Putting a Screen Time prefpane in your macOS Dock

Apple’s new Screen Time feature is a handy way to track how much time you’ve worked on various projects (or how many hours you’ve been at work) throughout the week.  I use it so often, I turned it into a dock icon.

But there’s a bug in Screen Time (that still exists in Catalina 10.15.3), whereby if you launch it, sometimes the number of hours shown will not match reality.  And there is no refresh button to get the hours shown re-calculated.

To get a the number of hours of screen time updated within the last minute, you have to close the prefpane and relaunch it.  I was getting tired of opening Screen Time, closing it, and then opening it again, so I built a simple AppleScript to do that automatically:

screentime.jpeg

To do the same:

  1. Open Script Editor.
  2. Type in the above code exactly as written in the screenshot.
  3. Pull down the File menu and Export it with a File Format of App and drag it to your dock.

You now have a “working” Screen Time prefpane which is always updated when you click the dock icon.

How I treated wrist rash after working out with Apple Watch

After working out with my watch, I started developing a slight rash underneath the watch, on top of my wrist.  It wasn’t nearly as bad or gory as some of the news reports on this, but it was uncomfortable.  The rash is often a result of sweat and bacteria interacting in the tight space underneath the watch.  If your watch band is too tight or too loose, or if you wear your watch in the shower, this can happen.  And it applies to any watch, not just Apple’s.  For example, Fitbit, Timex, etc.

After some research, here’s how I treated the situation:

    1. Clean the back of the watch with a lightly-damp microfiber cloth.
    2. Wash wrist and let it completely dry.
    3. Rub a tiny smidge of zinc oxide ointment in the affected area.  One common place to find zinc oxide is in diaper cream.  I used the tub of Triple Paste medicated diaper cream that we had sitting around.  Burt’s Bees ointment also works and may be cheaper.  Both are Made in USA.  You can also use calamine lotion (which is made with zinc oxide), but I find diaper cream less messy and faster.

triplepaste.jpg

Then wait a few hours (or even a day) before wearing your watch again.  This worked great for me, and I haven’t had to re-do it.  (If you are allergic or otherwise sensitive to zinc oxide, you’ll probably want to talk to your doctor to find an alternative.)

dminder: Vitamin D Tracking app review

I spent 9 months of the past year diligently recording my time in the sun with the a unique and interesting app called dminder.

At the end of October, the app said I was at 18 ng/ml. The actual level as per a blood test, the same day, turned out quite different: 29 ng/ml.  (This amount is slightly below the healthy range, by the way.)

My opinion is that unless you can somehow calculate all of the vitamin D you’re getting from milk, yogurt, cereals, fatty fish, and eggs along with supplements, then the number in any tracking app is not going to be accurate. My doctor advised me to just take 1000iu per day.

dminder D level management

The dminder app is still useful for calculating what a safe time is to stay out in the sun is, during summer months, but I wouldn’t trust it to accurately calculate my D levels unless it prompted for a lot more nutrition info which I wouldn’t want to spend time entering anyway.  (Update: It’s actually not hard to enter a rough estimate.)  The app is also handy for reminders of what months and times/elevations are available for D generation.

AirPods Reset

My left AirPod kept cutting out after 3 minutes, even when fully charged. I tried re-pairing it.  That didn’t work.

I then tried a full reset, as described in this Apple support document:

  1. Go to Settings > Bluetooth and tap the “i” icon next to your AirPods. Then tap Forget This Device, and tap again to confirm.
  2. Put your AirPods in their case: Close the lid. Wait 30 seconds, then open the lid.
  3. Reset your AirPods: Press and hold the setup button on the back of the case until you see the status light flash amber a few times, then flash white continuously.
  4. Reconnect your AirPods: Place your AirPods close to your device. Follow the steps on your device’s screen.
ios12-iphone-xs-airpods-setup-animation-steps
AirPods Setup

It worked!

My AirPods are over 2 years old.  Apple does not (yet) provide an external tool to detect how many battery cycles they’ve gone through, but I’m sure they’re past their 500 cycle limit.  (roughly equivalent to 1.5-2 years if you use the AirPods almost every day)

After 2+ years, on a single charge, I get less than half an hour of talk time out of them, and probably 1.5-2 hours of listening time.  When new, the AirPods (1st gen) got about 2 hours of talk time and about 5 hours of listening time.

Combined, that’s about ~30% of the original battery life remaining after 2 years.  Rough.

I should probably be getting some new AirPods, but I’m holding out for the rumored noise cancelling version.

HomeKit: Bluetooth vs. WiFi Accessories

I own 6 HomeKit devices:

(All of the above don’t require a hub. I didn’t want an extra potential point of failure, or to have to spend more money on a hub that is only compatible with certain devices.)

homekitlogo

When purchasing HomeKit accessories, one point that is often overlooked is whether the device communicates over Bluetooth or WiFi. Here are the pros and cons of each:

Bluetooth Pros:

  • Works even when your WiFi network is down
  • Faster setup (plug-in, scan the HomeKit code and you’re done)

Bluetooth Cons:

  • Slow response to commands/status checks (can take 2-5 seconds or more)
  • Potentially not as secure as WiFi

WiFi Pros:

  • Instant response to commands (while your WiFi is up)
  • Easier for developers to implement securely

WiFi Cons:

  • May fail to respond if your WiFi is down
  • Sometimes a more complicated setup (my Belkin outlet required me to first connect to a temporary Belkin WiFi network broadcasting from the outlet itself, prior to connecting to my main WiFi network)

Here’s a short animated GIF showing the difference between turning off my air conditioner via my WiFi-connected Belkin outlet, and turning off my lamp via my Bluetooth-connected Sylvania light bulb:

DifferenceBetweenHomeKitWifiAndHomeKitBluetooth480.gif
The air conditioner is off as soon as Siri says “OK.”, but you can see the ~3 second lag when connecting to the Bluetooth light bulb.

Since my WiFi is rarely down any longer, thanks to Eero’s amazing routers and beacons, I now choose WiFi HomeKit devices whenever possible. Instant response rocks. I push a button, the air conditioning comes on less than a second later. I speak a command, and I’ve barely gotten the words out of my mouth when the machine I’ve connected to the outlet switches on. Love it.

How to Sync PDFs from iBooks on the iPhone/iPad to your Mac

Finally figured out how to do this thanks to a gentleman named Heiko at  https://discussions.apple.com/thread/5564809 :

  1. Open iTunes on your Mac and connect your device
  2. Highlight your iOS device in iTunes
  3. Pull down the File menu, hit Device, then Transfer Purchases:

iTunes: Transfer “Purchases” (including PDFs) from iOS device

All PDFs will be copied to your Mac.

  1. Now open iBooks on your Mac
  2. Pull down the File menu, and hit Move Books from iTunes

All your PDFs from iBooks on your iOS device are synced to your iBooks on OS X:

iBooks: Move Books from iTunes

Like Heiko, I cannot find any official documentation for doing this.  It sure is a lot faster than transferring each PDF individually by email.  I don’t understand why this isn’t done during a normal iTunes or iCloud sync.

Mac Photos App – Photo Stream Not Updating?

I recently had a problem where photos in my Mac’s Photos app wouldn’t update.  I had plenty of new pictures on my iPhone, and Photo Stream was turned on on both the Mac and the iPhone, but no new photos appeared no matter how many times I quit and restarted Photos.

Here’s what I had to do to get it working again:

In Photos Preferences, untick and retick the My Photo Stream box. (possible photo origin)

As for what was actually happening behind the scenes as this took place, I turned to Console App, which revealed:

Console Log as I unticked and reticked the My Photo Stream box

Let me know if this helps you!