Working around fuzzy PDFs from Shortcuts

Thanks to Readly and Apple News+, I read many magazines on my iPad, and sometimes I want to save an article for future reference. To accomplish this, I capture a screenshot of each of the article’s pages. However, this clutters up my Photos, and the pages can get separated from each other over time. Definitely not ideal.

What I need is a way to stitch these pages together into one document. The only satisfactory way I’ve found to do that is to collate the screenshots into a multi-page PDF.

It seems like a Shortcuts action to automate this process would be a good approach, but it’s not. The only reason this doesn’t work is that the built-in “Make PDF” action in Shortcuts compresses the crap out of images and makes them completely unreadable. Here’s a screenshot that demonstrates the mess it creates.

fuzzy pdf from Shortcuts

The best alternative approach I’ve found is to select each screenshot in Photos, then tap Share > Print. (You don’t actually need a printer.) When the printer selector screen appears, pinch out on the preview of your document. Then, with the preview displaying full-screen, tap Share and select a destination, such as Files or Mail. This will save a high-fidelity PDF. Look how lovely it is by comparison with the abomination from Shortcuts:

clear pdf

Once you’ve saved the PDF in this manner, discard it by tapping Cancel. You’re done, and now you have a perfectly usable PDF tucked away. You can go ahead and delete the original screenshots from Photos.

It’s a shame this can’t be automated, but at least we have a workaround until Apple improves Shortcuts with better output.

By the way, the ability to save a print preview was a gem from a previous version of the Tips.app. Have you read a tip today?

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Upgrading to eero 6 and HomeKit

A quick word of caution. Although I’m a fan of eero (starting before Amazon bought them), if you’re a HomeKit user, there is an obvious oversight in their software of which you should be aware.

Replacing an old eero device with a new one is easy using the eero app. But, when you delete the old device, the unit is not removed from HomeKit. And once the device is removed from your network, you can’t delete it from your home. You’ll be forever stuck with error messages about “non-responsive” devices in your Home app.

eero homekit error

eero tech support confirms that there is no way to fix this after the units are decommissioned. Clearly, their software should either do this for you automatically, or alert you before you shoot yourself in the foot. But it does neither. Fair warning.

See also: eero Beacon Deployed, and Inconsistent eero Speed Test Results Explained.


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Covering a doorknob hole

When we moved into our place, the front gate had a deadlock and a locking doorknob. This combination created some usability problems:

  • the doorknob, when locked, could be easily unlocked by reaching through the fence and turning the dial on the inside knob. This made it silly to ever bother to lock it.
  • when the doorknob was unlocked, it would turn (of course) but if the deadlock were locked, the gate still couldn’t be opened. The state of the deadbolt was inscrutable.
  • there’s no indication which way the gate opens. So, even if both locks were not engaged, you had a fifty-fifty chance of the gate opening when you pushed it. If it didn’t open, you couldn’t be sure why.

I quickly noticed that most visitors struggled with these conditions. Pushing, pulling, turning, and so on, never sure if the gate was locked, or if it was some combination of the three possible impediments. (You can view a photo of the gate in this post.)

To correct some of these issues, I removed the doorknob from the gate. But this created an unsightly problem — there was a hole where the knob used to be. Additionally, because the gate is iron, I wanted to cover the hole to prevent water infiltration.

It was inexplicably hard to find, but I did eventually uncover the two solutions I needed. The first is a plate that covers the hole where the doorknob used to be, and the second is a smaller plate that covers where the latching mechanism used to protrude.


doorknob hole cover

Here’s what I purchased:

I can’t recommend the Door Hole Plate Cover that I used because the bolt that comes in the package is too large to fit through the hole in the cover. (What the hell‽) I had to enlarge the hole to make it work. But perhaps you can find another brand that’s properly designed. The Door Edge Filler (not shown in my photo above) fit perfectly, but you’ll need to supply your own screw to install it.

For more on my modifications to this gate, see: A Remote, Wireless Gate Alarm


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book Review: Astronumerography

gordon meyer astronumerology book

The prolific Professor Oddfellow has resurrected (and, I suspect, updated) an ancient form of divination and personality reading that combines astrology with numerology. It’s a deep system, but clearly explained and is based on your birthdate, so the occult mathematics aren’t too intimidating. And the result is a lovely figuregraph that makes utilizing the revelations and insights simple. I especially appreciated both the summary worksheet, and the example readings, that the author includes. (I do wish, though, that blank reading sheets were available for download.) Now that this system has been made accessible to a modern audience I expect to see it offered by psychic readers in most large cities. Avoid the rush and get your copy at Amazon then check out Oddfellow’s other books while you’re there.


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

The best way to catch a water leak before it's too late

A water leak can be one of the most expensive accidents to happen in your home. (Ask me sometime about ABT’s installation of a faulty fridge valve that caused over $20K in damage in our kitchen.)

I recommend you buy several Govee Water Leak Detectors and place them anywhere a leak might occur. The loud alarm could save you a lot of money, as it’s easy for a leak to escape detection until after it has done significant damage.

If you know me as a home automation expert, it might be surprising that these are non-automated, standalone alarms. But this is a perfect example of when isolated, inexpensive, and reliable sensors are the best choice. These are “set it and forget it” simple, and you won’t miss an alert due to network interference or a technology mismatch. Additionally, you can buy five of these for half the price of one automated sensor. (Buy from Amazon.)

That said, if you’re hellbent on unnecessary complications, you can apparently get a hub and an app from Govee that will work with these. Instead, I suggest you just convince yourself that you’re deploying a fleet of autonomous robot guardians, then get on with your life and hope that they only problem they ever detect is a low battery.


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Cropping a photo to any size with iOS 14

Apple has changed the cropping tool so that, by default, it preserves the photo’s aspect ratio. This seems like a reasonable change, except when the reason you are cropping is to change a photo’s shape. In that situation, after you tap the crop tool, tap Reset (at the top of the screen). This will allow you to freely adjust the crop region.

the reset button in Photos

For another photos-related change in iOS 14 (and one that is very puzzling) see iOS 14 Camera Setting Not Restored on Launch


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

iOS 14 Camera setting not restored on launch

In iOS 13 (and prior, probably) there was a Camera setting that would “remember” how you had the app configured last time you took a photo. This was very handy if there are particular filters, aspect ratios, and other tweaks you typically use when shooting a photo. (These days, for example, I mostly shoot iPhone photos in Square ratio.)

After installing iOS 14, this totally changed. Camera would no longer launch to my previous settings. I found a preference that seemed to be the same as the one in iOS 13, but it didn’t work the same. Bottom line: To mimic the old behavior you need to turn on all three options in Settings > Camera > Preserve Settings. Seems like feature creep to me, but there you are, go forth and be happy.

iphone camera settings

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Levelator is not dead!

Oh! Thank you to MacSparky for blogging that a new version of The Levelator is available in the Mac App Store. This utility is a must-have for anyone producing spoken word audio. I'm glad to see it's back from the dead.

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Join the IndieWeb

Another nice summary of why you should be posting at your own domain and not a parasite like Medium: Autonomy Online: A Case For The IndieWeb — Smashing Magazine

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Thank you, Pinboard

Congratulations to Pinboard, a bookmarking service that has reached the age of 11 years. That's an eternity in the Internet world, but I'm not surprised, because it is a service that I not only love, but consider essential. I've only been a member for 10 years, and during that time I've stashed thousands of links, which are searchable, cached, and virtually at my fingertips. Additionally, I have an archive of every tweet I've made since joining Pinboard, which might come in handy in court one day. (I kid, I kid.) It's also remarkable that Pinboard remains a one-man, lovingly crafted artisanal software operation. If you're the type who bookmarks pages so you can refer to them later, you should definitely sign up.

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer