Contact

Subscribe via Email

Subscribe via RSS/JSON

Categories

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
© Rakhesh Sasidharan

Elsewhere

[Aside] Offline CRL errors when requesting a certificate

This blog post saved my bacon many times in my home lab. 

Remember this command: 

Retina Monitors

I know I touched upon this in passing in some previous post but I thought I should highlight it again. This past month I learnt that monitors resolutions aren’t the only thing that matters, the pixel density too hugely matters. 

I had two monitors – both full HD 1920×1080. They worked perfectly fine under Windows 10 and I never noticed any issues with them. They weren’t expensive monitors either – just two (an LG and a Samsung) monitors I happened to find at a relatively cheap cost, the only criteria being that they support full HD as that resolution was important to me. 

Fast forward to this past month when I purchased the Mac Mini and got this Plugable Thunderbolt Dual HDMI adapter and decided to hook these two up with the Mac Mini. Boy was it a torture working with these monitors after that! The LG one was better than the Samsung but both had such fuzzy text and it just cringed my eyes even looking at that. I Googled about this and found some forum posts that suggested changing the HDMI cable, so I did that but it didn’t improve things by much (maybe a bit, but that’s probably a placebo effect). That’s when I learnt about Pixels Per Inch (ppi) and what Apple means by Retina monitors. 

So – pixels per inch is the pixel density of the monitor. My LG monitor was a 21.5” 22MP58VQ which had a ppi of 102. The Samsung was a 23.5” with a ppi of 93 (yeah, worse than the LG, coz it was larger and so the pixel density is lower). Thing is both of these numbers are low, and I am not sure what is about the macOS but my eyes were able to discern the low ppi on both these monitors. The only way to fix this is to get a monitor with a larger ppi, but unfortunately you don’t get much high ppi monitors in the full HD resolution range. If you want better ppi you must go 4k. A quick Googling on affordable 4k monitors with good ppi (based on opinions from macOS users) pointed me to the 23.8” LG 24UD58 monitor, which has a ppi of 185.

For any one else interested, this DisplaySpecifications site is a good place to input your monitor model and find its ppi. Useful when considering what monitor to purchase. Also, I came across a blog post by Casey Liss (whose podcasts I listen to, e.g. ATP with Marco Arment) and he too recommends the LG 24UD58 as a good budget option, along with some more pricier options. 

Apart from a monitor with high ppi, it is also important to get one that supports HDMI 2 (and not just the monitor, but any adapters too that you use – such as the Plugable one I was using – and also proper cables etc). Only HDMI 2 can run a 4k display at 50 or 60 frames per second so if you are stuck with HDMI 1 then it is better to use DisplayPort. 50 or 60 fps wouldn’t have mattered in my use case (I don’t game) but it is better to be aware and get something that supports it to future proof your investment. 

Once I had all this in place I was able to drive two 4k monitors easily from my Mac Mini. Later on I ditched the Mac Mini and went back to the MacBook Pro as my primary computer (as it fit better with my workflow, while the Mac Mini was better suited to certain other tasks I had in mind) and thus I have finally have decent external monitor output when using macOS. Yay! 

[Aside] tail and syntax highlight logs

Came across this little sed trick. Nice! 

I came across it via another post from the same blog that talks about Ubuntu’s Compiz desktop manager. Worth a read too. 

Apple Watch & macOS

Useful things you can do with the Apple Watch

I was’t much of an Apple Watch fan to begin with. I owned a Pebble and was quite happy with it. It showed the time, let me control media, and when paired with an Android phone and a third party app whose name I forget I could even launch media apps from the phone and play. That was awesome, and it ticked the only need I had for a smart watch apart from showing time – let me launch media from the phone coz I don’t like taking it out just to play music. I use wireless headsets anyways (have so, for a long time) so there’s no need to take the phone out to plug a pair of headphones either. 

Pebble went out of business, and my wife gifted me a Series 3 Apple Watch last year. It was cool. I use Apple Music already, and the Music app on the Watch could browse through my Apple Music library on the phone and play music from the there so it plays via Bluetooth. Perfect! Then in a later update Apple removed this functionality and the use of the Apple Watch diminished hugely for me. Later however, they introduced it again and that was cool. 

During the course of time other music or media apps I use too launched Apple Watch apps or improved their existing ones. So now I can launch & control my podcasts from Overcast and Pocket Casts; I can launch music from Apple Music and Spotify (and even mark them as liked or add to library); and Audible has an app that lets you download books to the Watch itself but I don’t use that as it’s not something I am interested in (I am hoping they give the ability to browse through the books in your phone and launch from the app there – that would make the app very useful for me). 

Other media related things you can do with the Apple Watch is use Shazam to quickly find what song is place. It’s a bit slow to launch so I am not a huge fan of the app, but I still have it in my dock so I can launch it if I am lazy to take out the phone. :) And then there’s there the Remote app. This lets me control iTunes on all my Macs as well as my Apple TV. That’s so awesome! It is pretty cool being able to pause or rewind/ fast forward songs on your Mac iTunes from the Watch. And if the Apple TV remote is not around I can play/ pause or navigate around Apple TV from the Watch itself. 

Spotify’s recent App is useful too especially since I have an Amazon Tap and that integrates well with Spotify. So I can (say) launch Spotify from my iPhone and tell it to play via the Tap so the phone isn’t doing any Bluetooth transmitting to the Tap but the Tap streams the music directly. Then, I can use the Spotify app on the Apple Watch to control the playback of the music via the phone of the Tap. So I can increase/ decrease volume of the music being played by the Tap; rewind/ skip tracks etc. Which is nice. 

Lastly, the watch can unlock my Macs if you set it up that way (I haven’t, but it is a useful feature). And if you use the Microsoft Authenticator app it even sends sign in approval requests to the Watch – super cool! 

This is what I mainly use my Apple Watch for and for these tasks the Watch is a pretty good device. I also use it to track my daily moves and calories etc., but I don’t know, I don’t use it extensively for that. I know I used to watch my step count more closely on the Pebble than I do on the Apple Watch. I try and close the rings every day, but that’s more of a best effort than strongly trying to close all rings.

Useful macOS apps

Quick shout out to some useful macOS apps I happened to discover over the past few months of Mac usage. Nothing new here, you’d probably know them all already. 

  • SteerMouse – If you are not a fan of the Apple Mouse (I am not, it’s too small!) but love the macOS gestures and want to get them working somehow with your existing mouse this app can do it. Thus if I left&right click my mouse buttons together I get mission control; I can left&middle click to go one space left; right&middle click to gone one space right; etc. Little stuff, but useful. 
    • SensibleSideButtons – similar to above, but for side buttons. I don’t use it but came across. 
  • BetterTouchTool – I bought this app (as I did SteerMouse too) but I haven’t used it extensively yet. It can customize your Touch Bar and also mouse gestures etc., but there’s so many options and I haven’t had a use case yet. Some day ..
  • Keyboard Cleaner – Obsessed with cleaning the keyboard but don’t want to shutdown the Mac while you do this (so the keys don’t do anything)? Download this free app and launch it. It disables the keyboard until you press a special shortcut to activate it again. Neat huh!
  • Keyboard Maestro – Haven’t used this one but it has good reviews. For customizing keyboard shortcuts etc. I am more of a gestures person currently. 
  • FastScripts & MarsEdit from Red-Sweater: I use the latter for blogging. I haven’t used he former but it lets you create scripts to control & customize things. Looks to be useful; will try sometime.
  • SetApp – an App Store. Pay $10 per month and get access to a variety of apps. 
  • Reeder for Mac – For all your RSS cravings. :) Works perfectly with NewsBlur which I use and pay for. I like RSS, am old fashioned that way. 
  • Underpass: Again, an app I haven’t used but I liked the concept and the story behind it. It’s a file transfer and chat app for use between you own devices – i.e. without need to send stuff to iCloud or email them to yourself. 
  • Time Out: If you spend too much time in front of your Mac you need this app to remind you to take a break.
  • Kinesis Freestyle 2 Blue for Mac: not an app, but an ergonomic keyboard for you Mac. Works over Bluetooth but there are wired versions too if that’s your fancy. I purchased their VIP3 accessories too.
    • Not Mac related, but following the theme of ergonomic behavior and healthy habits I’d also like to point out to the SKARSTA standing desk from IKEA which I use. Let’s you adjust the height via a crank handle. 

FileVault and BlueTooth/ Wi-FI

I don’t have any other place to mention this so might as well put it here. The macOS has a good (but irritating) behavior with respect to BlueTooth and Wi-Fi when FileVault is on. If FileVault (i.e. disk encryption) is on, then macOS disables Wi-Fi and BlueTooth until someone logs in. This means you cannot remotely login to your Mac via VNC or SSH, nor can you login at the console via a BlueTooth keyboard or mouse! Irritating, but yeah I get the idea behind it (the OS does not load any drivers etc. until you login not does it allow remote access – just to keep things secure). This is not explicitly mentioned anywhere but you find mention of this behavior in various forum posts etc. Keep this in my when you use BlueTooth keyboards. 

Magic Trackpad 2

Ever since I started using the MacBook Pro my right wrist has been hurting. I suspected the butterfly keyboard first, but nope that’s not the culprit (in fact, the keyboard’s kind of good … it felt odd initially, not having much travel, but I quickly got used to it). I realized later that the problem must be the trackpad. You see, unlike with Windows I use the trackpad heavily here as the macOS has many useful gestures and although I try to distribute it evenly between my left and right hands the right is what usually does the work.

I thought of getting a regular external mouse first, but there’d be no fun in that. Then I seriously considered getting the Magic Mouse 2 and even went to the Apple shop to try it out … but boy it’s small! I can’t imagine how I would be able to use that. And finally, today, after a lot of thinking and delay I went for the Magic Trackpad 2. Yup, it’s not cheap, nearly double the price of the already pricey mouse … but what the heck.

I find that I am using the left hand more often now for swiping and gestures. And now my left hand too is starting to hurt! 😂

Speaking of Mac stuff I started using the Mac Mini as a regular desktop now with a Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse. I don’t get to do any mouse/ trackpad gestures but I realized I can assign keyboard mapping to get a lot of the functionality. Feels different, using a Mac device with a non-Mac keyboard and mouse … but hey, it works pretty well. The one thing that does not work so well is the monitor. I have two (a Samsung and an LG) 1920×1080 resolution monitors and they have worked well with Windows so far so I thought they’d do a good job with the Mac Mini too. But nope, they are fine, but not great. And that’s then I realized that not all monitors are the same. I knew better, but had not really registered in my head I think … just because two monitors might have the same resolution that does not mean they have the same ppi (pixels per inch). The more pricey ones, including the MacBook Pro screen, have a higher ppi and so everything appears smooth and pretty; while the not so pricey ones that I had have a lower ppi. That is why my eyes are able to notice the fuzziness. About 300ppi is where the human eye stops discerning the individual pixels so any monitor with 300+ ppi will appear amazing! These cost a lot more though unfortunately. (For now I decided to suck it up and stick on with the existing monitors. I use the Mac Mini to Citrix and VPN into work, so it’s mostly running Windows and that displays perfectly fine on the lower ppi monitors :)). 

Trying out MarsEdit

Trying out MarsEdit today. Downloaded a trial version, want to see how it goes. My blogging has reduced a lot last few months – mainly coz I have been super busy, but I don’t want to neglect this blog either. Ever since I switched to macOS I wanted to try MarsEdit but was too stingy to pay for it and didn’t see why I should shell out money when I can do for free via a web UI, but I guess everything’s better consumed via an “app” nowadays and so it just feels more natural to blog via an app than a website. I dunno. Just a reason to try out something I guess. :) 

One thing with a Mac (and Apple in general) is that you tend to spend more. And you don’t mind it too … or at least I don’t. I know with Windows (or Android) apps I’d be stingy and think twice, but with Apple I am fine. That’s the beauty of Apple … they have you reeled in well into the system.