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.

Troubleshooting Why My Mac Was Slow: photoanalysisd

I woke my Mac after it had been sleeping for a while and I noticed it was slower than usual.  Clicking browser tabs felt like pushing through molasses.

I opened a Terminal window and typed: top, and immediately1 saw photoanalysisd consuming 95% CPU.  It showed no signs of letting up, after several minutes of watching it.

  • What was it doing?
  • Wasn’t photo analysis only supposed to happen when your Mac is idle or in PowerNap/sleep mode?

I opened Photos.  Now two CPU hungry processes were going: Photos itself and photoanalysisd.

After a quick web search, I went straight to the first hit at Stack Exchange, and found this gem:

  1. Start Photos, let it continue past the first dialogue box;
  2. Now Preferences in the app menu is clickable (if it wasn’t before);
  3. Preferences > General , and untick both check boxes in Memories;
  4. Close Photos.
    This stops photoanalysisd cold, no reboot or kill required.

uncheck-photoanalysisd.png
Untick these two boxes in Photos > Preferences > General > Memories

Not sure how this guy figured this out, but this tip worked great.  It did indeed stop photoanalysisd.  Hopefully this trouble won’t crop up again.

Jerky Animation in Safari Reader

I was trying to figure out why Safari’s Reader animation was smooth on my retina MacBook display (“1680×1050”), and super smooth on my old iPad Pro (1668 x 2224), but jerky/stuttering on my USB-C-connected external 4K monitor in any resolution except “1280×720”.  This even happened on simple web sites with very few photos.

safari-reader
Safari Reader Mode is just slow at 4K – if you don’t have a discrete video card. Image credit: Apple

Turns out it’s the VRAM.  From iCruiser7 on Reddit:

Pushing high-res external monitors primarily depends on VRAM size and bandwidth. Integrated graphics have to use system RAM as VRAM which is slower compared to dedicated VRAM. If you only had 8GB system RAM then the shared VRAM would further strain the entire system since less system RAM is available to apps.

Now, the new G7 graphics have more computational performance and are coupled with faster 3733 LPDDR4X system RAM which provides more bandwidth so performance on an external display should be at least somewhat better. However, a discrete graphics card would bring much more improvement. So if pushing high-res external monitors is your goal, I’d recommend you either 1. upgrade to a 16-inch MBP or 2. get a eGPU.

I looked into eGPU prices and they can be $300 for the enclosure alone.  And $700 for an Apple-recommended one with a video card included.  The cheapest MacBook Pro 16″ with an extra video card included is $2100!  I’m going to pass on that and see what external graphics performance is like on Apple Silicon.

Wish there was a way to turn Safari’s reader animation off.  If anyone knows how, please let me know.

Quick Fix for Slow Scrolling in macOS

On long web pages, especially when using a high resolution (4K+) external monitor, scrolling takes a long, long time.  Feels like you’re dragging the page through molasses.

I found a quick fix for this, buried in Accessibility preferences:

  1. Open System Preferences > Accessibility
  2. Scroll down to Pointer Control
  3. Hit Trackpad Options… and move the Scrolling speed slider to Fast.

trackpadoptions.pngWhy this isn’t in Trackpad preferences, I don’t know.  It used to be, back in 2011.  I guess Apple decided the Trackpad preferences were getting too overloaded and hid them deep in Accessibility settings.

 

Apple Watch Series 3 on Sale for $169 at Amazon

Amazon just listed the Apple Watch Series 3 for $169 – on sale.  This is a great starter watch for anyone interested in dipping their toe in the waters with Apple’s tech.  (They will need an iPhone to use it, though.)  Series 3 runs smoothly with watchOS 6, and will be supported by the upcoming watchOS 7.  (which includes sleep tracking)

apple-watch-series-3.jpg

These watches actually come with blood oxygen detection built in, but it isn’t enabled yet due to FDA restrictions.  Once the FDA eases their rules, this will be great for early detection of COVID-19-like symptoms.

 

MacOS’s Hidden Storage Management App

When you think you need Daisy Disk or Grand Perspective to clean up your disk, you might be surprised Apple has built a pretty good storage management app into the operating system:

  1. Open Spotlight (Cmd-Space)
  2. Type “Storage Management”
  3. On the bottom, in the Reduce Clutter section, hit Review Files, and you’ll see something that looks like this:

macos-catalina-storage-management-documents-large-files-2.jpg

(This is also shown in Apple’s support article on freeing up storage space on your Mac.)

If this isn’t enough for you, or you prefer the command line, you can also run brew install ncdu.  (after installing Homebrew)  This installs the venerable (and still useful) Ncurses Disk Usage utility.

iPad: 90% of a Laptop

I tried the iPad-only life for months.  Here’s what I found:  The iPad gets you about 90% of the way to a laptop.  It’s the last 10% of what you might need that is frustrating.  For example:

  • You can listen to music, but if you want to easily trim that media so you only hear the best parts, the Music app on macOS is what you need.
  • Even if Safari identifies itself as a desktop browser, there are still sites that don’t fully work with it.
  • I had a PDF that was attached to an email that I was unable to rotate on the iPad without a paid 3rd party app such as GoodReader.
  • Another email attachment I wasn’t able to see in iPad Mail until I went to the cloud email portal (which barely worked on the iPad).
  • Tax software on the iPad is even more clunky, expensive, and data-loss prone than on macOS.
  • I was unable to change the text size of data entered in PDF form fields, thus making a printout of the form unreadable. Had to use a Mac.
  • My wife used to love her iPad Pro (it was a lot better than the Windows notebook  that made her break down in tears), but now she’s selling it because she outgrew Swift Playgrounds.  She wants to make a real app in Xcode.

You may say now that you don’t need to do these things, that these are all edge cases, but you will run into your own edge cases where the iPad falls down and get frustrated. Maybe in a few years, the software will be better.  But I suspect the Mac will be best for most use cases for many years to come.

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Apple’s Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro (Image: SlashGear)

What I Learned From Craig Federighi’s Talk at Berkeley

Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, recently gave a great talk at Berkeley.

Craig Federighi-967236574
Image: Wired

Here’s what I learned from Craig:

  1. Do what you love!
  2. Work with people whose work you admire.
  3. Pay attention.  (use a notebook and take handwritten notes)
  4. Never stop acting like the new one on the team.  Ask stupid questions.
  5. Team > Self.  Do all that you can do to help the mission of the team.
  6. Commit, Focus, Reassess.  Set yourself a deadline, say 1-4 years from now, to assess where you’re at and figure out what you want to do next.
  7. Follow your heart.  Trust your gut feelings on big and small decisions.

Beyond these points, he also mentioned:

  • Expertise comes with solving real problems.  (my own example: HackerRank vs. c0d3.com)
  • Become good at communicating, both via the written word and verbally.  Craig’s early experience being a DJ at a pirate (?) radio station helped him with this.
  • Don’t read from a script.  If there’s something you’re excited about, just tell that story.  Know what you want to get across.  Be yourself and tell the story.
  • Put yourself in the mindset of the customer.  Translate their needs to the team.
  • Get the right amount of sleep.
  • Avoid burnout by having a diversity of problems that you’re working on.
  • Have a hunger to learn.  Come up with a project and constantly be learning.
  • Focus your main efforts on helping solve the right problems for the team.  If you have a broader concern for the project, you can help manage it.

I loved listening to what Craig had to say and will use many of these tips going forward.