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.

MyFitnessPal (Premium) vs. The No S Diet

I needed to lose 10 pounds and tried out MyFitnessPal again, after several years of not using it.  This time, I tried the Premium trial, so I’m getting all the features and stats.

I’m reminded of why I quit using MyFitnessPal years ago.  If you’re not eating the same thing every day, MyFitnessPal is a time sink.  Expect to spend at least 5 minutes before or after every meal, scanning bar codes and weighing foods on the kitchen scale.  Then you’re worrying about what combo of nutrients you need or whether you’re going to exceed your carb/fat/protein quotas for the day/week.

As an aside, I’m reminded of Luke 12:22-23, [Jesus] said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”  Of course, if you continue reading, you’ll see Jesus is talking about finding food to eat at all, and trusting God to provide nourishment, rather than worrying about where your next meal will come from.

But I digress.  If you want to lose weight, or just maintain your ideal weight, you need something easy to stick with. Something that doesn’t require you to become a “full time calorie accountant.”  The free No S Diet, created by Reinhard Engels, does just this.  The whole diet is explained in one sentence: No snacks, sweets, or seconds, except on days that start with S.  That’s it!

You don’t need to buy anything to get started with it.  It’s not time consuming.  It’s easy to stick with.  No S really works.  It actually works a little too well – I lost 30 pounds the last time I used it, 15 pounds under what I wanted to be.  So I’m taking it easy this time.

I’m getting rid of MyFitnessPal again.  It’s neat to look at the stats, but Premium is not at all worth it at $50-$100+/year, at least for me.  If you really love counting calories though, it might work for you.

This time, I’m combining No S with aspects of the Shoku Iku Japanese food philosophy.  Basically, aim for 3-5 colors on every plate.  If you eat a heavy meal, balance it out with a light one the next time you eat.  Easy stuff.

pokebowl.jpg
Poke Bowl

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.

GoodBudget – a Decent, Unsung Budgeting App

It still doesn’t have searching in the iOS version, but GoodBudget is my favorite budgeting app.  It’s a digital envelope system.  The interface is simple:

goodbudget
(Not my actual budget.)

My wife and I can easily use it.  It syncs between devices quickly and reliably.  Categories are easily customizable, and it’s generous with 10 envelopes for free.  It’s built by a small team of developers who are slow to add features but steady in their work over the years.

It’s fast loading (under 2 seconds).  Unlike Dave Ramsey’s EveryDollar budgeting app, it also works offline.  This is great when you’re trying to see how much you have left to spend in the back of the supermarket aisle where there’s no mobile signal.

Until Apple creates something better built into the Wallet app, GoodBudget is recommended.

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.

Moving from Blogger to WordPress

I moved from Blogger to WordPress. For several reasons, including:

  • WordPress has an easier to use mobile app for publishing on the go.
  • WordPress has a much cleaner writing interface.

There are several downsides: WordPress doesn’t support custom domains unless you pay for a subscription. It also doesn’t support video uploading or JavaScript widgets unless again, you pay. I can live without those, for now.

wordpress-mobile-app.jpg

You can find plenty of detailed tutorials on how to move blogging platforms elsewhere on the web. The gist of it is:

  1. Login to Blogger and choose Settings.
  2. Select Other and backup your content. Your backup content includes your writing, links, images and comments other people have left on your articles.
  3. Import the Blogger content backup into WordPress. Choose a theme. Done.