A Retina Desktop is Possible

September 11th, 2014 No comments

Retina LogoI now have a working retina display on my Late 2012 Mac mini at work. I previously wrote about it late last year and occasionally experimented with normal HD LCDs but really wasn’t going to be able to do anything without an UltraHD display to test with. Recently, I asked the desktop team and they happened to have one that wasn’t in use. I was able to borrow it and worked more seriously on seeing if this was indeed possible.

The quick-and-dirty how to can be found at the mac-pixel-clock-patch page on Google code. You have to patch a single file to enable the higher 3840 x 2160 resolution, but that, plus a UltraHD display, and you’re in business. Having 3840 x 2160 (UHD) display rendering a 1920 x 1080 (HD) screen makes for a nice experience, indeed. Look at the picture on the right or screenshots of my previous article.

For work, I got a pair of DELL 2414Q 24″ LCDs. They’re nicely made and look quite good. I run one in landscape and the other in portrait so I can display content as appropriate (e.g. spreadsheets vs. web pages). If I were using only a single display, the story would be over. The problem is that the Intel HD 4000 video hardware on the Mac mini isn’t up to the challenge of driving two displays at that resolution. It just can’t throw that many pixels out that fast (just shy of a half billion pixels per second). I would get close, but it would result in the video flickering with pixel ‘junk’ over large portions of the screen. I could get one looking great over mini DisplayPort or HDMI (3840 x 2160 @ 30 FPS) but the moment I connected the second display, problems. I tried customizing lower FPS modes to reduce the total pixel clock demands, but no luck.

The DELL UP2414Q I use at work

My workaround is driving the portrait display at 1920 x 1080 (1080 x 1920, actually) over a USB to HDMI adapter (via DisplayLink). It’s only HD with a variable refresh rate, but it does allow me to have both displays active.

Rumors are that Apple will be revising the Mac mini next month which should improve the video hardware enough to work. We’ll see. For now, though, I’m satisfied and enjoying the experience.

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Two Games I’m Looking Forward To

June 12th, 2014 No comments

I was able to visit E3 yesterday in Los Angeles. As expected, there were plenty of games and even more people. Interestingly, the two games I’m most interested in weren’t playable or even present (on the floor, at least). I’ll just have to be

No Man’s Sky


This is an amazing looking game made up of a team of four. It’s procedurally-generated world and universe that will encourage exploration. I’m up for that.

Mirror’s Edge 2


I really liked the original and it went years with only rumors of a sequel. Last year they announced development and this year gave a little more information, but it clearly has some time to bake still since EA wasn’t showing it in their booth.

Neither has a release date, though, so I’m not expecting either until late this year, at best.

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Support when you need it

May 18th, 2014 No comments

This week, San Diego suffered through far too many fires. Fortunately, neither my house or work were directly at risk. Not surprisingly, however, the air quality was quite poor. It was so bad on Thursday evening that facilities and senior management decided to shut down non-essential HVAC units which required the closure of our office for Friday.

There are advantages working in a high-tech industry like video games. One of them is that most of the work is on the computer and, as such, work can be performed almost anywhere. So, when the notification went out Thursday night that the office would be closed and that people should work remotely, if possible, I wasn’t concerned.

The next morning, I got a call from one of my guys that the VPN service (that we’re responsible for) had hit its 100 simultaneous user limit. We’ve never hit that limit before, but this was far from a normal situation.

I’m happy to say that after working with our reseller (CDW) and the vendor (Juniper Networks) they gladly provided a very generous license good for two months while we work out a more permanent solution. Support like this is exactly what one needs when the time comes. They both came through and that counts for a lot.

With the fires brought under control over the weekend, it’ll be work as usual tomorrow. Now to start a purchase for additional licenses…

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A Perfect Week of Driving

April 13th, 2014 No comments

I got an early Automatic Link by Automatic late last year. It’s a very interesting device to track how you’re driving with the ultimate goal to improve your gas milage. To further encourage good habits, it maintains a score of how the week has gone. After many very close weeks, I recently managed a full 100% score:

Automatic 100 Score

Well, almost perfect. I did have one hard break and less than a minute of going over 70 MPH–I’ll work on that. Considering my car is only supposed to get 29/37 mpg, a 43.7 mpg average over 740 miles is quite impressive. Driving like this has certainly paid for the device!

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Don’t worry, I’m still married

March 29th, 2014 No comments

Whenever I need to remember something for a short period of time, I’ll move my wedding ring from my left hand to my right one. Since it feels so strange, it encourages me act on whatever it is as soon as possible. As a result, I have a few ‘rules’ that I utilize:

  • Use it for only one thing at a time (no overloading)
  • Either do it or capture it (in OmniFocus) soon
  • Reassure my wife that I still love her

So, when you see me move my ring from one hand to the other, you don’t have to wonder.

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Nice to be part of the family

February 8th, 2014 No comments

I received in the mail yesterday a most interesting package. It was a collection of items from MINI USA as a result of me recently joining the family of MINI owners. It was unexpected as I certainly don’t recall asking for any sort of gift.

It is certainly a nice touch and makes me appreciate the company more than I already did.

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223.27 miles one step at a time

February 2nd, 2014 No comments

I’ve been using a FitBit for two years now and I’m happy to say that it has encouraged me to be conscious about exercising. I now walk regularly which also gets me a break during the day at work for sunlight and reading. For January, I decided to commit to a goal much higher than my typical 11,000 steps per day: 500,000 steps in a month. I made it, but just barely.

FitBit stats Jan 2014

 It’s not a sustainable pace, but I will try to keep things up over the coming year.

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Looking for Retina for my Retinas

December 24th, 2013 No comments

I’ve had my current MacBook Pro at work for over a year and I have really become enamored with the retina display. For the unfamiliar, Apple started the concept back with the release of the iPhone 4 which replaced the previous 640×480 display with a 1280×960 display in a resolution-independent 2x mode. The beauty of the option is a display that looks that much more sharp that normal. Last year, they added retina to the MacBook line which extends the concept to the full suite of OS X applications.

For comparison, here’s a screenshot for normal mode (scaled ~200%):

Finder-non-retina

And here’s a retina version (also scaled ~200%):

finder-retina

At work since I use my desktop setup for the majority of my work, I’ve been researching what options exist for having a retina mode on a desktop system. Normally, retina (also called HiDPI) is prevented from the screen settings, but it can be enabled with the following command:

sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.windowserver DisplayResolutionEnabled -bool YES

Then after a reboot or logout/login you can check the options in the Displays System Preference:

Screen Shot 2013-12-24 at 7.11.54 AM

If you want even more options, you can download Retina DisplayMenu (RDM) from Paul Griffin. On a normally full HD display (1920×1080) I’ve enabled 1280×720 (HiDPI):

Screen Shot 2013-12-24 at 6.16.41 AM

If you’re willing to trade screen real estate for sharpness, it’s a nice usage experience. So now, I’m anxiously awaiting CES next month and the likely release of (semi) affordable Ultra HD/4k displays which have a native resolution of 3840×2160 which will allow for 1920×1080 at full retina (2x). That’d be pretty sweet.

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So it was ten weeks

October 12th, 2013 No comments

Back in July, I shared how the MINI I was looking to get may have to be ordered. Well it was, and after a total of ten weeks of building, shipping, transporting, and prepping, I was able to pick it up this afternoon:

MINI Cooper

Lookin’ pretty nice in the driveway

I’m getting accustomed to driving a manual transmission and how it drives. Tomorrow, I’ll have to run a whole bunch of errands. I’m not sure what, but I’ll come up with something; far away. Now off to read the owner’s manual to figure out all the bits and knobs.

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How A Car Engine Works

September 7th, 2013 No comments

I’ve always enjoyed the complex-yet-simple mechanical design of a combustion engine. This infographic by Jacob O’Neal does a really nice job of explaining how one works.

(click for full size)
How A Car Engine Works, by Jacob O'Neal
Infographic designed by Jacob O’Neal

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