mac

How I discovered my left AirPod was bad

tl;dr: My left AirPod had some hardware issue. I got a new one. Now the AirPods work great.

The morning Apple's AirPods went up for sale, I was boarding a plane, and had just gotten to my seat on the plane. I knew they'd be in short supply (though I didn't know just how short—my local Apple Store only gets a small batch every week, and they're sold out in hours!), so I quickly ordered a pair, then set my iPhone in airplane mode for takeoff.

AirPods on Brown Paper
These things are awesome... though a little pricey.

Getting low input level with a USB mic or audio interface? Check your hub

A few months ago, I decided to get more serious about my recording setup in my home office. I do a lot more screencasts both for my YouTube channel and for other purposes than I used to, and I can't stand poor audio quality. Therefore I finally decided to get some sound absorption panels for my office, rearrange furniture a little for better isolation, and—most importantly—buy a proper USB audio interface and microphone.

So, after purchasing and connecting a U-Phoria UMC202HD and an Electro-Voice RE320 microphone, I was quite pleased with the sound quality!

Apple's Photos for macOS taking forever to scan photos for People?

I recently migrated around ~50,000 photos and videos from Aperture to Photos (see my blog post on the process), and have also in a short amount of time upgraded my personal and work Mac laptops (both from older MacBook Airs to newer MacBook Pros).

On both of my new laptops—which were at least 3x faster than my older Airs—I noticed that Photos started completely fresh in its photo analysis for the 'People' album that shows everyone's faces. And after three weeks of seeing one of my CPUs stick around 100% all day every day (while plugged in), I started getting sick of this.

I would leave the Mac on all night, and check in the morning, and only 20-30 new faces would be recognized.

macOS Sierra Photos - People Scanned slow and stuck
Some days it seemed it would take forever...

I returned my 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

tl;dr: After two weeks of use, I returned my 2016 13" MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and bought one with Function Keys instead. Read on for detailed Battery stress tests, performance tests, and an exploration of how Apple's botched this year's Pro lineup.

I've owned almost every generation of Mac desktop and laptop computers, and have survived many transitions: 680x0 to PowerPC, Classic Mac OS to OS X, to the PowerPC to Intel switch. I've also owned almost every generation of iPhone and iPad. I even maintain a huge list of all the Macs I've owned! I could justifiably be labeled an 'Apple fanatic'.

I use a Mac as my daily driver, and have rarely made a tech-related purchase I regretted. And I've never returned a Mac, until today.

How to securely erase free space on a hard drive (Mac)

From time to time, I need to clean off the contents of a hard drive on one of my Macs—most often this is the case prior to selling the mac or giving it to someone else. Instead of just formatting the drive, installing macOS, then handing it off, I want to make sure all the contents I had stored on it are irrecoverably erased (I sometimes work on projects under NDA, and I also like having some semblance of privacy in general).

Disk Utility used to expose this functionality in the UI, which made this a very simple operation. But it seems to have gone missing in recent macOS versions. Luckily, it's still available on the command line (via Terminal.app):

diskutil secureErase freespace 0 "/Volumes/Macintosh HD"

This command would write zeroes on the entire 'Macintosh HD' drive. You can see a list of all the drives connected to your Mac with ls /Volumes. There are a few other common options available (instead of 0) if you run man diskutil and scroll down to the secureErase section. I most commonly use:

Review: AUKEY USB-C Hub for New MacBook Pro

I have a 2016 MacBook Pro (without TouchBar), and for this Mac, or for a 12" MacBook, a hub/adapter with power delivery is absolutely essential for desk use, due to the limited number of USB-C/ThunderBolt 3 ports.

Eventually, I'd like to plug one ThunderBolt 3 cable into my MacBook Pro and get 4K video at 60Hz (through either USB-C, DisplayPort, or HDMI 1.2+), USB 3.0 for my existing USB 3 devices, and a power pass-through so I can get the full 61W of charge out of my Apple AC adapter.

AUKEY USB-C Hub - 3x USB 3.0 ports

External display waking up? Disable notifications when your screen is off

Since a week or so ago, I noticed that even when my Mac's display was put to sleep, my external display would sometimes turn on and remain on for long periods of time if I had a calendar reminder or some other type of non-dismissible notification. It would even come on (and turn off shortly thereafter) for quick notifications.

This was highly annoying, especially when I'd come to my computer in the morning and realize the external monitor had been on displaying a notification all night!

Apparently macOS 10.12.2 includes a new feature called Enhanced notifications, and they can wake up internal or external displays to show notifications. Annoyingly, this new feature is enabled by default. To disable it, you need to go into the Notifications System Preference, and inside the 'Do Not Disturb' section, and check the "When the display is sleeping" option under "Do Not Disturb":

A Tale of Two Apples: AirPods and the Touch Bar

Yesterday UPS delivered a BTO 2016 MacBook Pro 13" with Touch Bar (to replace my 2013 11" MacBook Air), and a set of AirPods (to replace three different headsets I use daily in my work as a remote employee).

AirPods on 2016 MacBook Pro 13" Touch Bar Safari address bar in Charging Case

The two products tell a different story about the company that makes them:

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

The MacBook Pro fails to 'thrill' in a way that no other Apple device I've made the conscious decision to purchase has.

Upgrading from a 2013 MacBook Air 11" (portability is king to me, but I needed more performance), the only major external difference is the retina display—something most other 'pro' Mac users have been enjoying since 2012. The Touch Bar itself is mostly useless to me for two reasons:

MetaZ - Alternative to MetaX and iDentify 2 for tagging video content in iTunes

For many years, I've ripped all my DVDs, Blu-Rays, and HD-DVDs into my computer, and it's great to be able to watch any of my digital content on any of my devices whenever and wherever I want, without having to have a huge stack of discs laying somewhere accessible (I store them all in a box in my basement).

For almost as long, I've used iDentify for this purpose, but it looks like the developer behind the app gave up on the iTunes/macOS ecosystem entirely in the past year or so, and the app stopped working on macOS Sierra 10.12.

I looked around for alternatives, and found mentions of iFlicks (didn't seem as fully featured), Vidalin (no longer developed), MetaX (no longer developed?), and Subler. I tried a couple of these and didn't find them as pleasant as iDentify, but then I also found MetaZ, tagged as "Two letters better than MetaX".

Figuring out why an external USB hard drive won't spin down on my Mac

I am using a 2011 Mac mini as a backup server for all the data I store on iCloud, and for the first few days while I was setting up the Mac, I noticed the 4 TB and 2 TB external USB drives I had plugged in would spin down after a few minutes, and I would have blissful silence as long as there wasn't an active operation on that Mac (which should be fairly rare; just hourly Time Machine backups and periodic SSD activity since the iCloud libraries are all on SSD).

However, after a few weeks, I noticed that at least one of the two hard drives runs continously, 24x7. Something on the Mac mini must keep hitting the drive and preventing it from spinning down.

To see what was happening, I used sudo fs_usage | grep VOLUME (in my case, VOLUME is 4\ TB\ Utility) to monitor what processes were accessing the drive, and what files they were accessing. After a few minutes watching (and doing nothing else on the computer, to make sure I wasn't causing any extra filesystem seeks), there were a couple regular culprits:

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