Speed Up Your Mac

Apparently, I’ve been using the MacBook with crippled fan for over a year. I have noticed a kernel_task using up all processing time. I found out that it was the operating system throttling performance to stop overheating. It does this by running a non-processor intensive task. This task has higher priority than user tasks including the processor-intensive tasks that are heating up the processor. The effect is that the processor temperature is lowered. But also poor system responsiveness and overall performance.

When I found out about this, I concluded that the fan was faulty and opening  up the Mac confirmed it. I ordered a replacement fan and today it finallly arrived. I immediately installed it and the Mac promptly sped up. It felt like the same huge speed improvement when I upgraded to 8GB RAM and SSD. A fan is officially the third best upgrade for speeding up your Mac.

First Impression: Apple Watch Sport

apple-watch-sport - 10I got my hands on Edong’s Apple Watch Sport and, with his permission, I unboxed it, took some photos, and played with it a bit.

The packaging is unusually big and bulky for Apple who have been steadily reducing the size of their product packaging for years. But it seems to be part of their premium and luxury message for the Apple Watch.

The 42mm case is rectangular and made of aluminium with a space grey anodized coating. Everything is smooth and rounded with no sharp edges or corners to be seen or felt. Knowing beforehand that it is 42mm, I wasn’t expecting that it would be quite small and light. But it is.

The Ion-X screen covers the whole face and is rounded at the edges. It is black and shiny when off and the display is very sharp when on. Nice to look at in either state. It has force-touch which means touching it with varying levels of force result in different actions. It is also very responsive though force-touching needs some getting used to.

The digital crown on the right side is big and quite effortless to turn and push. So with the other button.

The back has those scifi-looking sensors for reading your heart-rate.

The strap is black silicone rubber with a clever clasp. You button it on and slip the excess strap under the clasp. Very neat. And you can change straps or bracelets without any tools.

The whole watch is well-built. It looks and feels the high-end device you expect from Apple. Even more, it looks and feels like a futuristic device from science fiction. But aside from small nods to traditional watches it doesn’t pretend to be a watch but instead steps ahead and defines itself as a new class of wrist wear, the so-called smartwatch.

It looks like Apple has another winner on its hand (or wrist).

PlexConnect: Connecting Plex and the Apple TV

The Apple TV is a nifty little device but it’s nowhere close to being able to play anything you want. It cannot play from USB drives. And it can’t play network shares either. Not from AFP, not from SMB, not from DLNA. There’s no app store for the Apple TV (yet) so there’s not installing and running the Plex Player app. So it can’t play from from Plex Media Server either. At least not directly.

Fortunately, there is a workaround: PlexConnect. And it is genius! You see, some of the built-in Apple TV apps get their UI and content from remote web servers. So it was a matter of hijacking the web traffic to from one of these apps and redirect it to PlexConnect running on local machine. PlexConnect then communicates with Plex Media Server and serves up modified UI and content to the hijacked app on the Apple TV. Of course, the hijacked app won’t work as before anymore.

Normally the hijacked app is the Trailers app. But since I didn’t have the Trailers app on my Apple TV, I used the WSJ app instead. If you have the same situation then in the instructions below replace of “trailers” with â€wsjapp” and replace of “trailers.apple.com” with â€video–api–secure.wsj.com”

Here are the consolidated instructions (from https://github.com/iBaa/PlexConnect/wiki/Install-Guide) for Mac OS X:

1. Install Plex Media Server
2. Download PlexConnect (https://github.com/iBaa/PlexConnect/archive/master.zip)
3. Extract and drag PlexConnect-master to the Applications folder
4. Open a terminal window (Terminal.app on Mac) and run the following command

openssl req -new -nodes -newkey rsa:2048 -out ~/Desktop/trailers.pem -keyout ~/Desktop/trailers.key -x509 -days 7300 -subj “/C=US/CN=trailers.apple.com”

 

openssl req -new -nodes -newkey rsa:2048 -out ~/Desktop/wsjapp.pem -keyout ~/Desktop/wsjapp.key -x509 -days 7300 -subj “/C=US/CN=video–api–secure.wsj.com“

5. This will create two files on your desktop: trailers.key and trailers.pem (or wsjapp.key and wsjapp.pem). Next run the following command:

openssl x509 -in ~/Desktop/trailers.pem -outform der -out ~/Desktop/trailers.cer && cat ~/Desktop/trailers.key >> ~/Desktop/trailers.pem

openssl x509 -in ~/Desktop/trailers.pem -outform der -out ~/Desktop/wsjapp.cer && cat ~/Desktop/wsjapp.key >> ~/Desktop/wsjapp.pem

Three files should now be on your desktop trailers.pem, trailers.key, and trailers.cer. (or wsjapp.pem, wsjapp.key, and wsjapp.cer).

6. Place the .pem and.cer files into the following folder:

/Applications/PlexConnect-master/assets/certificates/

7. If you’re hijacking the WSJ app, you need to edit the PlexConnect configuration:

/Applications/PlexConnect-master/Settings.cfg

Set hosttointercept to “video–api–secure.wsj.com“:

hosttointercept = video–api–secure.wsj.com

8. If you’re hijacking the WSJ app, you need to edit the Settings script:

/Applications/PlexConnect-master/Settings.py

Change line 35 to (note the red dash):

(‘hosttointercept’ , (‘trailers.apple.com’, ‘[a-zA-Z0-9_.–]+’)),

9. Run PlexConnect by first opening a terminal window (Applications -> Utilities -> Terminal), then type the following:

sudo “/Applications/PlexConnect-master/PlexConnect.py”

Provide your Administrator password to complete PlexConnect startup.

You should now see messages like these in the terminal window: PlexConnect Terminal

Write down the IP_Self: ###.###.###.### address. This is the IP of your PlexConnect server

SelfIP

On the Apple TV, choose Settings > General > Network > Wi-Fi. Then Choose your Wi-Fi network Name WifiSettingsChange the DNS setting from “Automatic” to “Manual”. WifiDNSEnter the IP of your PlexConnect server as the DNS server.DNSIP

Go to the AppleTV settings menu. Select “General” then scroll the cursor down to highlight “Send Data To Apple” and set to “No”.

With “Send Data To Apple” highlighted, press “Play” (not the normal “Select” button) and you will be prompted to add a profile.

Enter (without the quotes): “http://trailers.apple.com/trailers.cer” (or “http://video–api–secure.wsj.com/wsjapp.cer“)

Launch the Trailers (or the WSJ app).

Now you can play media from your Plex Media Server library on your Apple TV.

Enjoy!

UPDATE 6-22-15: Changed from old “secure.marketwatch.com” to new “video–api–secure.wsj.com”. Based on discussion at https://forums.plex.tv/index.php/topic/168109-plexconnect-suddendly-stopped-working/.

Kindle Paperwhite

kindle-paperwhiteSo I finally got my Kindle Paperwhite. It’s your regular Kindle Paperwhite Wi-Fi version with the notable difference that since it’s the Japan version, it’s got 4GB instead of 2GB to account for the popularity of manga I guess. But for regular books, that translates to twice the number, from 2000 to 4000, of books if you somehow have that many.

The e-paper display, for which the Kindle is known for, is definitely awesome. No glare or reflections at all. The background color is actually a greenish gray which is actually fine for reading. To get the paper white background color, you’ll need to turn on the built-in light which might impact the battery a bit. But it shouldn’t matter since it’s rated to last weeks instead of several hours with even the best tablets (iPads :P). A few hours, even days reduction shouldn’t matter much. And in exchange you get to read with a pleasing warm paper white background and read in darker environments. That’s quite fair enough.

The display is touch-sensitive and works well once you’ve gotten used to it. It is not as sensitive as the best tablets but definitely better than some of the others. Definitely sensitive enough for changing pages, which is the most common use. Since this is an e-paper display, refresh rates are not high and thus you change pages instead of scrolling. Scrolling is supported by the built-in experimental browser, but it’s not pretty. Still, in a pinch, it’s workable.

Of course it works awesomely with the Amazon bookstore. But a problem for me is how easy to buy something. I myself ended up with accidental purchases. This is offset somewhat by how easy to cancel a purchase. But I personally would prefer some authentication especially if kids are around. Another problem is that it’s a little harder to find the free books (yes, there are lots of them in Amazon) since they’re almost always mixed in with the paid books. But hey, that’s Amazon’s main business after all. And I’ve always been happy with them. Including with this e-book reader.

MacBook Pro Battery Replacement

My MacBook Pro’s trackpad hasn’t been clicking properly for a while. It requires considerable effort to push and doesn’t provide much tactile feedback. I didn’t really mind it too much since I just use taps and gestures. I thought it was just my Mac getting old.

But I eventually learned that it is a common issue with MacBooks. It turned out that the battery is swelling and impinges on the trackpad pushing it upward and preventing the full range of motion. Now it’s either an accident or a clever design feature of MacBooks, but when the trackpad act erratically, people would then go to the shop and have it serviced thus averting a possible battery disaster. Of course, that didn’t work in my case :P

One solution offered by people on the net (always taken with a grain of salt, or more) is pricking the battery cells to release the trapped gases that caused the swelling. Intentionally creating a mini ecological disaster in your workspace at best or obliterating it with a mini explosion. Uh huh. Not for me.

The best solution is replacing the battery. But I’m not about to blow away several thousands to replace the battery of a 4-year old laptop. So the next best thing is to find a cheaper non-OEM replacement part. I found one from PCPartPH. They deliver via courier but I wanted mine right away so I did a “meet up”. Transaction was quick and easy and as soon as I got back home, I installed the new battery.

So far so good though I noticed capacity is not per specification (3980mAh vs 5200mAh). I’ll observe for a few days and see how it goes.