Mike Becky

Action Button as Game Launcher

Game Launcher shortcut with Minecraft and Steam Link

Since receiving my iPhone 15 Pro this past fall, I have been racking my brain trying to figure out how to make the Action Button feel useful to me.

Up until recently, I’ve felt like it was a massive step backward when compared to the simple silence switch that the iPhone has featured since the original launched in 2007. The switch was nice because you could interact with it by feel. If you’re at a movie theater or some other live event and needed to make sure your phone wouldn’t randomly make noises, disturbing everyone else, you could check the switch with your iPhone still in your pocket.

This isn’t something that has ever worked for me with the Action Button. With it set to toggle Silent Mode, my experience usually goes something like this:

  • Press the Action Button.
  • Feel the haptic feedback.
  • Try and remember what that specific haptic feedback means.
  • Probably press the Action Button another one or two times so that you can feel the difference between the two types of haptic feedback.
  • Ultimately take your iPhone out of your pocket to make sure it’s set the way you wanted.

Despite my discovery of a useful Action Button shortcut, I still think that the above situation is such a mess that I’d rather just have the silencer switch back. But even if Apple decides to bring back the switch, I’m stuck with the Action Button for at least another year-and-a-half. I might as well make the most of it.

Game Launcher Example Shortcut

I’m now using the Action Button as a dedicated game launcher. But it doesn’t just display a menu, listing the games (and emulators) on my device, and launch the one I select. Instead, it always opens the game or emulator that I most recently played and I have the option to display a menu to launch something else.

I’m accomplishing this with Toolbox Pro, which offers Global Variable actions. Each time I launch a game or emulator using this shortcut, the name of that application will be saved to a Global Variable and the next time I run my game launcher, it will automatically launch the game saved in that variable.

As for the menu to launch something else, that will only display if I want it to. I’m accomplishing this by checking the device’s volume at the beginning of the shortcut and then checking it again two seconds after the Global Variable app is launched. If the volume is different upon that second check, the menu will display.

The way it works in practice is, I press the Action Button, the most recent game opens. If I’d like to play something else, I have a two second window to press either of the two volume buttons. If I do, I’ll get a menu that lists the other games and emulators on my device and I can choose one to launch.

Then, the next time I run the shortcut by pressing the Action Button, the most recently launched game/emulator will open first.

This setup does require you to update the shortcut whenever you add or remove a game from your device and the shortcut itself is going to be unique to you and the collection of games you play. But I’ve put together an example shortcut showing how it works, that you can adapt to your setup.

The example shortcut is just setup to open Minecraft and Steam Link because those are the only games that I have on my device that aren’t sideloaded through AltStore. But again, the method that I’m using can be adapted to launch any number of games on your device. You’ll just need to update the If action that checks the Global Variables and opens the initial app, as well as the Menu action that displays a list of and launches the other games.

I’m hoping the example shortcut will do the trick, but if you decide to set this up for yourself and run into any trouble, feel free to reach out and I’d be happy to help with all that I can.

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11-Inch MacBook Air

I often find myself checking OWC to see the used Macs that they have available. Especially the Mac Mini and Mac Pro. Two machines that I’ve just fallen in love with over the years.

I currently own five Mac Minis, all of which are in use throughout the house. They’re great for home servers, retro emulation, or general computing. And they’re dirt cheap now. You can routinely find 2014 and earlier models for around $100 with a decent amount of memory and storage.

As for the Mac Pro, I’ve never owned one at all. But back in my early days of writing on the web, I would find myself jealous of folks like Shawn Blanc and Glenn Wolsey who used these powerful machines as their daily drivers. I haven’t been able to pull the trigger on one yet, but the prices on old Mac Pros are reaching a point where they’re just too inexpensive to pass up.

But there’s one more Mac model that I keep an eye out for — the 11-inch MacBook Air.

The 11-inch MacBook Air is my absolute favorite Mac ever released. Ever.

Aside from the 12-inch MacBook, the 11-inch MacBook Air is the smallest and lightest laptop Apple has ever released. And unlike the 12-inch MacBook, the 11-inch MacBook Air has a functioning keyboard and a great assortment of ports — two USB-A ports, a single Mini DisplayPort/Thunderbolt port, and MagSafe for charging.

I bought two 11-inch MacBook Airs back in 2011. One for myself and one for my wife (girlfriend at the time). The one purchased for her is no longer working properly. It has a bad trackpad, bad battery, and possibly a bad logic board. Mine is now used by my wife as her occasional non-work machine. It’s still on High Sierra, but it can run LibreOffice and Firefox ESR, which is about all she needs it for.

I could probably put some effort into the broken one and get it working, but for the price of a trackpad and battery, assuming the logic board is actually okay, I’m already about half-way to the price of another 11-inch from a later model year and I would get the benefits of a newer machine — faster USB ports, longer battery life, increased performance, and support for later versions of macOS.

Luckily enough, last week while perusing OWC’s available models, I noticed they had a 2015 11-inch MacBook Air with 8GB of memory, in “excellent” condition, with good pricing on storage upgrades. It, unfortunately, only had the 1.6 GHz Core i5 instead of the higher-end 2.2 GHz Core i7. Nevertheless, I pulled the trigger.

I selected the 500GB storage option, paid $300 after tax, and am expecting it to arrive by the end of this week.

I could probably find a better price on EBay, especially if I upgraded the storage myself, but I’ve bought a handful of used Macs from OWC and have always been happy with my purchase.

When the machine arrives, I’ll give it a once over in macOS. I’ll make sure the battery is still in good shape, the specifications are what they should be, and that all of the ports and whatnot are working properly. At that point I’ll more than likely try setting it up to triple boot macOS Monterey, Windows 10, and Ubuntu using the rEFInd boot manager.

And then I’ll have the coolest laptop setup ever.

Emulation on iPhone


— February 29, 2024

Assistive Access


— February 7, 2024

My First Macintosh


— January 24, 2024

Home Screens to Begin 2024


— January 1, 2024

Lock Screen Widget Limitations


— November 27, 2023

Defaults


— November 8, 2023

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