Hacking Mint to Recognize Modern Operating Systems

Despite Shaun Inman’s announcement late last year that he was suspending sales and support for Mint, I’ve continued to use the software to track visitor statistics on Initial Charge. In the eight years since I first installed Mint on my server, I haven’t found anything that offers the same level of simplicity, clean design, and overall peace of mind about where my stats data is stored.

I’ll continue to keep my eye out for alternatives, but nothing’s unseated Mint yet. Piwik and Tiny Stats came close. But no one I know that has tried Piwik has stuck with it and when I tried Tiny Stats, I ran across a few bugs that soured the experience for me. I’ll probably move to something new eventually, but I don’t foresee that happening anytime soon.

UserAgent 007 on iPhone

With my continued use of Mint, there is one bit of code that will have to be updated regularly — the list of recognized operating systems in the User Agent 007 pepper. For those who are unfamiliar with Mint, the software has support for plugins, called “Pepper”, that can enhance the core software’s features. User Agent 007 keeps track of what browser and operating systems your visitors are using, as well as the display resolution and whether or not they have Flash installed (which is far less useful in 2017 than it was in 2007).

In order for UserAgent 007 to recognize operating systems newer than Windows 8 and Mountain Lion — which were added in the last update — you’ll have to edit the class.php file located in mint/pepper/shauninman/useragent007/. I highly suggest making a backup of this file just in case something goes wrong.

Windows Versions Array in UserAgent 007

Within class.php, you’ll want to look for an array that tells Mint how to determine what version of Windows the visitor is using. If you’ve never edited this file before, the top entry in the array should be Windows 8. To add support for Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, simply add the following two items above the Windows NT 6.2 entry, just as I’ve done in the image above.

'Windows NT 10.0' => '10',
'Windows NT 6.3' => '8.1',

macOS Versions Array in UserAgent 007

Scrolling down a bit further within class.php, you should find an array with versions of macOS listed. The last one should be Mountain Lion. To add support for newer versions of macOS, be sure to add a comma after the Mountain Lion entry and add the following five items, just as I’ve done in the image above.

'10.9' => 'Mavericks',
'10.10' => 'Yosemite',
'10.11' => 'El Capitan',
'10.12' => 'Sierra',
'10.13' => 'High Sierra'

Unfortunately, this doesn’t retroactively change the statistics that have already been recorded. But eventually, the “Unknown” listing will be replaced in your short-term platform stats with properly identified operating system names. And without officially released updates to the UserAgent 007 pepper, as long as you’re still using Mint, this process will have to be repeated as new operating systems are released with the correct version number and OS name. But this will certainly add some longevity to Mint for us users who aren’t ready to move on just yet.

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The Case for RSS

David Sparks, on his continued usage of RSS:

The reason I’ve stuck with RSS is the way in which I work. Twitter is the social network that I participate in most and yet sometimes days go by where I don’t load the application. I like to work in focused bursts. If I’m deep into writing a book or a legal client project. I basically ignore everything else. I close my mail application, tell my phone service to take my calls, and I definitely don’t open Twitter. When I finish the job, I can then go back to the Internet. I’ll check in on Twitter, but I won’t be able to get my news from it. That only works if you go into Twitter much more frequently than I do. That’s why RSS is such a great solution for me. If a few days go by, I can open RSS and go through my carefully curated list of websites and get caught back up with the world.

I’ve been a big believer in RSS since the Google Reader days. It’s the best system I’ve found for keeping track of my favorite websites. I started out using Google Reader, switched to Shaun Inman’s Fever when Google killed their service, and eventually moved to Feedbin earlier this year.

I’ve used a handful of iOS apps for syncing with my backend RSS services — most notably Sunstroke and Reeder. Sunstroke is my favorite RSS app of all time, but was discontinued by its developer several years ago. I held on as long as I could, but eventually an iOS update caused the app to crash every time I launched it. I use Reeder now, which is great. It’s not as good as Sunstroke, but it’s closer than anything else available.

Getting back to David’s piece, he implies in the opening paragraph that the number of RSS users has been on the decline:

For several years now, the trend among geeks has been to abandon the RSS format.

I’m not sure if that’s true, but it certainly feels that way. Granted, podcasting is built upon RSS feeds and seems to be in a boom period at the moment. But the idea of subscribing to weblogs and news sites with your RSS reader seems like something that only a small number of us hardcore tech nerds are still doing. And that’s a shame because it’s such a simple and efficient way to keep up with your favorite sites.

I think Nick Heer raises a good point about the topic:

Truly, though, this isn’t a case for RSS so much as it is a case for a simple, easy-to-use way to receive updates from the websites you trust and like most. You could theoretically replace “RSS” with “JSON Feed” or “Twitter lists” — whatever works best for you. For news junkies like me, though, there will always be a case for dedicated feeds, without the interruption of non-news tweets or Facebook posts. RSS just happens to be one of the simplest implementations of that.

My favorite thing about RSS feeds is that it cuts out all the cruft. This gives David the ability to catch up quickly when he’s working on other projects for a few days and Nick the ability to read his feeds without all the distractions that come from reading his Twitter timeline or Facebook feed. If something else works for you, that’s fantastic, but I would love to see more people give RSS another chance.

Eric Schwarz recently gave it another go and seems very happy with it:

After re-evaluating my relationship with Twitter, I decided to dust off my Fever° install, fire up Reeder, and get my feeds updated. So far, I still get that can’t-miss aspect of things I enjoy, but I know that my traffic and viewing habits are only really passing through a few places—the Reeder app (or whatever RSS app I may try), my Fever° installation, and the sites producing the content. It’s a great feeling.

There’s a diverse set of clients and syncing services available, which can certainly be daunting to newcomers. But once you start subscribing to feeds and get in the habit of scanning headlines for interesting stories a few times a week, you’ll start to realize how powerful the system really is.

If you’re not sure where to start, I highly recommend Feedbin. It’s reasonably priced and very well designed. When I surveyed the options earlier this year, Feedbin looked like the best offering on the market. As for client apps, Reeder is superb. It’s available for iOS and Mac, works with a ton of RSS services, and offers plenty of customization options. As a bonus recommendation, give Feed Hawk a try. It’s an iOS app that lets you quickly subscribe to RSS feeds through the share sheet.

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