Looking for Retina for my Retinas

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%):


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


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.

It could be two days or eight weeks

I’m a reasonable man. No shock for anyone that knows me, but I like to think through most any situation so I can determine the best option. Sure, sometimes I intuit things with only a fraction of data, but the more information I have, the better I feel.

This situation of late is related to cars. Like most every Southern California family, we have two cars; one for me and one for my wife/family. Technically, both are for the family since mine is a very practical four-door Civic, but with my commute, it’s the secondary car for the family. My daughter, however, turned 16 this past Spring and while she is only moderately interested in driving, we started the analysis of adding a third car to the mix.

With my commute, my car accumulates miles quite quickly. I log roughly 500 miles each week and while my car is holding up quite well at 180k miles, the longer I drive, the shorter its usable life becomes. With that in mind, the search began. Consumer Reports was my first stop looking at the top rated and best value cars. On a lark (isn’t that how these things always start?), I took a test drive of a MINI Cooper Hardtop. The rest of the list became irrelevant. After some continued discussion (e.g. my daughter doesn’t even have her learner’s permit yet), we sealed the deal yesterday.

Here’s where it gets interesting. They found the model I decided on at the docks near LA destined for Seattle. They made the request to trade it but it’s (on paper, at least) on the truck already. They’ll find out tomorrow if it can be successfully re-routed. If they can, I’ll be good-to-go Tuesday or Wednesday. If not, they’ll probably have to order one which will take two months.

We’ll find out tomorrow. I’ve mentally ‘moved-in’, already, so I’m on pins and needles.

Wanna see it?

Tee Hee

Tee Hee

UPDATE: It turns out that the car was already loaded on a truck and in-transit when they called on it Monday morning. They tried to re-route it as well as looking for a similar replacement. No luck. This Wednesday, they’ll place the order for my CTO MINI which will arrive in about eight weeks. Fortunately, the website has a way to track the  status of the order (i.e. in production, on ship, in dock) so I can generally know how it’s going rather than just waiting for a phone call. It reminds me of ordering something from the back of a comic book. The waiting is going to be tough.

Validation of being me

As can be easily learned as you look through my blog, I am a productivity-minded geek. I have been ‘doing’ geek for nearly my entire life and have become increasingly interested in productivity over the last 5-or-so years. That combination worked out perfectly this past weekend.

As a IT professional, I know that backups are important. If you don’t have any (or recent) backups of your data, can you really say that it’s important to you? As a serious GTD‘er, I don’t trust my memory and create repeating tasks in OmniFocus to help remember what I need to do when I need to do it.

Those two things came together to my advantage on Saturday. Friday night, OmniFocus reminded me that it’s been six weeks since I had backed up my PlayStation 3. No problem, hook up a spare USB drive, kick off a backup, and go to bed. Saturday afternoon the system died. The dreaded flashing red LED which indicates there’s a hardware component problem. Bummer. No worries, though. At work, one of the perks is being able to get a dead console repaired or exchanged for free. In about a week’s time, I should have a replacement restored and back up and running.

If you’re going to have something fail, see if you can have a recent backup of it, first.

Some Good Reading

We were discussing notable books at work so I put together the below list and decided that it might also be useful here. The links go to Amazon if you’d like to read a synopsis. If you’d like my take on any of them, just let me know.

Non-business favorites:
Ready Player One: A Novel by Ernest Cline
Ender’s Game (Ender, Book 1) by Orson Scott Card
Daemon by Daniel Suarez
Freedom™ by Daniel Suarez

OmniFocus: Learning Japanese

At work, I’ve been taking Japanese classes and have been using OmniFocus to help me with daily practice. Here’s a screenshot of a typical morning:


Learning Japanese in OmniFocus

So let me explain the setup. For each word or phrase I want to study, I create a separate task that is set to repeat every two days. In the task name, I have the english word and in the notes I have the word in Japanese with the romaji. When I study, I don’t look at the notes until I want to double-check my answer. If I’m right, I increase the repeat of the task by a day. If’ I’m close, I leave it as is. If I’m wrong, I decrease the repeat by a day. That way, I practice words I’m not learning more frequently and words that I do know naturally move out to show up less frequently.

I’ve been using this system for a couple of years and it’s working pretty well. Currently, I have hundreds of words that in my rotation with anywhere from 30-50 on the list for each day which keeps things manageable. The romaji text is deliberately in a light color so that I focus on the word in Japanese (hiragana or katakana). The only downside is that I’m only focusing on English to Japanese. I need to reverse the many of them to increase my recognition of the Japanese words themselves. Any other ideas for improvements?

OmniFocus: Using Emoji

This is the first in a series of posts about OmniFocus that I’ve been thinking about for ages. I’m going to keep them short to eliminate excuses for not getting to them.

For the unfamiliar, OmniFocus is a OS X application based on the Getting Things Done methodology by David Allen. I’ve been an avid user for over five years and it is central to my productivity both personally and professionally. These posts will presume you’re generally familiar with the software. If not, they may not make complete sense.

Continue reading

Peter Hinssen – The New Normal

I was able to attend the Trace3 EBC a few weeks ago in Las Vegas. I can honestly say it was well worth the few days in being away from the office. One of the best speakers was Peter Hinssen whose presentation was like a long TED talk. I re-watched it with my family a week ago and they enjoyed it which confirms it’s not just me being overly geeky. If you watch it, comment below with how many slide you think make up the presentation. I might have a surprise for you.

Trace3 EBC 2013 Peter Hinssen from Trace3 on Vimeo.

This is good to think about as the world in certainly changing and you’d be best to think how so that it doesn’t take you by surprise.

A Troubling Mystery

I had an unexpected event occur yesterday and, honestly, it’s got me a bit concerned. Yesterday, while making breakfast, one of the outlets by the range started smoking. Nothing was plugged into it and nothing splashed onto it, but a trickle of smoke was there, nonetheless. After quickly throwing the breaker and allowing it to cool down I removed the faceplate and found this:



With no specific electrical experience, I wasn’t sure where to turn. I decided to stop by the local fire department to see if they had any thoughts. They didn’t have any specific comments, but did recommend talking to the local building and safety department which should provide some good perspective. If there’s some defect or age-related problem, I certainly want to know so I can take the necessary steps to remediate it.

What’s got me concerned is the unclear cause. Honestly, it’s a blessing that I was standing right next to it. If we weren’t home, there’s a chance there wouldn’t be a home to be sitting in right now to write this. Without knowing the root cause, it’s a bit hard to sleep comfortably at night.

I called building and safety today, but with the holiday, I wasn’t surprised to only get voicemail. I’ll be staying home tomorrow to see if I can learn something useful. I won’t be comfortable until I do.

 Update (02/19/13):

I visited my local city hall and spoke with a gentleman from building and safety. He was quite helpful partially due to the fact he was a professional electrician before becoming a building inspector. He mentioned that about 90% of all house fires are due to situations like this. What likely happened was that a downstream outlet was pulling some significant current that ended up arcing through the neutral screw terminal. While it was 12 gauge wire, if they aren’t screwed down tightly or completely, it can end up arcing.

At this point, I’m satisfied that the replacement outlet or any other ones won’t just spontaneously ignite (like when we’re not home), but will certainly entertain evaluating all of the kitchen outlets for proper condition. On the plus side, I now have a bonus fourth day to my three-day weekend.

Digging through the virtual garage

I finally got around to archiving some old Iomega Zip and Jaz cartridges before the media they’re on goes bad or, more likely, I can no longer get the drives to function on a working system.

While digging through the disks, I ran across the following commercial from when I worked at EntryPoint (before RedZone/Sony). I was involved (off-screen) in the production which was done at a church in Santa Barbara. It was an interesting experience that went all day and into the night before wrapping. If I’m not mistaken it was made in spring of 2000 or perhaps a bit earlier (late 1999).

EntryPoint never really took off and I left for RedZone when they got within 90 days of insolvency later that year.

My problem with surveys

At work this week, we went over employee feedback survey results from a survey originally taken last fall. This is a survey used by many organizations and while some interesting information is presented, there are limits.

My primary problem is that the approximately 75 questions were all based on a 5-point scale. That is a chief complaint for me. I believe that everyone views numerical scales differently. I can usually think of how something could be better or worse so, as a result, I very rarely select the top or bottom selection (i.e., 5 or 1 in a 5-point scale). I realize that it artificially constrains my responses which is its own problem. On the other hand, I’m sure there are plenty of people that have no qualms using 5 or 1 and probably a few that overuse 5 or 1. Does that mean everything gets evened out? Probably (to a degree).

I’m happy that we decided at work to not only review the survey looking at the top and bottom results, but emphasized the thoughts and perspectives as to why items may be high or low. In my team, we spent two hours on it and had a really good talk. Now the challenge is to do what I can to change the things I can and to affect change on the things I can’t.