The Robservatory

Robservations on everything…

 

Yosemite: An alternative zoom-to-fit action

As you’re probably aware, Apple changed the functionality of a green button click in Yosemite: it not longer “zooms to fit” (which could have different behaviors per app), but instead it enters Full Screen mode (if the app has one; otherwise, it does zoom to fit). If you want zoom-to-click, you can option-click the green button; there’s no apparent way to toggle these two functionalities.

But today, I discovered a second zoom-to-fit shortcut: double-click the window’s title bar. This is easier to do, as you don’t have to hit the small green button target; just get the mouse anywhere in the title bar, and double-click.

Note that this won’t work if you have “Double-click a window’s title bar to minimize” enabled in the Dock System Preferences panel.

A very quick look at the Retina iMac’s graphics performance

While I’m still busy setting up my Retina iMac—given I always do this by hand, it’s time consuming—I did take a few minutes to see how the graphics performance compares to that of my mid-2011 iMac.

To test the Macs, I use a visual benchmark called Unigine Valley. This benchmark puts the graphics card through a real workout, and is fun to watch while running. Before the results, here’s a quick comparison of my two iMacs:

2011 iMac 2014 iMac
CPU 3.4GHz Core i7 4.0GHz Core i7
RAM 16GB 24GB
Graphics AMD HD 6970M AMD R9 M295X
VRAM 2GB 4GB

And here’s how they did…

2011 iMac

2014 iMac

I’m no math whiz, but it looks like the new Retina iMac is over twice as fast in the graphics realm as my older machine. I knew it’d be faster, of course, but I wasn’t expecting that kind of speed up. Wow.

Quick poll: How many iDevices do you own?

From fiscal 2002 (the iPod’s launch year) through fiscal 2014, Apple sold 1,224,700,000 iPods, iPhones, and iPads. That’s a lot of iDevices! In looking around our (four person) home, I count more than I would have expected. So that got me thinking, how many of these things do other people own?

Hence this simple poll. It doesn’t matter if the device is in use or not in use, working or not working…I just think it might be interesting to see how many of these things each of us owns.

iDevice ownership
How many iPads, iPods, and iPhones (of any vintage) do you (and/or your household) own?

Voting is 100% anonymous; I’m not collecting or tracking IP addresses or any other identifiable information. So take a second and tell the world how many iDevices you own.

Yosemite: Tweaking Safari’s URL bar settings

Safari in Yosemite is a familiar yet new beast. Among the interface changes, I really didn’t like the way the URL bar behaved. In particular, these things bugged me:

  1. Not being able to see the full URL.
  2. The width of the URL entry box.
  3. The drop-down that appears when you click in the URL bar (when you have a page loaded).

Thankfully, the fixes for these three issues are easy, if not completely obvious.

Full URL not visible in URL bar

By default, Safari truncates URL to just the base “dot” address, regardless of where you are on a site. So if you’re reading my hint about using a dark Dock, Safari’s URL bar will display this:

http://robservatory.com

But you’re really on this page:

http://robservatory.com/yosemite-dark-dock-and-app-switcher-with-light-menu-bar/

If you prefer knowing where you are in the site hierarchy at all times, the fix is simple. Open Safari’s Preferences, go to Advanced, and add a checkmark next to “Show full website address.”

The URL box will now show the full URL of the page you’re viewing. Of course, that will lead to a second problem—the URL box isn’t large enough to display much of the extended URL. Thankfully, that too is an easy fix.

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Yosemite: Dark Dock and App Switcher with light menu bar

Here’s my first (only?) Yosemite hint, courtesy of my Many Tricks partner, Peter Maurer. Peter wanted a light menu bar, but preferred the contrast given to application icons in the dark Dock—like this:

Here’s how to achieve that effect.

  1. Open Terminal, then copy/paste this and press Return: defaults write NSGlobalDomain AppleInterfaceStyle Dark
  2. Paste or type killall Dock and press Return. The Dock will relaunch in its dark mode.
  3. Copy/paste this and press Return: defaults remove NSGlobalDomain AppleInterfaceStyle

The first step sets dark mode, step two restarts the Dock to switch it to dark mode, and step three turns off dark mode—but the Dock won’t notice, and will remain in its dark state (until it’s next restarted, which isn’t often). Because the Command-Tab switcher is associated with the Dock, it will also be dark.

If you’re going to script this, you’ll want to insert a delay between the second and third steps, so that the Dock can finish launching before you disable dark mode. Neat trick!

How I configured my 5K TV with bundled computer

After seeing the new iMac with Retina 5K display (I’m just going to call it a Retina iMac from here on out, or even riMac for short), I decided it was time to upgrade my aging but still oh-so-functional mid-2011 27″ iMac.

For those contemplating the same upgrade, you may be mulling decisions on processor, RAM, storage, and graphics cards; here’s the logic behind each of my choices in those areas, in case it helps you with your decision.

CPU

This was the simplest decision to make—I always buy the most powerful CPU I can afford. In the case where the choice is a Core i5 vs. Core i7, I will always go for the Core i7. That’s because only the Core i7 supports hyper threading, which, as Apple writes, is “a technology that allows two threads to run simultaneously on each core. So a quad-core iMac has eight virtual cores, all of which are recognized by OS X. This enables the processor to deliver faster performance by spreading tasks more evenly across a greater number of cores.”

In addition, by upgrading the CPU, I make the machine more usable many years down the road—whether for my own use, or when reselling to someone else.

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Goodbye cron task, hello launchd agent

On April 29th, 2005, Apple launched Mac OS X 10.4, aka Tiger. With Tiger came launchd, a new Unix-side job scheduling tool. launchd was intended to replace cron, the long-established (and quite cryptic) tool for such tasks.

And now, a mere nine-plus years later, I decided it was time to give up cron and move to launchd myself. Mr. Bleeding Edge, that’s me! (Note: Unless you enjoy the Unix side of OS X and currently use cron to schedule tasks, this article won’t be of much interest to you.)

Why now, after so long as a holdout? Primarily because I kept running into issues with cron tasks that needed to do things as “authorized me,” such as mounting an encrypted disk image, or even just mounting a network share. Or my Mac would be asleep for a scheduled cron task, and it therefore wouldn’t run. (launchd will queue any missed tasks to execute when the Mac reawakens.) Finally, my cron file was getting huge and unwieldy, and making simple changes was fraught with danger of breaking something.

So I dedicated a portion of a recent weekend to figuring out launchd, and migrating my cron tasks to this brave no-longer-at-all-new world. If you’re still hanging on to cron, read on to see what I’ve learned about launchd—maybe it’ll inspire you to move, too (or not).

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A useless analysis of OS X release dates

Updated and republished for the OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) release; skip it unless you really really care about all the OS X releases. Originally published on November 14th, 2005.

Below the break is a table showing all major releases of OS X from the public beta through the latest public version, which is OS X 10.10 as of October 16th, 2014. Note that this release marks the 83rd release of OS X (counting major, minor, and released-then-yanked updates). Wow.

Note: Click the ⓘ symbol to read Apple’s release notes for a given update.

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Leaked—Tim Cook’s October 16th monologue notes!

[Serious, reserved look]
At Apple, your trust means everything to us. And we know that recently we’ve lost that trust. We released a horridly-rushed iOS 8.0.1 update that clobbered a number of users’ phones. Our celebrity users had their most private moments shared with the world. Our web site crashed when people tried to order the new iPhone 6. We had to ship iOS 8 without HealthKit and iCloud Drive. We spammed everyone with a U2 album that not everyone wanted. Hell, the last time I tried to give one of these talks, most everyone on the internet had to listen to a Chinese version of myself at the same time.

[Earnest appearance, eye contact with everyone!]
As you can see, we’ve made a number of seriously un-Apple-like mistakes recently, and quite frankly, that’s not acceptable. Not acceptable to you, our customers. Not acceptable to me, and certainly not acceptable to everyone else here at the company. This is not the Apple we all know and love[dramatic pause]…users have been putting up with this for way too long, and today, it ends! [demonstrative]

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Portable power pack products prevent powerless problems

“Hello, my name is Rob, and I have a portable power problem. It’s been six days, 13 hours, and 23 minutes since I last bought a portable power solution.”

OK, so that’s a bit over the top. But still, I find portable chargers appealing, as I don’t like being without power when away from a wall outlet. Whether it’s a long flight, a camping trip, or a Mother Nature-induced power outage, I like having alternatives. That’s why there are currently eight chargers in my collection, as seen in the image at right (click for larger).

And while I can’t pretend to be anywhere near as thorough as The Wirecutter, I thought it’d be interesting to compare all eight of these portable chargers.

The following table provides baseline specs on all eight chargers, and shows how much power you’re getting for each ounce of weight you carry (mAh per Ounce) and how much you’ll pay per milliampere-hour (mAh per Dollar)—so you can choose by power effectiveness or cost effectiveness. (The order of the table corresponds to the numbering in the above-right photo.)

My two favorites are highlighted; the Jackery is an ideal size to carry around nearly everywhere, and the EC Technology is excellent for camping trips or other extended periods away from power. Beyond the table, I share a few thoughts on each of these power bricks, in case you’re really interested in these things.

# Product Size (LxWxH, inches) Volue (cubic inches) Weight (oz) Capacity (mAh) mAh per Ounce Cost ($) mAh per Dollar
1 OrigAudio w/ Oracle logo 3.75 1.75 0.80 5.3 4.1 1,000 243.9
2 Sony CPV3 Portable Power Pack 4.00 1.50 0.75 4.5 3.0 2,800 933.3
3 Sony USB Portable Charger 5.13 2.75 0.63 8.8 9.6 10,000 1,041.7
Sony Cycle Energy – 2+3 sold as a set 13.3 12.6 12,800 1,015.9 $83.85 152.7
4 JunoPower JunoJumper 5.47 2.95 0.59 9.5 7.2 6,000 833.3 $99.99 60.0
5 EC Technology Power Bank 6.30 2.90 0.80 14.6 15.4 22,400 1,454.5 $45.95 487.5
6 Jackery Giant+ Portable Charger 4.30 3.10 0.80 10.7 10.4 12,000 1,153.8 $39.95 300.4
7 Boostcase Hybrid Battery Case 5.50 2.38 0.40 5.2 2.8 2,200 800.0 $99.95 22.0
8 Zagg 6000 battery pack 4.25 2.75 1.70 19.9 7.5 6,000 800.0 $55.89 107.4

Read on for a little blurb on each charger…

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