How to Export Contacts to CSV on MacOS

I spent some time trying to figure out how to export contacts to comma separated values (CSV) on my Mac. This was in preparation for sending out Christmas cards.

On the Export menu, it only mentions you can export to vCard, PDF, or to an Archive file. I looked around for a programmatic way to do it, and found some possibilities, but everything seemed too complicated.

After some experimentation, I figured it out. All you have to do is:

  1. Select a bunch of contacts in the left column. (Hold shift while clicking to select multiple contacts.)
  2. Copy them to the clipboard
  3. Paste into new Numbers spreadsheet
  4. File > Export to CSV

Easy!

Watching Blu-Ray Movies with Wireless Headphones

Seven months ago, I wrote about how I connected two pairs of headphones to a Blu-ray player. That worked okay, but I got tired of untangling headphones every time my wife and I wanted to watch a movie.

Then this Sony Blu-ray player — with Bluetooth — popped up brand new on Craigslist for under $88. I bought it, and tried it out with both AirPods and AirPods Pro. In each case, it technically worked, but the AirPods were too loud, and the AirPods Pro were too soft. The Bluetooth volume control built into the player didn’t work to change the volume of the AirPods.

Sony BDP-S6700 Blu-Ray player with Bluetooth

So I had to figure something out. What are the cheapest true wireless headphones that sound decent and are compatible with the Sony player and its Bluetooth volume control? I decided to take a chance on the clumsily named Sony WF-XB700 true wireless earbuds for $60. They worked great, and provide a wide range of volume control.

Now we no longer have to think about untangling cords. We just pop-in a disc with one earbud in my ear and the other in my wife’s and it’s off to the movies!

90 Day Asceticism/Prayer Challenge

A friend invited me to join him and a few of our other buddies on a 90 day asceticism/prayer challenge called Exodus 90.

I’d felt that my prayer life was rote and lukewarm for some time, so to get this invitation and join was a blessing. It’s been the first time in a long while that I’ve had a good long freeform talk with God.

A few of the ascetic disciplines we have to take up daily:

  • Take short, cold showers
  • Regular, intense exercise at least 3x/week
  • Get a full night’s sleep (at least 7 hours)
  • Abstain from alcohol.
  • Abstain from desserts and sweets.
  • Abstain from eating between meals.
  • Abstain from soda or sweet drinks (white milk, black coffee, and black tea are permissible).
  • Abstain from television, movies, or televised sports.
  • Abstain from video games.
  • Abstain from non-essential material purchases. 
  • Only listen to music that lifts the soul to God.
  • Only use the computer for work, school, or essential tasks (e.g., paying bills).
  • Only use mobile devices for essential communications; cut non-essential texting, app, and internet use. 
  • Take Wednesdays and Fridays as days of fasting. (Abstain from meat and only eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal.)

There are some exceptions to this list: On Sundays and holy days, we are allowed to relax one discipline. We also check in with each other daily on how we’re doing and share our challenges/struggles.

The tough ones for me are cutting out movies, snacks, and podcasts. But I’m doing a lot more reading and am more involved with my kids now, so that’s great.

It’s been challenging so far, but rewarding. My wife told me she noticed a big change already: “You’re more there, more attentive, and less absorbed with your phone.” She loves it and it makes me happy too. I feel calmer and more relaxed throughout the day. A couple days after stopping snacks and sugars, my average resting heart rate went down too.

There’s a version for women too, called Fiat 90. My wife hasn’t tried it but it looks good.

One criticism of the Exodus 90 program that I’ve seen is that it does nothing for your life on day 91 and beyond. The creators have updated the program though, with a plan for day 91+. We’ll see how it goes!

Moving from Mac to Linux

My primary work laptop is now a Thinkpad with Ubuntu Linux 20.04 on it. To make life easier when switching from the Mac, I needed quite a few utilities and configuration tips:

Things I haven’t figured out how to do yet:

Please let me know if you’ve figured out how to do either of these last two things on the Thinkpad with Ubuntu.

My Experience with Linux on the Desktop

The company I work for encouraged me to use a top of the line Linux laptop — one of the latest ThinkPads — as my daily driver. Here’s what I’ve found in the first few days of using it, with Ubuntu 20.04.1:

  • Coming from a MacBook with its butter-smooth trackpad, the touchpad is painful. It’s not smooth at all, even with the default Synaptics drivers. It’s almost impossible to precisely focus your cursor in a small area. It’s really astonishing how bad it is.
  • Don’t expect to have external monitors work right away. I plugged my LG 4K monitor with a USB-C cable that works fine with several MacBooks into the ThinkPad. All I got was a cursor on the external monitor screen. That’s it, a cursor. Changing resolutions and refresh rates hasn’t helped. A colleague spent half a week futzing with settings until he finally got it to work. Another colleague recommended an unstable open source Nvidia driver instead of their proprietary driver, but I haven’t gotten that installed yet.
  • After I haven’t been able to get a single Bluetooth peripheral connected. Not a wireless keyboard, wireless trackpad, or wireless headphones. The Ubuntu Bluetooth settings app either hangs, crashes, or just displays a spinning cursor on the device you try to connect. After updating the ControllerMode to bredr in /etc/bluetooth/main.conf , I was able to get my AirPods to connect. To get the wireless keyboard or trackpad to connect, I had to unpair them from another laptop.
  • You’ll need a couple utilities to get most keyboard shortcuts to behave like a Mac, including spacebar for QuickLook, and Cmd-H to quickly move an app out of the way. I still haven’t figured out how to change the keyboard shortcut for going back in my browser. Alt-Left-Arrow just scrolls to the top of the page. Update: The author of Kinto, the keyboard shortcuts utility, is going to make Alt-Left-Arrow/Alt-Right-Arrow work in browsers in an upcoming release.
  • Scrolling web pages (in any browser) is slow and choppy. Supposedly you can fix this in a config file somewhere, but I haven’t found where yet.
  • 10% of the time, the laptop refuses to wake from sleep, requiring a long press on the power button to power off and reboot.
  • The fans spin up for no good reason when I plug the power cord in. Thankfully, they aren’t too loud.
  • I kept having my wireless bluetooth trackpad disconnect and reconnect, every 2-4 minutes. Eventually I figured out this was due to the UPower daemon polling the trackpad for battery status. Adding NoPollBatteries=true to /etc/UPower/UPower.conf and then running systemctl restart upower.service and the problem seems to have gone away.
  • I also had the problem where every time the bluetooth trackpad disconnected/reconnected, it would lose its trackpad speed and natural scrolling settings. To fix this, I updated the mutter package.
  • Finally, the brightness on my external monitor kept resetting itself. I would have to run xrandr –output DP-1 –brightness 0.7 to reset it to something non-blinding, multiple times per hour. I fixed this by disabling night light and stopping the GNOME Setting Daemon’s color plugin from starting at login.

So what’s good about it?

  • The fingerprint scanner is actually pretty good. It’s not quite as reliable as the MacBook’s, but it’s 80% of the way there. It’s nice to unlock the machine and use sudo with a fingerprint.
  • In full screen mode, you can put another app window in front of the full screen app. This is convenient, and unlike macOS. On the Mac, you’re forced into the full screen app and have to switch completely out of it to get to another app.
  • Gnome’s Activity view (Alt-Space), a hybrid of the Mac’s Spotlight and Expose, is very nice. It’s fast and accurate.
  • The ThinkPad itself is fast and battery life excellent. The plastic body isn’t as solid feeling as an aluminum MacBook, but it’s better than your average creaky PC laptop.
  • WiFi works without a problem.

The janky touchpad and choppy scrolling are the hardest to deal with. If I figure out how to fix these, I’ll update this post.

How to do a fast file transfer from a VM to your local computer

How to do a fast file transfer from a VM to your local computer, for example, without the hassle of SFTPing to a third server and setting up a username/password/SSH key-access to it:

yum install https://dl.fedoraproject.org/pub/epel/epel-release-latest-7.noarch.rpm
yum install python-pip
curl https://raw.githubusercontent.com/justbeamit/beam/master/beam --output beam
pip install requests==2.8.1
pip install requests_toolbelt==0.3.0
pip install progressbar2==2.7.3
sudo cp beam /usr/local/bin
chmod 755 /usr/local/bin/beam
beam /path/to/file

The first 8 commands are JustBeamIt pre-requisites, and assume CentOS/RHEL. The file expires in 10 minutes.

JustBeamIt Description from Github

Comparing Recharge Times: Sony Wireless Headphones vs. AirPods

From experience, it takes 2.5 hours to recharge Sony wireless headphones (MDR-XB70BT) from empty to full. This is also stated in the manual. The Sonys give 9 hours of battery life for listening. At 3 hours per day of usage, that’s 3 days between charges.

It takes 1.25 hours to recharge the Apple AirPods battery case. They give 24 hours of battery life when new. At 3 hours of usage per day, that’s 8 days between charges of the battery case.

Like all battery-driven headphones, you need to charge more often as the battery ages. After ~1 year of usage, I’ve found I need to recharge the AirPods battery case every 4 days, instead of every 8.

As an aside, I got the AirPods with wireless charging case, and don’t really like the wireless aspect of it. It’s too hard to position the AirPods perfectly on most wireless chargers. Next time, I’ll get the non-wireless AirPods.

AirDrop and VPNs

My colleagues and I had trouble AirDropping files from our Macs to our phones. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

I figured out that AirDrop would fail with the Cisco AnyConnect VPN client connected.

Specifically, when your Mac’s sharingd service tries to connect to https://yourphone.local:8770/Ask to ask for permission to accept a file, it times out via the VPN. This happens even if LocalLanAccess is allowed in your VPN settings.

The solution was simply to disconnect the VPN client whenever you need to AirDrop something.

Unread Mail in Apple Mail

I had a problem for months in Apple Mail (both on the Mac and the iPhone) where multiple folders would show up with an Unread mail count, even if all mail in that folder was already read. If you clicked one of the Unread folders, the Unread count would instantly go away. (But it would reappear when re-opening Mail.)

Here’s how I fixed it:

  1. Open Mail on the Mac
  2. Click on the Archive (or All Mail) folder
  3. Select all mail, right-click on the selected mail, and hit Mark as Unread
  4. Repeat step 3, but now hit Mark as Read

Now close and open Mail again and you will no longer see folders with Unread mail in them. If the problem continues to occur, you may need to repeat steps 2-4 on all of your mail folders.

2020 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL Experience

I recently rented a 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL and drove it for a week. It was in the “Intermediate SUV” car class. Here’s what I thought of it:

Pros:

  • Very roomy – enough for 7 passengers + plenty of bags
  • Large infotainment screen
  • SEL model includes Apple CarPlay
  • Blind spot monitoring

Cons:

  • Doors feel chintzy. Way worse than recent Kias (which are quite solid) or even older Ford econoboxes. It’s a bit weird closing the door of such a large vehicle and hearing a tinny sound.
  • No radar adaptive cruise control.
  • Hatch is really poorly designed. Three out of four times, it was impossible to open. It just kept beeping at us. No matter how many times you push the button on the key fob or the trunk lid, the trunk wouldn’t open by itself. So annoying. Eventually we found it was open much of the time, but wouldn’t auto-raise like it was designed to, so we had to manually lift it.
  • Dim rear camera view, especially at night. Turning the brightness up works for maps but has almost no effect on the rear camera. You can barely see out of it.
  • Engine sounds like it’s straining most of the time. Loud. Fuel economy only ~23MPG.

Overall, I’d still rent it again, as it was worth it for the amount of space and Apple CarPlay, but I’d try to find a better competitor (such as a Ford Edge) first. I definitely wouldn’t buy one, given all the trouble with the hatch.