Roger Steve Ruiz is a software engineer.
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Revisting lolcommits in macOS Sonoma

Written on 28 Sep 2023 (Link to this post)

I upgraded to macOS Sonoma recently and it brought my career-long lolcommits setup to a halt! Thankfully troubleshooting and Zsh came to the rescue. But while I solved the issue I was having, I did start to question whether I should keep using this tool while Apple fixes their CLI tools.

Table of contents


macOS Sonoma added Continuity Camera to macOS but it had an unintended side-effect to my lolcommits setup where internal Apple command-line tools would leak deprecation notices that I didn’t want. I was able to debug it and find a solution using Zsh, consolidated output {...}, & std* redirection. Here’s the commit history for this.

➡️ Commit for solving this particular headache.

Whenever we upgrade software we run risks of custom tooling breaking. Especially tooling that touches obscure APIs. While not upgrading the software is the best way to avoid this, it’s also a great security risk! So make sure you update your software sooner rather than later. Even if this means you risk encountering bugs that you might avoid by waiting to upgrade. You’ll be able to stretch your troubleshooting muscles and might even be able to contribute to the fix or at the very least mitigate it in your own custom way.

In this post, I’ll talk about how I encountered a deprecation notice within a tool that I use regularly called lolcommits and system_profiler and how upgrading to macOS Sonoma broke my post-commit hook in Git.

If you want to learn more about lolcommits, check out their website.

➡️ lolcommits: selfies for software developers

I’ve been leveraging this tool to take selfies for quite a long time. When I went fully remote in 2015, I created a little Tumblr site to capture all these automatically and save them for the world to see.

An animated Gif of the author committing code.

➡️ roger is working

For many many years this setup was fine. That is until I upgraded to macOS Sonoma and found that the tooling that I had written to find what camera was plugged into my Mac was spitting out all sort of internal deprecation notices that were outside of the scope of what I was doing. While the notices were interesting to me to see how the CLI tool worked, this particular deprecation notice targeted at the internal tools team at Apple. At least that’s my best guess. The CLI tool in question here is system_profiler.

Click here to see what the man system_profiler page looks like at the time of this writing.
man system_profiler
SYSTEM_PROFILER(8)                                  System Manager's Manual                                  SYSTEM_PROFILER(8)

     system_profiler – reports system hardware and software configuration.

     system_profiler [-usage]
     system_profiler [-listDataTypes]
     system_profiler [-xml] dataType1 ... dataTypeN
     system_profiler [-xml] [-detailLevel level]
     system_profiler [-json] dataType1 ... dataTypeN
     system_profiler [-json] [-detailLevel level]

     system_profiler reports on the hardware and software configuration of the system.  It can generate plain text reports or
     XML reports which can be opened with System, or JSON reports

     Progress and error messages are printed to stderr while actual report data is printed to stdout.  Redirect stderr to
     /dev/null to suppress progress and error messages.

     The following options are available:

     -xml                Generates a report in XML format.  If the XML report is redirected to a file with a ".spx" suffix that
                         file can be opened with System

     -json               Generates a report in JSON format.

     -listDataTypes      Lists the available datatypes.

     -detailLevel level  Specifies the level of detail for the report:

                         mini          report with no personal information

                         basic         basic hardware and network information

                         full          all available information

     -timeout            Specifies the maximum time to wait in seconds for results.  If some information is not available
                         within the specified time limit then an incomplete or partial report will be generated.  The default
                         timeout is 180 seconds.  Specifying a timeout of 0 means no timeout.

     -usage              Prints usage info and examples.

       Generates a text report with the standard detail level.

     system_profiler -detailLevel mini
       Generates a short report containing no personal information.

     system_profiler -listDataTypes
       Shows a list of the available data types.

     system_profiler SPSoftwareDataType SPNetworkDataType
       Generates a text report containing only software and network data.

     system_profiler -xml > MyReport.spx
       Creates a XML file which can be opened by System

     Apple Inc.

Darwin                                                   June 30, 2003                                                   Darwin

If you opened the details above, you can notice that the author is Apple. A bug in someone else’s code and not my own. Also it’s neat that system_profiler was introduced in 2003 which means it was in the end-of-life for Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar and most likely in anticipation for the release of Mac OS X 10.3 Jaguar.

Okay, so what is happening here?  (Link to this header)

So you might be wondering what the heck is this all about? Basically, the issue at hand here is that there is a deprecation notice whenever the API AVCaptureDeviceTypeExternal is called due to the new Continuity Camera feature of macOS Sonoma. The culprit was a command that I had worked on previously to speed up my post-commit hook because it was taking longer than I wanted to execute.

Running system_profiler
system_profiler \
    SPCameraDataType \
    -json \
    -detailLevel basic \
    | jq -r '.SPCameraDataType[]."_name" | select(. | test("C920"))'

Whenever I ran this command, I would get the following output. I’m breaking it down with stderr first then stdout.

# stderr*
2023-09-28 17:37:20.563 system_profiler[34077:36102507] WARNING: AVCaptureDeviceTypeExternal is deprecated for Continuity Cameras. Please use AVCaptureDeviceTypeContinuityCamera and add NSCameraUseContinuityCameraDeviceType to your Info.plist.

# * as you'll read later, it's not quite stderr
# stdout
HD Pro Webcam C920

It turns out though that the command lolcommits --capture [...] also displays the deprecation notice even though it’s not directly calling system_profiler in its codebase. This behavior lead me to think that the deprecation notice was not coming from either system_profiler nor lolcommits --capture. So I tried a little experiment. Let’s send stderr to /dev/null and all we’re left with is the stdout, right?

What'd you do? meme
Still printing to stderr
>_ system_profiler \
       SPCameraDataType \
       -json \
       -detailLevel basic \
       | jq -r '.SPCameraDataType[]."_name" | select(. | test("C920"))' \

2023-09-28 17:37:20.563 system_profiler[34077:36102507] WARNING: AVCaptureDeviceTypeExternal is deprecated for Continuity Cameras. Please use AVCaptureDeviceTypeContinuityCamera and add NSCameraUseContinuityCameraDeviceType to your Info.plist.
HD Pro Webcam C920

Why I’m still getting the deprecation notice  (Link to this header)

As you can see above, I’m still getting the deprecation notice no matter that I redirected stderr to /dev/null. This was what helped me realize that the error was internal to whatever API system_profiler and lolcommits --capture were running under the hood. Because of this I really needed to consider a number of options, but ultimately went with the idea of just throwing all the output of the command over to /dev/null.

ANot likelyRemoving lolcommit from my post-commit workflow
BNot likelyHard-code the camera to HD Pro Webcam C920
CNot likelyWait for Apple to fix things?
DChosenFigure out how to “trap” or redirect the output I don’t want and capture the output I need
ENot likelyDo nothing and suffer the deprecation warning until Plan C plays out

My reasoning for going with Plan D  (Link to this header)

As you may have figured out by now, I am someone who is curious by default. If there’s something that I need to figure out and can figure out, I will try my best to figure it out. So when it came to this, I decided to troubleshoot how to best “trap” or redirect output of commands. This is where I thought of using the {...} curly braces to capture all of the output. This is useful when you are trying to capture all the output of multiple commands into a consolidated output. This is because { and } reserved words or commands built into the shell. When grouping commands like this you need to make sure that you’re terminating lines with a ; semicolon if they’re not terminated by \r carriage returns.

Running system_profiler in a different scope
{ # encapsulating the command in braces
system_profiler \
    SPCameraDataType \
    -json \
    -detailLevel basic \
    | jq -r '.SPCameraDataType[]."_name" | select(. | test("C920"))' \
} 2>/dev/null # encapsulating the command in braces

With this command, all the output I get now is the return of the jq command that tests for the string C920 which is the model of my external webcam.

Determining what should get sent where and why  (Link to this header)

So ultimately after being able to only see the output of the. I needed to ensure that I was still capturing output that I needed to set my variable LOLCOMMITS_DEVICE to whatever camera is available. I managed to do this above by only sending the consolidated output for stderr over to /dev/null but the stdout was still being returned.

Further down in my post-commit hook, I also had to fix encountering the same deprecation warning over when I ran lolcommits --capture. I handled this by just redirecting all of the output over to /dev/null because of the thought by Plan A.

Redirecting lolcommits to /dev/null
# shellcheck disable=SC2086
lolcommits \
    --capture \
    --stealth \
    --delay 2 \
    --fork \
    ${animado-} > /dev/null 2>&1
#               ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

If I’m considering removing something, the first step for me when it comes to long-term maintenance is to see what it’s like to live without. Now if lolcommits --capture ever fails, I won’t know about it. For now I haven’t noticed a problem. There are times where lolcommits --capture doesn’t seem to execute, but that’s okay. I find that running a camera capture at the end of every commit can be slow. This way I don’t get bogged down by a slow capture for any reason.

Thinking about script portability  (Link to this header)

So at this point, you may have realized that I’ve been using Zsh as the execution environment. My thoughts behind this is that while I usually execute my shell scripts in Bash but since this script is so Apple tooling specific due to system_profiler. Since macOS Catalina, Zsh has been the default shell for macOS going forward. Since I’m already being so Apple-specific in my query for a camera, I figured let’s go all the way. It was also an issue because of the way output grouping works in a Bash $(...) sub-shell versus a Zsh $(...) sub-shell.