iPad Pro as Primary Display for Mac Mini with Flic button.

I’ve finally found a great use for my Flic Smart Button!

IMG_1307.JPG

I’ll show you how to make this happen in this post.

First, why?

I recently acquired a 2018 Mac Mini to use primarily as a Qlab machine for myself and for hire - more on this soon.

When it’s not out for hire, I’m using it for software development as my Hackintosh is stuck on High Sierra (so I can continue to run Blender 2.8) and my laptop is getting a bit sluggish.

I’ve become a big fan of running video server Macs headless (without monitor, keyboard, mouse) and remoting in via screen share. This works really well in a stage environment where the show computer can be kept near the stage and then remotely operated via a single network cable from out in the auditorium - this is very common in show biz these days.

A nice clean way to do this is to use a ‘ghost’ HDMI emulator - a small HDMI dongle that tricks the computer into thinking there’s a monitor attached - tricking computers is fun and very satisfying - let’s do it while we still can! Amazon do super cheap ones, and Lindy make ones that can be flashed with various EDIDs for more control.

How to do it #

First you need a compatible iPad and Mac running MacOS Catalina. Best see Apple’s own outline on this here.

Then get yourself a Flic Smart Button and install the Mac app.

Next install the amazingly useful Keyboard Maestro and set it us as follows:

Create a new macro and name it something meaningful, I named mine sideCarConnect

Add an Execute AppleScript action and paste in the following script:

tell application "System Events"
    tell process "SystemUIServer"
        click (menu bar item 1 of menu bar 1 whose description contains 
                "Displays")
        click menu item "[YOUR iPAD HERE]" of menu 1 of result
    end tell
end tell

This script is from Github user Jcowwell.

Make sure to replace [YOUR iPAD HERE] with the name of your iPad. Check Airplay from your Mac to make sure you have the right one.

Creating macro in Keyboard Maestro

Next, set up your Flic button in the Flic for Mac app. We want to add an action that triggers our new Keyboard Maestro macro. Thankfully, Flic supports KM very nicely so this part is easy. Simply click Add action, select *Keyboard Maestro: Trigger macro" and find the macro you just created from the list.

You should already be able test this is working - make sure Bluetooth is on. It should take under 5 seconds for the SideCar connection to establish.

A few last things to do to make sure this can work when you turn on your Mac from cold:

  1. enable automatic login on your Mac - see here.
  2. in Keyboard Maestro, enable Launch Engine at Login
  3. Flic doesn’t have this option so you need to add it as a login item, see here.

Test all this by disconnecting from SideCar, shutting down your Mac and turning it back on. If you’re running your Mac headless, you can see when it’s ready to SideCar into once it appears on the network.

Having a powerful Mac Mini available wirelessly via my iPad while flopped on the couch is very sweet, hope it works for you!

 
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