1'))
>>> open('temp', encoding='utf8').read()

The net effect turns the quote into a garbage byte that browsers simply ignore (it's an odd box in Firefox's view-source, but is otherwise hidden).

The Fix

If your non-UTF-8 files are only CP-1252, replacing Latin-1 with CP-1252 in the encodings list fixes the issue. However, if your site's files use multiple encodings whose byte ranges overlap but map to different characters, using CP-1252 may fix some files but break others. Latin-1 files using the 0x93 control code, for example, would sprout quotes when displayed (unlikely, but true). The real issue here is that content of mixed encodings is inherently ambiguous in the Unicode model.

The better solution is to make sure your site's displayable text files don't use incompatible encoding schemes. At showcode's site, the simplest fix was to adopt UTF-8 as the site-wide encoding, by opening its handful of CP-1252 files as CP-1252, and saving as UTF-8. The set of suspect files can be easily isolated by trying UTF-8 opens (in a variation of other code on this page):

>>> import os
>>> textexts = ('.html', '.htm', '.py', '.pyw', '.txt')
>>> for (dirhere, subshere, fileshere) in os.walk('/Websites/path'):
...     for filename in fileshere:
...         if filename.endswith(textexts):    # or mimetypes
...             pathname = os.path.join(dirhere, filename)    
...             try:
...                 x = open(pathname, mode='r', encoding='utf8').read()
...             except:
...                 print('Failed:', pathname)

Converting to UTF-8 universally will not only help avoid corrupted text in showcode, it might also avoid issues in text editors that are given or guess encoding types. If you give the wrong encoding to an editor, saves may corrupt your data. If you expect a tool to deal with mixed encoding types, guessing may be its only recourse. But guessing is overkill; is impossible to do accurately anyhow; and is not science. Skip the drama and convert your files. We can't fix Unicode's built-in ambiguity, but we can take it out of the game.

Because mixed encodings are such a common concern, you'll find ample background on the web. As a sampler: learn about encoding guesses here; read more about the Latin-1 encoding here and here; and dig deeper into the politically charged Latin-1/CP-1252 encoding mess here and here.

Update: in light of the above, 'latin1' was eventually replaced by 'cp1252' in showcode's preset input-encodings list, to accommodate a few files at this site that are intentionally not UTF-8 (this is similar in spirit to the policies for parsing web pages in HTML5). CP-1252 is a superset of Latin-1 and should work more broadly, but change as needed for your site's files. This is still only a partial solution for mixed-content ambiguity; use a common Unicode type to avoid encoding mismatches altogether.

Footnote: Latin-1 Pass-Through (genhtml)

Subtly, some scripts, including this site's genhtml page builder, can often get away with treating CP-1252 files as Latin-1 files, because bytes whose interpretations differ between the two are passed through unchanged from load to save:

>>> c = '“'
>>> n = open('temp', 'w', encoding='cp1252').write(c)    # save as cp1252
>>> open('temp', 'r', encoding='cp1252').read()
>>> L = open('temp', 'r', encoding='latin1').read()      # load as Latin-1
>>> L
>>> n = open('temp', 'w', encoding='latin1').write(L)    # save as Latin-1
>>> open('temp', 'r', encoding='cp1252').read()          # retains CP-1252 quote
>>> open('temp', 'rb').read()                            # 0x93's meaning varies  

In other words, what Latin-1 reads and writes as 0x93 is still to CP-1252. This means that 'latin1' generally works as well as 'cp1252' and other 8-bit encodings in genhtml and other pass-through contexts. In fact, it's tempting to think of Latin-1 files as bytes files, because their encoded values are also code-point values for the characters Latin-1 supports:

>>> x = 'Ä'
>>> ord(x)                        # Ä is code point 196
>>> x.encode('latin1')            # a non-ASCII byte
>>> x.encode('latin1')[0]         # Latin-1 encoded bytes == code points
>>> chr(196)

But this analogy doesn't quite survive contact with Unicode reality. For one thing, Latin-1 can't decode text encoded outside its 8-bit range—whether the text's characters are in the Latin-1 alphabet or not:

Latin-1 characters
>>> x = 'Ä'
>>> x.encode('utf8'), x.encode('utf16')    # Latin-1 can't load these 
(b'\xc3\x84', b'\xff\xfe\xc4\x00')

>>> x.encode('latin1').decode('latin1')    # file save, file load
>>> x.encode('utf8').decode('latin1')      # not an 8-bit encoding

Non-Latin-1 characters
>>> c = '⻨'
>>> hex(ord(c))                            # code point is > 8 bits
>>> c.encode('utf8')                       # encoding is > 8 bits
>>> c.encode('utf8').decode('utf8')        # Latin-1 can't encode or decode
>>> c.encode('utf8').decode('latin1')

For another, even in the limited 8-bit world, Latin-1's results will fail to match text outside its character set (this was ultimately to blame for showcode's missing quotes):

Load/save pass-through works
>>> '“'.encode('cp1252').decode('latin1').encode('latin1').decode('cp1252')

But comparisons may not
>>> '“'.encode('cp1252').decode('latin1') == '“'    # cp1252's meaning is lost

Though only for non-Latin-1 code points
>>> for char in 'xē':
...     print(char.encode('cp1252').decode('cp1252') == char,    # load as cp1252
...           char.encode('cp1252').decode('latin1') == char)    # load as latin1
True True
True True
True False

In the end, Latin-1's pass-through behavior is a mixed bag:

Using the correct encoding—and preferably just one encoding—is still the safest bet.

Footnote: Bytes Mode May Suffice Too (ip-anon)

It's worth adding that, in some use cases, it's also possible to sidestep encoding dilemmas altogether by processing files in bytes (not text) mode. This works if the use case does not need to support text matches for arbitrary Unicode keys (genhtml does), and does not need to handle and communicate encodings explicitly for proper display in a web browser (showcode does).

For example, a script that needs to replace an all-ASCII string of bytes in mixed-encoding files can generally get by with bytes-mode files and ASCII text comparisons, as long as the ASCII search string is stored as one ASCII byte per character in all files. This scheme won't work if any UTF-16 files are lurking about (their encoded ASCII text is not simple bytes), but will suffice for mixes of UTF-8, Latin-1, and others.

For one such tactical script that works this way, see By using bytes mode, this script manages to update nearly arbitrary Unicode files while remaining fully encoding agnostic. Any CP-1252 characters in the files, for example, are simply more bytes to be blindly copied.

Footnote: Encoding Guesses, If You Must (chardet)

It's also worth noting that accurately guessing encoding from text content is impossible (and not advised in contexts where declarations or standards are available), but the third-party chardet Python library described here may assist in use cases that have no other recourse. It's unknown how well this library may address the Latin-1/CP-1252 confusion.

But don't quote me on that. (Hey, I had to get a pun on this page somewhere...)


Mergeall on Android: It Runs — but It Doesn't Work (Sep-2018)

The Mergeall incremental-backup and content-propagation program has recently been tested on Android devices, as a possible way to simplify synchronization of onboard content copies. Merges between the external SD card and a connected USB flashdrive, for example, might make it unnecessary to pop the SD card in and out of the phone. Results so far have been illuminating but mixed—and in the end, exemplary of the designed-in limitations of mobile devices in general.

The Good News

Although Mergeall's GUI cannot be used on Android, both its interactive-console and command-line-script usage modes run as advertised on that platform, and without any code changes. For example, the console mode can be used in the QPython3 app, and the command-line mode can be run in the Termux app after installing its Python package (these apps currently run source code with Python 3.2 and 3.6, respectively; QPython also offers a 2.X option). Mergeall's GUI mode won't work, because it is based on the Tk desktop GUI toolkit which has yet to be ported to Android. The underlying Mergeall script which its GUI launches, however, can be used directly anywhere that Python runs—an advantage of decoupled program architecture.

The Bad News

While Mergeall's console and command-line modes on Android can correctly read and compare files on both SD cards and USB flashdrives (using their /storage/xxxx-xxxx access paths on devices tested), these modes still cannot change content on either type of device. This unfortunately makes Mergeall mostly useless on Android: its comparison phase works well, but its resolution phase fails to update any files, and produces an error message for each change attempted. In other words, Mergeall is currently a comparison-only tool on Android; it cannot be used to update archives on SD cards or USB drives for changes.

The Android Showstopper

The update failures stem from Android's convoluted and wildly proprietary permissions model, which does not directly support the paradigm of general command-line scripts. In short, apps—including those that execute text-file scripts—run a sandbox, which by design restricts access to writeable media in ways that vary per Android version, and may involve dedicated folders, app manifests, Java-oriented code to trigger permission dialogs, and unique APIs and filesystem requirements for USB drives.

Some Android file explorer apps use these measures to support updates to SD and USB media. For a cross-platform file-processing program like Mergeall, though, such constraints are crippling, if not lethal. Android may be based on Linux (really, SELinux), but it's been gutted of much of the Linux development experience, and most of its open-access philosophy.

The Android Workaround

Because the permissions and access code required by Android is too custom to integrate into Mergeall without substantial changes, users of both systems today are encouraged to employ an Android device with a removable SD card. When it's time to synchronize either to or from your phone's content copy, simply pop the card out and merge on a real computer; any Mac OS, Windows, or true Linux device will do.

It's not impossible that a future Mergeall could support use on Android directly. The program already has some unique code for each desktop platform, though none impose third-party dependencies as Android would (a port would minimally require a Python-to-Java interface for permissions, and may necessitate a complete and custom Android app). As it stands, however, the only conceived use case does not justify the effort.

It's worth noting that this post pertains to devices as they are shipped. "Rooting" (a.k.a. "jailbreaking") yours may open up additional Mergeall prospects. This option was not tested, because rooting is not possible for every user and device, and is strongly and even actively discouraged by most hardware and software vendors—which brings us to this post's conclusion.

The Mobile Corral

Mergeall issues aside, it's difficult to recommend mobile platforms for content storage in general. The net effect of Android's proprietary permissions model both limits device scope and locks down user options—outcomes surely much more in line with the goals of multiple revenue-seeking parties, than those of device owners. This is hardly a basis for trust in a data-storage relationship.

Nor is Android the only rustler in the mobile corral. iOS is even more closed, with no general-purpose filesystem or removable media to be found, and a complete lockout of software outside the company store. This is about as proprietary as a computer system can be (and would almost certainly have raised government eyebrows in decades past).

As a result of both of these systems' practices and dominance, mobile users are compelled to choose between one platform seemingly designed to reap advertising data and boost cloud subscriptions, and another ostensibly crafted to trap users' media and coerce brand dependency. These may not be the best places to keep your cherished photos and personal documents.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Today's mobile options are far too pervasive and powerful to justify user-experience constraints. In a world where computing-device companies truly have their customers' best interests at heart, interoperability would take a back seat only to privacy. Let's hope that world shows up soon.

Update: per the next section, an approach for running Mergeall on Android using Termux command lines (or a Pydroid 3 tkinter GUI) was eventually discovered—though removable-drive content must be nested oddly and may be deleted automatically; an Android timestamps bug means that syncs don't work at all until Oreo; a Samsung Android exFAT timestamps bug means that Mergeall removable content should be stored on FAT32 drives until Android 10; and the solution comes with so many requirements that you may still prefer to yank out your SD card. While they last...

Update: in March 2019, it looks like Android Q (a.k.a. 10), its next version, may further lock down the platform by restricting access to internal (unremovable) storage. This version is still in beta and its final policies are unknown. Given the track record of mobile operating systems, though, expecting the worst qualifies as common sense. For more details, see the overview.

Update: in late 2019, iOS 13 added support for content on USB drives, and a filesystem of sorts accessible from the stock Files app only (though apps can make use of the Files framework). This isn't nearly the same as the general-purpose storage available on PCs, though, and the store-only lockdown for apps remains in place. Android's storage has historically been more flexible too, but it's also been historically prone to change, and now seems headed towards a restrictive model in Android 11 which is strikingly similar.

Update: the iOS App-store collar is getting tighter. You've probably already heard about Apple removing Epic's popular Fortnite game from the App store in 2020 for not abiding by all its commission rules, but it merits a link here. Hey Apple—your greed is showing!

Update: As of January 2021, Android 11 (f.k.a. R) is now known to have revoked general USB-drive access, radically throttled down programs that process files in shared storage, introduced new program glitches, and hobbled content-processing apps with constricted permissions. It's about as bad as expected; read the summary ahead, and the full chronicles on the Android 11 updates page.


Mergeall on Android: It Works — but with Constraints (Jan-2019)

Per later research, it turns out that permissions were not the real showstopper on Android. Until 2017's Oreo (version 8), Android had a bug that made it impossible to copy file modification timestamps on non-rooted phones: file content copied correctly, but all files would be stamped with the time that the copy was made. This rendered content-sync programs like Mergeall completely unusable on Androids 7 (Nougat) and earlier. That is, Mergeall could not be used for much of Android's tenure, permissions or not, and it remains unusable for many Android users with older phones today.

The upside is that this bug has finally been fixed as of Oreo (in brief, by replacing a FUSE-based scheme with Samsung's SDCardFS). This fix, together with a permissions-granting tool added to the Termux command-line app, means that Mergeall can now be used on Android to synchronize on-phone content with a USB drive — if you are willing and able to:

See the new how-to guide for full details, as well as a set of precoded helper-scripts that simplify Mergeall command lines for smartphone use, and a brief look at the tkinter GUI runner-up alternative. Neither command lines nor the GUI come without drawbacks, but they do work without rooting your device or pulling your SD card. It's not impossible that a standalone Mergeall app may someday make command lines, IDEs, and content nesting unnecessary, but the Android Oreo+ requirement would still be firm, and FAT32 would remain recommended for removable-drive content until Samsung's exFAT fix in Android 10.


All Apps: How to Run tkinter GUIs on Android (Feb-2019)

The Mergeall-on-Android thread of the last two notes has grown radically in scope: there is now a provisional guide for using the tkinter GUIs of Mergeall, Frigcal, PyEdit, PyGadgets, and PP4E book examples on Android devices, by running them in the Pydroid 3 app's IDE. View the guide online here.

This guide is marked as provisional because debugging on Android tkinter is ongoing, required code changes have not yet been merged into base source-code packages, and development of standalone apps for some of these programs is a long-range possibility. Still, you can use these programs on your Android smartphone today with just a few steps outlined in the guide (and tolerance of a few glitches and freemium advertising in the hosting app).


All Apps: Use SSDs or Source for Faster Windows Starts (Apr-2020)

Due to the initial unpacking required by PyInstaller single-file executables, app startups can be relatively slow on Windows, especially if your system disk is a hard drive. PyInstaller is also used to build Linux executables, but that platform's fast file access generally makes it immune to this issue (though a given device's speed may naturally vary).

This known issue is described in full in the apps' READMEs. It doesn't impact source-code package; isn't a factor for Mac OS apps, because they are bundled as source code plus a Python; and is a minor concern for most apps because startups are one-time events. It can be a substantial negative for PyEdit, though, and more so if you've associated text files to open it on clicks; 5-10 second waits have been seen on older machines, and that's too long by today's standards.

For best results on Windows, either:

As an example, PyEdit opens can be as fast as 2 seconds on one 2020 PC with SSD under Windows 10, though your speed may vary, and you may still find this slow. Start-up speed on the same device is the same for executable and source code under Linux.

If you opt to instead go with source code on Windows, you can still open PyEdit by clicking it, and may still be able to associate PyEdit to open text files clicked with the provided pyedit.bat; for more details, see the PyEdit user guide here and here.

Of course, you can also open PyEdit just once, and open each file with its Open menu/toolbar/shortcut command (in a new Popup window if desired); but that may seem less direct than text-file clicks to users accustomed to some platforms' GUI paradigms.

Update: Per testing in late 2020, it now appears that Linux frozen executables open just as fast as their source-code versions, especially when loaded from an SSD on recently released computers. This is also true when opening programs by file clicks on Linux, using the new usage tips available here. Hence, this note applies mostly just to Windows today, and has been updated accordingly; program READMEs may still count Linux in the slow-start category.


Mac OS: That Upper-Left Artifact May Be a Tk Console (Apr-2020)

On Mac OS, programs which use the Tk toolkit—like the apps at this site—sometimes produce a very small (and very weird) vertical line in the upper-left corner of the display, like this. Though formerly assumed to be a screen artifact, this now appears to be related to a default and automatic Tk console window: "console" sometimes shows up in App Exposé displays, and clicking on the line opens a half-operational window in which typing an exit command (when possible) closes both the window and the odd line.

These findings are still preliminary, but this console seems broken, and its appearance seems to be a bug. The line appears sporadically; clicking it produces a window that is incomplete and inoperative until it's minimized and restored; neither the line nor the window was requested by code; and this is the sort of glitch that tends to be Tk-version specific on Mac OS. So far, this has been observed only for the Tk 8.5 frozen into this site's apps, though its full scope is unclear.

If the odd little line is also too distracting to ignore: click, minimize/restore, and exit to kill the "artifact" if and when it appears, until this can be explored more fully and resolved in the context of app rereleases.


Mac Apps: More on Ignoring First-Run Warnings (Apr-2020)

Short story: first-run warnings are just as intimidating as ever on Mac OS, but you can still freely run trusted independent apps like those at this site after an initial right-click Open (and new permissions steps covered in the next note).


This note is an update to 2017's coverage, with expanded details for Mac OS app users. As of early 2020, you can still run this site's "unblessed" apps on Mac OS Catalina, despite both the misinformation about this going away, and the stupidly scary messages that now pop up on some first opens. With a modest one-time effort—and a healthy distrust of authority—independent apps available outside the Apple store, including those at this site, are still fully usable on Mac OS today.

This story has grown more convoluted with recent notarization requirements, which are not important to cover here. For more details, and proposed work-arounds, click the warning's ? button, read Apple's own docs, or wander the results of web searches like this. Among the advice: a sudo spctl --master-disable in Terminal may loosen Gatekeeper's shackles in full, but it's potentially dangerous, and probably overkill in this context.

The easiest way to launch apps that trigger first-run warnings is still this:

  1. Use a two-finger (or right or control) click of the app's icon in Finder to open a menu
  2. In this menu, click Open to produce a marginally friendlier message
  3. In this message, click Open to clear the app to always immediately run

You only have to do this once per app, and only for apps that trigger the nasty warnings when first run; once approved this way, an app opens normally on every later run. As a slightly more involved alternative, the Security & Privacy preferences screen still gives you an option to open a denied app for "about an hour" (that's apparently how long you're allowed to agonize over how to use your own computer).

Curiously, you may also have to clear other apps fetched outside the Apple Mac App Store today—even those of other tech Goliaths. A trend to be sure, but its intent is unknown. Mac OS could, of course, eventually move to a full store-only approach like Windows 10 S—and Apple's own iOS—but that would drive far too many developers and users away from this open Unix platform to ever happen. Right?

Update: this plot has regrettably thickened—see also the following notes about app-quarantine states in Sierra; root-folder lockout in Catalina; and other opinion-based changes in Mac OS that break independent apps (and strain developer loyalty). The bad news: after opening an app, you may still need to ensure that it has permission to use its own folder. The good news: two techniques outlined in the next note (alternative zips and quarantine removals) may also avoid first-run warnings. The related news: Google's just as bad.

Update: and more hits from the same genre—the disturbing scene on Mac OS Catalina, when trying to print with an HP driver that has been used without issue for years. There's no "may" or "might" here; just a misleading and stark warning that a trusted driver "will damage your computer." Honestly, Apple, this stuff is out of control; what's your problem? Please stop keeping us safe from developers who do not pay you a commission.


Mac OS Sierra+: Restore Own-Folder Access for Non-Store Apps (Apr-2020)

Short story: in Mac OS Sierra (10.12) and later, you may need to explicitly grant apps downloaded from the general Internet permission to write to their own folders. Else, some apps—including the PyMailGUI, Frigcal, and PyEdit apps available at this site—may either be unable to provide some utility, or fail to launch altogether. You can grant own-folder permission by simply unzipping and moving apps to another folder with Finder; unzipping apps with a different zip tool; or running a "nuclear-option" xattr command in Terminal to clear the stigma of quarantine for trusted independent apps.

The Damage

This preceding note covered the requirement to give unsigned apps like those at this site permission to open on Macs. As it turns out, the proprietary-lockdown story in Mac OS (recently rebranded yet again, as macOS) is broader than formerly told: beginning with Sierra, Mac OS also runs apps downloaded outside Apple's Mac App Store in a read-only working directory, with a randomized path name—like this one. This creates a kind of app purgatory, which limits apps' utility; combined with intimidating first-run warnings, Mac OS is now clearly discriminating against non-store apps.

This change is generally known as Gatekeeper path randomization, though the terser "translocation" seems to have risen to the fore too. This page doesn't have space to cover it in full, but you can read more about it on the web here, and try searches here and here. In brief, the change's rationale was a security issue that seems wildly obscure, but its fruit is widespread breakages for non-store apps, which can both deprive users of helpful programs, and appear to developers as an ominous and coercive move towards iOS's pay-and-conform-or-else model. In truth, Apple's store-only mandate in iOS would be disastrous for an open Unix desktop platform like Mac OS; if you cannot run your own apps on your own computer, what sort of device is it?

We'll put aside the conspiracy theories for now, but this change does have tangible consequences today: it can ensnare and cripple any non-store app that needs to record program state information, including those that auto-update themselves in place, or don't quite meet the tightening requirements (even recent Pythons weren't immune). At this site specifically, three of the five Mac OS apps available are substantially broken by the Sierra change:

Without user intervention, such apps' own-folder file writes will fail on permission errors in Sierra and later only, yielding either reduced functionality or complete unusability. This site's Mergeall and PyGadgets are spared from the carnage, but only because they have no need to write state information to their own folder (and you'll still get a scary warning when your first try to run them).

The Fixes

Luckily, the lockdown is still reversible, and the fixes are easy—though oddly convoluted and weakly documented. To keep this simple, we'll focus only on apps shipped as zipfiles, like those at this site. For such packages fetched off the web and outside the Apple store, there are three simple ways to give back own-folder permissions to unzipped apps, presented here by increasing complexity:

Move the app anywhere
If you've unzipped a downloaded app by Finder click (which technically runs the Archive Utility handler), simply moving the unzipped app to the usual /Applications folder with Finder is enough to restore its permissions. In fact, using Finder to move the app anywhere suffices to break the translocation spell and reinstate permissions; unless apps are run from their unzip location (e.g., Downloads), this issue may be a moot point. Unfortunately, though, casual browsers may be naturally inclined to test-drive an app in Downloads, and run into problems.
Don't unzip with Finder
You can also avoid translocations altogether by simply unzipping apps with a tool that doesn't brand the result as suspect. The ziptools program at this site, for example, includes an extract script that does at least as well as Finder clicks. When unzipped with this script instead of Finder, apps run without permission restrictions anywhere. As a substantial bonus, they are also not subject to the first-run warnings of the prior note. Though not app-specific, ziptools may do better on metadata propagation and time changes too; see its page.
Delete quarantine attributes
If you're willing to run a command line, you can also restore app permissions with a simple xattr command to remove the app's quarantine attribute stamped onto downloads. Like alternative unzips, this also avoids first-run warnings. Finder, and the tools it spawns, apparently implement their constraints by this attribute's content, not its presence; it may still be attached to apps that have been approved and cleared by moves. Forcibly removing the attribute, however, defeats the new security constraints altogether (and is arguably safer than globally disabling Gatekeeper).

If you opt to use the last option above, open Terminal, and run the following commands to remove the quarantine attribute that paralyzes the apps you've downloaded from this site:

% xattr -r -d foldername/PyMailGUI
% xattr -r -d foldername/Frigcal
% xattr -r -d foldername/PyEdit

Replace the foldername part with the folder in which you've downloaded and unzipped the apps—for instance, ~/Downloads or ~/Desktop (it can also be /Applications, but these commands aren't required if you move apps there with Finder after unzipping). If these commands raise errors, add a sudo at their front and enter your login password when prompted. This command form can be used to remove the quarantine scourge from other apps too, by using a different name at the end; try a man xattr in Terminal for more details.

You can also verify the presence of the attribute before going to the bother of removing it, with either of the following in Terminal; per the last list item above, though, a reply doesn't necessarily mean that the app is still in Mac OS purgatory:

% xattr foldername/PyMailGUI
% ls -l@ foldername/PyMailGUI

After you use one of the three methods above to grant an app permission to write in its own folder, the app will run forevermore in its true folder; without additional errors; regardless of where it is located; and just like it did before Sierra—which brings us to this note's conclusion.


This change went unnoticed because apps on this site were developed and tested on El Capitan to maximize their forward compatibility, and later usage skirted it by either post-unzip moves or direct copies from external drives (both of which skip the drama in full). It also went unreported by users in some 3 years, so its severity is unclear. Although some Mac OS Sierra+ users may have gotten lucky with moves, others sadly may have given up on the apps in silence. Sadder still, some users may have simply grown accustomed to the added inconveniences of their platform.

This change also probably merits a longer diatribe than this page can accommodate. For here, it will have to suffice to note that own-folder lockouts, along with first-run warnings, are clearly antagonistic towards independent developers most. Indeed, there seems a trend among tech companies in recent years to be increasingly dismissive of the very people developing programs and content that support the company's products. This is certainly one way to do business, but it's also one way that products can wane.

In fairness, you should also read Apple's own twisted tale of some of the new Mac OS security constraints here, and draw your own conclusions. To independent developers, though, it's impossible not to view this as something akin to extortion. If you don't pay Apple's developer fees and conform to its rules, your app will be disabled, labeled malicious, and almost certainly get fewer users as a result. What else could that sound like?


Mac OS Catalina+: All Your Root Folder Are Belong to Us (Apr-2020)

Short story: in Mac OS Catalina (10.15) and later, you cannot store any user content in the top-level root folder of your system drive—as many of the examples for this site's apps do. Store content in your per-user home folder or elsewhere instead, and update any references to former root-level paths.


Mac OS seems to be growing more locked down with each release: in addition to the first-run warnings and own-folder lockouts discussed earlier, starting with Catalina you also can no longer store your own files or folders at the top-level root (a.k.a. /) of your main system drive. That is now reserved for Mac OS's own files and is read-only for you; user content is instead relegated to a special-cased volume.

You can read more about this change and its rationales both in the Apple overview, and via the usual searches. The simple upshot is that your computer's root folder is no longer yours to use; you'll generally have to store content in your /Users/you (a.k.a. ~ in shell-speak) folder instead, and deal with the resulting longer pathnames on every access.

The inconvenience of this naturally depends on your use cases. Desktop shortcuts and Finder favorites can help, but they don't always apply. For example, you may also have to change absolute paths from former root-level folders in symlinks, environment variables, program configurations, and utility scripts—any one of which may prove to be a substantial task. Apple seems unlikely to reimburse you for the time, but scripts like this can help. It may also be possible to unlock the root with system-level heroics (e.g., try this forum), but this is easily complex and perilous enough to qualify as impractical and preclusive for most users.

In terms of this site, examples provided with its apps broadly use and recommend the root folder for storage, because it was a useful and sanctioned technique which made paths shorter and quicker to use in most contexts. Until these apps can be updated and rereleased, you'll have to pardon and ignore root paths used in such examples; alas, like many recent Mac OS changes, the new rules create extra work for developers that is growing increasingly difficult to justify.

Though irrelevant to apps here, Mac OS Catalina also:

Along with root-folder lockout, such changes may appease the personal preferences of a regime du jour, but they can have arbitrarily negative impacts on the programs, tools, and practice of others. In the absence of clear user benefit, this qualifies as rude.


So, for those of you playing along at home... we've now seen first-run warnings, own-folder lockouts, root-folder shutdowns, and a constrained platform that's becoming a lot less pleasant to use for all but the naive and imaginary audience to which Mac OS seems to be pandering. Time will tell if customers savvy enough to appreciate this platform's advantages will also be forgiving enough to suffer its increasingly opinion-based breakages.

Update: The carnage generated by Mac OS's thrashing is about to get thicker. In 2020, Apple announced plans to abandon Intel chips in favor of its own, thereby deprecating every program previously compiled for Mac OS. A translation (really, emulation) tool may keep some existing programs running for a few more years, albeit slowly. Given the company's track record in this department, however, all programs built for the Mac OS platform in recent years (including apps at this site) are now officially on life support, and those that cannot be rebuilt are already on death row. Windows doesn't generally cull developers' work this way; it also dominates the PC market.

[Back to Index]


Windows Apps: More on Ignoring First-Run Warnings (May-2020)

Short story: much as on Mac OS, you have to approve the frozen Windows executables here the first time they run, because they are not officially registered with Microsoft. And never shall be.


This note applies to all Windows frozen executables (a.k.a. apps) available on this site. Much like the Mac OS first-run warnings described earlier on this page, Windows 10 will pop up a intentionally scary warning the first time you try to launch independent programs like those at this site. The authorization process is simple, though the steps can vary across machines:

Naturally, these warnings won't appear when running apps' source-code versions with an installed Python which passes Windows' trustability test. Also naturally, the same concerns about platform lockdown on Mac OS apply to Windows 10 too, though the latter's track record of backwards-compatible support is tangibly better.

That said, Windows has already blatantly flirted with a store-apps-only paradigm in 10 S, and the next two notes chronicle glaring exceptions to Windows backward compatibility—and further call out a field which seems much more bent on thrashing and control than legacy support.


Windows 10, PyMailGUI: SSL Email May Kill 64-Bit App—Only (May-2020)

Short story: Due to library skew, the 64-bit PyMailGUI executable may silently crash for secure email accounts on some Windows 10 systems. Use PyMailGUI's 32-bit executable or its source-code version instead.


Attention PyMailGUI users on Windows 10: due to an open issue regarding SSL library skew on your platform, the 64-bit PyMailGUI executable app may crash without any error message when first connecting to SSL (secure) email servers. The remedy is to run either the 32-bit PyMailGUI executable, or run the source-code version of PyMailGUI with an installed Python. Both of these fixes avoid this issue in full on systems tested, though the 32-bit app may have simply gotten lucky after other program installs; use the source if all apps fail.

You can hunt for more details on this glitch in searches like this. Though the exact cause remains TBD, the leading theory is that it involves library support that differs across Windows or Python versions. Per evidence so far, the crash:

Watch for more details here if and when they arise. Whatever the cause, though, the crashes were clearly triggered by a change external to PyMailGUI. The now-crash-prone PyMailGUI 64-bit app was built on Windows 7 with Python 3.5, and has been used extensively for many years on many devices. In theory, it should both run on later versions of Windows, and be immune to later Python installs. In reality, "should" has a way of morphing into "doesn't" in both Windows and software in general.


Windows 10: How to Fix Blurry tkinter GUIs (May-2020)

Short story: on Windows 10, you'll probably need to deblur Tk/tkinter GUIs by checking a high-DPI scaling option in executables' Properties dialogs. For most displays, this is required for all Windows apps (a.k.a. frozen executables) at this site, as well as Python itself when it is used to run such GUIs in source-code form.

The Issue

This note applies to all tkinter GUIs on this site when run on Windows 10. Windows 10 has had issues with blurry GUIs since its inception, and has still not resolved them in full. This impacts all the Windows frozen-executable apps at this site, as well as their source-code versions. For both app and source, GUIs based on the tkinter library (and its Tk scaffolding) initially display horribly blurry—almost to the point of unusability.

While not exactly a great first impression, the blurring is an unavoidable consequence of Windows' choices regarding high-resolution displays that are out of scope here; in short, an arguably misguided touch-screen dogma rendered most text and GUIs unreadable. Many programs have worked around the blurring by now (e.g., most web browsers are sharp today), but some of Windows' own system dialogs are still munged, and the Tk library undergirding Python's tkinter is still blurry in the latest Python 3.8/TK 8.6 install.

The Fix

Luckily, a simple though manual fix is now provided by Windows 10 itself. To sharpen tkinter GUIs, you just have to toggle a switch that controls rendering on high-DPI displays, as follows:

  1. In File Explorer, find and rightclick the executable whose GUI is blurry
  2. In the resulting menu, select Properties
  3. In the resulting dialog, click the Change high DPI settings button in the Compatibility tab
  4. In the resulting dialog, click (enable) the Override high DPI scaling behavior checkbox
  5. Retain the Application selection in the Scaling performed by list

For reference, here's what the DPI dialog at step 4 looks like. After running all the steps above, the result is deblurred and radically sharper GUI displays—of the sort that were normal before Windows 10's fuzzy adventure. The fix's before and after for some apps at this site is captured in screenshots here, here, and here (which, hopefully, render legibly on your Windows 10 box).

You need to apply this fix just once per program, but you'll want do this for both:

The main executable of each blurry app (only)
If an app has both a main launcher GUI executable and other executable GUIs opened by the launcher, you usually need to apply this to only the launcher, not its launchees. At this site, for example, PyMailGUI, Frigcal, and PyGadgets all come with launcher executables that should be defuzzed; their launchees don't need the fix unless they are also run directly.
The Python executables for source-code runs
If you opt to install a Python and run the source-code versions of this site's apps (or any other tkinter GUI, for that matter), you'll need to apply the fix to the python.exe executable for typical scripts, as well as its pythonw.exe cousin for .pyw non-console scripts; both of these executables are located in the Python install folder. This will have the effect of deblurring all tkinter GUIs run by the fixed Python as source code.

There are other ways to fix the blurring, some of which predate the Windows 10 option above, but we'll omit them here for space. To dig deeper, see the searches here and here, as well as the coverage in PyEdit's User Guide here; to date, a fix was apparently applied to the Python's IDLE GUI around 3.6, but not to Python itself, which leaves all users' GUIs fuzzed.

Also note that some systems with lower-resolution displays may be spared from all this muck. Users of older versions of Windows are also immune, just because your system hails from a more gilded age which predates what can only be characterized as a horrendous defect that still eludes Microsoft's full attention years after its inception (and if we had a nickel for every time... ah, never mind).


Windows, Mergeall, ziptools: Path-Limit Option in Python 3.6+ (May-2020)

Short story: On recent Windows 10 systems,'s installers for Python 3.6 and later include an option to automatically remove the Windows platform's former path-length limit. Mergeall and ziptools instead use a manual but more-inclusive technique to lift the limit for users of all Pythons and all Windows. Though useful, the Python 3.6+ enhancement doesn't apply to users of Windows 7 and 8, Pythons 2.X through 3.5, or frozen executables.


As of Python 3.6 and on recent Windows 10 versions, if you install Python using the standard installers, the last screen will offer to remove the draconian path-length limit formerly imposed by Windows, like this. This option won't appear if you've manually enabled the override with registry settings or otherwise; where available, though, this is a useful and convenient way to break the former 260-character constraint for scripts run by the installed Python.

By contrast, this site's Mergeall and ziptools programs instead lift the path-length limits by using manual coding techniques described here and here, which work for all Pythons and all Windows. While the new Python 3.6+ option is a welcome addition, it's important to remember that it doesn't apply to and won't help users:

The first two bullets in this list in particular describe substantial audiences, which wouldn't be served by requiring programs to be used only on the latest Python and Windows 10. Despite the PR, a few years doesn't imply obsolescence for most users, and software that mandates the latest and greatest when it doesn't have to can be fairly accused of being exclusionary.

Hence, while the manual fix adopted by Mergeall and ziptools may seem redundant to the subset of users running source-code programs with Python 3.6+ on up-to-date Windows 10 installs, it still applies to the very large audience of everyone else, and will remain in place... at least until the software world stumbles onto a way to fully erase a pesky past which prevents it from wholly ignoring and negating decades of prior art. Happily, that day seems more distant with each new set of glitches added by mandatory updates on machines near you.


Mergeall on Linux: exFAT, FAT32, and modtimes (Nov/Dec-2020)

File modification times (modtimes for short) are required for fast change detection in the Mergeall content backup/propagation system. On Linux, the modtimes on external USB drives that you use as your Mergeall FROM or TO may pose problems, depending on both the filesystems your drives use, and the way your Linux is configured. In short, as of late 2020:

These limitations are unique to Linux, and do not exist on Mac OS, Windows, or most Androids. Moreover, these two filesystems are generally your only free options for drives that will be used interoperably across a device mix that may include arbitrary PCs and smartphones. Sans third-party extensions, Mac OS doesn't write Windows' NTFS, and other filesystems like Linux's Ext4 and Mac OS's HFS+ and APFS are not supported universally.

This note presents the highlights of the exFAT and FAT32 stories on Linux today. Its findings reflect testing on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS in December 2020, and are prone (and even likely) to change in the future. For current Linux Mergeall users, though, the present status of interoperable filesystems matters.

exFAT on Linux: Broken Both Ways

As of this writing, the exFAT filesystem has been open sourced, and added to Linux proper. Because Ubuntu 20 incorporates the Linux kernel in which the exFAT support was added, there are two different ways to drive exFAT on this platform: with the new support in the kernel (version 5.4), or the older third-party package exfat-fuse (version 1.3.0-1). To test both, you can switch between the two in Terminal like this:

$ sudo apt remove exfat-fuse     # fall back on kernel support
$ sudo apt install exfat-fuse    # reinstate third-party support

Unfortunately, neither option gets exFAT modtimes right today. When mounting an exFAT USB drive in the PST time zone (which is -8 hours from UTC) on a dual-boot Linux install:

No, really. These stunningly bad results were verified on a second exFAT drive; both the Nautilus (a.k.a. Files) GUI and Terminal ls commands give the same times; drives were ejected and the system restarted between readings; and the commands used to help FAT32 in the next section had no effect. Something is clearly amiss with exFAT on Linux.

While both exFAT driver options botch modtimes consistently, exfat-fuse is less wrong, and the way it's wrong is curiously similar to an earlier exFAT bug on Samsung Android, which was reported and eventually fixed per the chronicle here. For its part, the kernel alternative may additionally harbor a nasty bug that can incorrectly and silently increment months by one; in fact, this is so bad that it may damage your data, and probably shouldn't be used until repaired.

In sum, unless you manage to find and install a better exFAT implementation, or change either internal- or external-drive modtimes to agree with their counterpart, exFAT is unusable for Mergeall on Linux today. This undoubtedly reflects Linux's historical and long-standing aversion to exFAT's former intellectual-property constraints, and may naturally improve in the future; to check in on the current status of exFAT on Linux, watch the web.

One manual but usable work-around worth noting here: even if there is no time-adjustment mount option for your exFAT driver, you can still use an exFAT drive for Mergeall on Linux today if you're willing to temporarily adjust modtimes of all the files on either your internal or exFAT drive to match. Where acceptable, simple command lines like the following run fast and will generally do the job, though your paths may vary:

# See how many numhours you need to -add or -sub (it's 16 for my drives)
$ ls -l /media/me/drivename/MY-STUFF/.../unchangedfile /home/me/MY-STUFF/.../unchangedfile

# Adjust internal times to match exFAT drive, for syncing to/from the drive
$ python3 .../mergeall/ /home/me/MY-STUFF -add numhours

# Run Mergeall's GUI or command lines anywhere on this device to sync
$ python3 ..../mergeall/launch-mergeall-GUI.pyw &   # for example

# Restore internal times to their original and real values
$ python3 .../mergeall/ /home/me/MY-STUFF -sub numhours 

# Or: run the fixer script on the exFAT drive at /, and -sub then -add
This scheme uses a script provided for FAT32 DST adjustment by Mergeall, and available in its package. As used here, the script changes modtimes (only) on one of the drives before and after a sync, so they are temporarily comparable with the other drive. As usual, be sure to allow for +/- one hour on FAT32 if DST has rolled over (and do so as soon as possible to minimize stragglers changed in the new phase).

FAT32 on Linux: Correct with Help

Since correct modtimes are essential for Mergeall, exFAT's defects outlined in the prior section likely leave FAT32 as your current best option for drives used in a platform mix that includes Linux on PCs. You'll have to live with FAT32's 4G file-size limit, and address its DST-rollover issue (e.g., by running a simple script like this twice a year to keep modtimes in sync with other filesystems), but your content will be usable on nearly every device with a USB port.

That being said, this comes with a fairly large caveat: while FAT32 external drives can register modtimes correctly on Linux, they may need some help to do so. If your FAT32 modtimes are initially askew, it may help to turn off Linux's automatic RTC time adjustment for UTC, with a Terminal command sequence like this:

$ timedatectl set-local-rtc 1        # adopt local times while using FAT32 drive

# Run Mergeall's GUI or command lines anywhere on this device to sync

$ timedatectl set-local-rtc 0        # turn UTC time adjustment back on (maybe)

In testing, such commands did suffice to put a FAT32 drive in sync with the internal drive on a Linux system. Specifically, on a stock Ubuntu 20 dual-boot install; again in the PST (UTC -8) time zone; taking modtime readings in both Nautilus (i.e., Files) and Terminal; and remounting before each reading, modtimes on a FAT32 USB drive were:

In the same tests, files on an exFAT drive were consistently incorrect as described earlier at all readings. Only FAT32 modtimes were cured on the test machine.

Although this fix works for FAT32, however, it seems at best indirect (if not wholly coincidental), and may have unintended consequences. The timedatectl commands are meant only to change the interpretation of the hardware clock shared with Windows, and the real problem here is the FAT32 driver's invalid interpretation of modtimes as UTC instead of local. In fact, FAT32 timestamps appear to have been broken by other Linux changes, which puts the fix on generally shaky ground (systemd is implicated here and elsewhere, though the web abhors definitive statements).

More information on the fix will be posted on this page if it emerges, but Linux FAT32 support is a bizarrely convoluted story which has morphed in recent years (as Linux stories tend to be), and full coverage is out of scope here. In short, though, on some systems today, you may (or may not) also need to add an --adjust-system-clock argument to timedatectl; may (or may not) need to mount/attach your drive after this command's invocations; and may (or may not) aggravate or trigger the problem by using a dual-boot install.

A more direct fix may involve manually mounting or remounting FAT32 (i.e., vfat) drives with custom options to avoid or correct timestamp mapping—for example, by turning option tz=UTC off, turning time_offset=minutes on, adjusting the offset whenever DST changes, and wrestling with conflicting auto-mounts as needed. But this is ridiculous extra work to ask of users of programs like Mergeall; is not necessary on any other platform but Linux; and is also largely out of scope here.

To be blunt, this page's mission is neither to document issues that the Linux community largely has not, nor provide complex work-arounds to defects that seem much more up to Linux to fix than users to accommodate. In the end, FAT32 USB drives on Linux should just work—especially when they do everywhere else. Their modtime behavior on Linux is fairly classified as a bug, despite the rationales.

To hunt for more details and tips on your own, see the user guide's brief mention; read the man pages for the timedatectl and mount commands on your PC or here and here; check out the dual-boot time overview in this article; grok the time details in this page; and search the web either here or here. As recommendations, Linux users' best Mergeall interoperability options today may be to:

Unfortunately, none of these qualify as user friendly or universally applicable. Also unfortunately, this seems typical of much of today's Linux experience.

And Android Does Both Better

It's worth noting that this story generally differs today on Android, despite its Linux heritage. On Android, exFAT is mostly supported by vendor extensions. For instance, exFAT drives work correctly on recent Samsung smartphones, though their modtimes are reliable only as of Samsung's 2020 flavor of Android 10. Unlike desktop Linux, however, Android has long supported FAT32 correctly without the drama. The Linux community really should care.


PyEdit on Linux: Associate Files to Open on Clicks, Etc. (Dec-2020)

There's a new usage tip for setting Linux file associations to open the PyEdit editor/launcher automatically when files are clicked in the Nautilus file explorer. The tip also provides simple patches that improve PyEdit's GUI cosmetics and usability on this platform in general, and its .desktop-file install instructions suffice to add PyEdit and others to the Linux applications launcher, from which it can also be added to the Favorites in the Dock toolbar.

In the end, this tip was too large to embed in this already-full page: please visit its separate page.


All Apps: Use Source-Code Instead of Executables on Linux (Dec-2020)

This note's tip is briefly mentioned on the separate page referenced by the preceding PyEdit note, but it applies to all the complete applications at this site: PyEdit, Frigcal, Mergeall, PyMailGUI, and PyGadgets.

The current 2017 Linux frozen executables available for these applications are no longer recommended as of late 2020. They still basically function, and open just as fast as source code when SSDs are used. However, Linux morph over the last three years has:

This shouldn't happen. These are self-contained programs that were built just three years ago, embed their own Python and Tk, and have equivalents that still work well on both Mac OS and Windows. Only Linux has managed to cripple them so quickly—and through no fault of their own. Clearly, backward compatibility for existing programs is not what it should be in the Linux world today.

Future Linux rebuilds of this site's executables may improve this story, but for now: please use the source-code versions of all these programs on Linux, instead of their executables. The source-code versions sidestep externally introduced breakages by using the latest installed versions of everything, even if that means acquiring unexpected functionality changes as part of the bargain.

Exception: the 2017 executables may still work as designed on older versions of Linux today, though the trend towards frequent and automatic updates may make this moot for most users. If you're unsure about recent updates applied on your Linux, or your executable's fonts look just plain busted, try fetching and running the source-code version instead.

And be sure to file this away as yet another lesson on the perils of morph in the software world. Programs break over time, but especially on Linux, where rapid change coupled with a rude disregard for existing software seems to have become a cultural norm. Linux is fun to use, but it's difficult to justify developing for a platform where three years passes as program shelf life (though, to be fair, Mac OS's upcoming chip swap will undoubtedly cull many an app too).


Mergeall: Mac OS Munges Illegal Characters on FAT32 and exFAT (Jan-2021)

This note is primarily of interest to users of Mergeall on Mac OS, who may also use network-drive servers elsewhere. While testing a Mergeall sync between Mac OS and a WebDAV server running on an Android smartphone, it was discovered that Mac OS silently replaces filename characters normally illegal on FAT32 and exFAT drives with odd Unicode private-range characters. For example, a | is mapped to and from \uf027 on these drives on writes and reads, respectively. Unfortunately, this magic mapping may cause name-matching problems if such files are served outside the Mac's exclusive realm.

The Munge in Action

It's easy to prove the munge using Python 3.X on Mac OS. On an exFAT USB drive, for example, filename characters are automatically mapped on writes and reads:

>>> import os
>>> os.chdir('/Volumes/SSDT3')
>>> os.mkdir('test')
>>> os.chdir('test')
>>> open('file\uf027name\uf020here', 'w').write('hmm')    # write munged chars
>>> os.listdir('.')                                       # receive illegals
>>> open('file|name"here', 'r').read()                    # either name works
>>> open('file\uf027name\uf020here', 'r').read()          # but only on mac os
>>> open('file|name"here', 'w').write('hmm more')         # write different name
>>> open('file|name"here', 'r').read()                    # two names for same file
'hmm more'
>>> open('file\uf027name\uf020here', 'r').read()          # one update changes both
'hmm more'
>>> os.listdir()                                          # this is not cool...

And the same character-mapping happens for a USB drive using the FAT32 filesystem (which, like exFAT, owes its existence to Microsoft, and some of its limitations to PC history):

>>> os.chdir('/Volumes/EXTP')
>>> os.mkdir('test')
>>> os.chdir('test')
>>> open('file\uf027name\uf020here', 'w').write('hmm')
>>> os.listdir('.')

But internal APFS drives don't map; illegal characters are allowed on a Unix-oriented filesystem like this, but this means core data storage behavior differs per drive type on Macs:

>>> os.chdir('/Users/me/Documents')
>>> os.mkdir('test')
>>> os.chdir('test')
>>> open('file\uf027name\uf020here', 'w').write('hmm')
>>> os.listdir('.')
['file\uf027name\uf020here']                              # what some servers return
>>> open('file\uf027name\uf020here', 'r').read()
>>> open('file|name"here', 'r').read()                    # behavior diff: surprise!
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "", line 1, in 
FileNotFoundError: [Errno 2] No such file or directory: 'file|name"here'

Nor is this just Python 3.X: Python 2.X yields the same results on Mac OS, and filenames written by the shell are munged too, but be sure to use u'...' Unicode literals in Python 2.X (else \uxxxx escapes are not recognized, but taken literally):

% python    # 2.X
...                                                        # cd to FAT drive
>>> open(u'file\uf027name\uf020here', 'w').write('hmm')    # postmunge name
>>> os.listdir('.')
>>> open('file|name"here', 'w').write('hmm more')          # premunge name
>>> os.listdir('.')
>>> open(u'file\uf027name\uf020here', 'r').read()          # postmunge name: same file
'hmm more'

$ cd /Volumes/SSDT3/test
$ rm *
$ echo 'shmm' > 'file|name"here'                                       # shell
$ ls
$ python -c "print open(u'file\uf027name\uf020here', 'r').read()"      # py2.X
$ python3 -c "print(open(u'file\uf027name\uf020here', 'r').read())"    # py3.X

Impact and Work-Around

This mapping follows a model used in Cygwin. It works well if the drives are used on Mac OS only (the mapping hides the munge), and usually works if propagated to other platforms (the Unicode replacement characters are stored literally elsewhere, but match themselves on the drives). However, if such filenames are propagated to another platform, and provided to Mac OS by a network-drive server running on that other platform, the replacement characters propagated from Mac OS may not match the originals back on Mac OS. The result is spurious Mergeall differences, which trigger either erroneous updates or failures.

This is an atypical use case to be sure, and surfaced only after 7 years of Mergeall use, while searching in vain for an alternative to the USB-drive access dropped by Android 11. Moreover, some network servers (e.g., Samba/SMB, as detailed here and here) may undo Mac OS's mappings when providing files, thereby negating the issue (and possibly triggering others). But you may need to care if you intend to use WebDAV servers, and possibly others, to sync between content copies stored on Mac OS, and others propagated elsewhere by Mac OS on FAT32 or exFAT drives.

The only known work-around for this issue is file renaming, of the sort automated and provided by a new Mergeall utility script, currently available only online here:

This script further documents the issue, and can be run to automatically replace nonportable characters in all the file and folder names in a tree with a single _ (underscore) to make them interoperable. This is slightly risky: it's unlikely but possible that the renames will collide with unrelated names in other content copies, and the script may change names that intentionally use characters valid on Unix only. Hence, this manual approach is the best policy today, because it gives you a chance to preview the changes.

Really, though, Mac OS should report illegal characters as errors instead of silently munging them, so users have a chance to address the issue explicitly. Hiding problems is not the same as fixing them, and, as usual, magic causes damage eventually—in this case, just as soon as content has the gall to leave the Mac OS "ecosystem." You'd think this field would have learned such lessons by now, but engineering born of opinion and arrogance still has a way of winning the day (and wrecking the program).

As for Mergeall on Android: the next note gives a general review, but on-phone-server sync experiments were abandoned, because Mac OS's built-in WebDAV client support produced obvious data corruption; Linux's WebDAV support was better but still difficult to configure and use; and Samba servers ran too slowly to be practical (and were nearly unusable on Windows due to hard-coded port numbers on Windows and port-number restrictions on Android). Your mileage may vary, but pulling out microSD cards—where available—seems the best alternative to the USB access sadly and rudely ripped away in Android 11. At least, until microSD cards become an ex-feature too...

Update: The Mac OS munge of nonportable-character filenames was later seen to also impact both MTP and FTP access on Mac OS, with the same sync mismatches and update consequences as for WebDAV: when served by any of these protocols, filenames munged by macOS won't match originals on macOS, and will trigger bogus updates. Yet more reasons to run the helper script to flag nonportable filenames which Mac OS silently allows to leak out in disguise to other platforms (and harm users who dare stray off the Apple range).

Update: Though less impactful, symlinks are similarly munged in transit from Mac OS on Windows filesystems: because they're stored by Mac OS as a simple stub file recognized by Mac OS only, they won't register as symlinks on other platforms. This is generally harmless when symlinks are only transported on drives: they'll always be simple files elsewhere, but won't be changed there. When served elsewhere by WebDAV, MTP, FTP, or similar, however, symlinks' files register as mixed-mode differences with the true symlinks on Mac OS, and thus won't survive a round trip to/from other platforms. The upside is that symlinks are so notoriously nonportable that interoperability expectations should already be appropriately low.


Mergeall: Android 11 breaks the program — USB, storage (Feb-2021)

As expected, Android 11's privacy-obsessed agendas broke Mergeall and similar content-processing tools on multiple fronts. Most grievously, general access to USB drives was revoked, and shared-storage was throttled down to run up to 100X slower than app-private/specific storage. These are lethal for programs that manage large content collections on phones, and likely an endgame for running Mergeall on Android.

Though breakage was expected, the forms it took were not. It was known that Android 11 intended to lock down internal storage via app sandboxes, but this hasn't yet happened for apps still in an opt-out state, like those used to run Mergeall. Android 11's immediate changes, however, were more than ample to break programs:

For the full story on Android 11 breakages, please see the separate updates page. Other programs at this site work on Android 11, and the Mergeall content-processing program can still be used on Mac OS, Windows, and Linux; Android, however, seems to no longer care about supporting programs based on computing paradigms developed over the last half century. Smartphone users are the unfortunate victims of the arrogance.


Mac OS Mojave: Fix Start-Up Issues Caused by New Dark Mode (Feb-2021)

For users of the Mojave (10.14) release of Mac OS (macOS) only: if this site's apps or source-code GUIs open blank screens or crash on start-up, it's probably because your platform's newly launched dark mode causes problems in the Tk library underlying tkinter, which were repaired by Catalina. This note provides a quick fix and additional context for the issue.

Fixing App GUIs

This issue has not been seen to occur on Mac OS either before or after Mojave, but it's easy to fix for apps on Mojave: simply run a command line of the following sort once in Terminal, and restart the app:

defaults write org.lutzware.Mergeall NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance -bool yes
This command fixes Mergeall by disabling dark mode for the app (there's more on why this works ahead). To do the same for other apps here, just replace the command's Mergeall text with another app's name, and run the modified command again. For example, substitute Frigcal, PyEdit, PyMailGUI, or PyGadgets, like this:
defaults write org.lutzware.Frigcal NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance -bool yes

Fixing Source-Code GUIs

The preceding commands fix this site's frozen apps. Though this remains to be verified, you may need to apply the same Mojave fix to the installed Python app too, for any tkinter GUIs run in source-code form. This isn't required for this site's apps (which bundle and run their own Python), but may be needed for running the main scripts of this site's source-code packages, as well as the source-code scripts of any other tkinter GUIs. Where necessary, run the following in Terminal to fix source GUIs run by Python explicitly:

defaults write org.python.python NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance -bool yes
In addition, the following Terminal commands may be required for running tkinter source-code GUIs with the installed Python app's launcher or IDLE (clarifications to be posted here if/when these can be tested):
defaults write org.python.PythonLauncher NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance -bool yes
defaults write org.python.IDLE NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance -bool yes

Related Commands

In the interest of full disclosure, you can also remove these settings later if desired by the first of the following forms, and force dark mode on with the second (though neither is generally required for programs at this site):
defaults delete appname setting
defaults write appname NSRequiresAquaSystemAppearance -bool no
It's also worth noting that edits in the app's Contents/Info.plist file can likely have the same effect as defaults commands, but are arguably more complex and error prone. They could, however, be applied in future app releases, and might look like this snippet (which is plausible but completely untested; more here too post verifications) :

More about the Bug

These commands avoid GUI breakages by disabling dark mode for specific apps only (and are macOS's equivalent of Windows registry edits). Dark mode was new in Mojave, and apparently triggered blank screens and start-up crashes in the underlying Tk library. This also impacted other programs and GUIs, including some coded with the PyQt alternative; for related threads, try searches like this and this. The signature of the breakage may be an error message of this form, along with CGContext messages concerning an invalid context 0x0:

Python[1936:146864] It does not make sense to draw an image when [NSGraphicsContext currentContext] is nil.  This is a programming error.  Break on void _NSWarnForDrawingImageWithNoCurrentContext(void) to debug.  This will be logged only once.  This may break in the future.

Though full details are difficult to reconstruct, this issue was later addressed in either Apple or Tk code. On all Mac OS Catalina devices tested: the fix commands are not required, and have no effect if used; this site's apps as shipped work without these issues; and the apps' source-code versions work well using the latest Mac OS Python install, and its bundled Tk. The older Tk bundled with the apps works on Catalina too, so Apple's code was the likelier scene of the fix.

Hence, this seems a one-version Mac OS issue, for which the Terminal commands are a regrettable but reasonable work-around. The Mergeall team didn't catch the bug earlier, because the procurement department skipped Mojave and moved straight on to Catalina (alas, skipping a year's release is perilous business today). Thanks are due to a Mergeall user for both bringing this problem to light, and verifying its fix.

All that said, you'll have to do the math for yourself on why a computer vendor would release a half-baked dark mode, almost certainly knowing full well that it would break many programs. This site's programs have now been burned so many times by such rude nonsense that this page has run out of words to rant about it.

[Home] Books Programs Blog Python Author Training Search Email ©M.Lutz