By Jason Snell
July 28, 2023 1:28 PM PT
Summer is two-computer season on my desk
I love beta season. New software brings new features to discover and explore. It’s like living in the future.
The one thing I don’t like, however, is incompatibility. And given that podcasting is a big part of my job these days, I have to rely on audio software that requires very tight and finicky integration with the lowest levels of macOS. (Pro tip: If installing a piece of software requires two reboots, it’s very deeply integrated.)
This year I decided to solve this problem by using my MacBook Air for recording, since it’s still running macOS Ventura. Rather than cluttering my desk with an open laptop (even if I could control it via Universal Control), I decided to use the Screen Sharing app and run the laptop with the lid closed. I have to admit that, having lived through earlier and more primitive eras, I had never really even attempted to remote-control a MacBook while it was sitting with its lid closed—but it works just fine!2
In order to make connecting to the laptop easier, I created a shortcut (just as I’ve done with my home server) that lets me open it in Screen Sharing with just one click. If you didn’t know, there’s a URL scheme for screen sharing:
vnc://[user][:optional password]@address. (If you don’t embed the password in the URL, you can add it to the keychain the first time you log in, and it won’t ask you again.)
I added the URL for my laptop into a button on my Stream Deck, but you can also make it a clickable item in the Dock. Just paste a URL that looks something like
vnc://jason@MacBook-Air.local into Safari and then drag it right back out into the Dock. (For extra flair, drag it to the Desktop, rename it, give it a custom icon, and then drag that to the Dock.)
I also decided I needed to upgrade my hardware a little bit. I already have a BookArc stand that serves me well, but I rapidly discovered that I was plugging and unplugging stuff (my USB interface, an Ethernet adapter, and MagSafe) from my laptop way too often. So I bought an Anker USB hub with included Ethernet port, plugged in my audio interface and USB power, and now I’ve got a one-plug solution to keep the laptop powered and connected when I need to record a podcast.
Another frustration of moving from my Mac Studio to the MacBook Air is that I’ve wired all sorts of automations to a Stream Deck, and of course, all of those automations don’t work when the recording is happening on a different computer.3 That was the moment when temptation entered the picture, and temptation, thy name is Prime Day. So I picked up a Stream Deck Mk. 2 on sale and migrated my Stream Deck settings over to the MacBook Air.
Now I’ve got a second Stream Deck to control my podcasts, and—once beta season ends—I’ve got a Stream Deck I’ll take with me when I travel, so I can record podcasts with my fancy button automations when I’m on the road. I am not a crackpot.
Though I invested a lot of time and some money in this approach, believe me—the moment that Rogue Amoeba releases a version of Audio Hijack that runs on macOS Sonoma, I will return immediately to the one-computer lifestyle. But in the meantime, I’m making it work.
- Occasionally booting into an empty beta OS is beta tourism. I can’t effectively write about this stuff unless I live with it every day. ↩
- At least it worked just fine once I adjusted its energy settings not to go to sleep in the middle of a podcast. ↩
- My attempts to use Remote Apple Events to control my laptop from my Mac Studio did not prove successful. ↩
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