Fixing Unselectable Audio Device on Mac System Settings

My MacBook recently stopped me being able to select my monitor speakers as the output in the system settings. Everytime I clicked it, it would jump back to the built in speakers. I could select it as the output for alerts, and then came across this solution:

1) Go To /Applications/Utilities/Audio MIDI

2) On the menu bar Window -> Show Audio Devices

3) Right click the desired audio device and click “Use This Device For Sound Output”

After I did this I could no longer select the the built in speakers as the output device. It would do the same thing as before, so I don’t know what is going on with OSX in this instance.

Comparing Google and AWS free instance performance

I was looking to host some websites and wondered if I could do it for free on either Google Cloud or AWS free instances. Google list their free instance as having 2 vCPUs, while AWS list only 1. However, since this is an arbitrary unit derived by the cloud service themselves, we don’t know if 2 vCPUs on Google is really faster than one on AWS

I wanted to use the service with the highest performance, so I decided to benchmark the two using sysbench. To my suprise Google was actually faster than AWS as you can see from the screenshots. Ultimately I found shared hosting to be higher performance in the real world, as you share a large powerful server with a lot of memory, so it can handle spikes in traffic better, and once I factored in backup and support costs, it made sense to just pay for that.



Small Improvements to the M1Pro MacBooks

The 14″ M1Pro MacBook is the best Mac I’ve ever owned. Having used one for some time now though, I would have liked to see a few small improvements:

  • Half size function keys but a larger touch pad
  • Menu bar come to exactly the bottom of the webcam notch
  • HDMI 2.1 and SDUC (SD Express Card)
  • Ethernet on the MagSafe charger (like the iMac)
  • USB-A Port (please just give us one Apple)
  • More key travel on the keyboard (it’s better than the butterfly keyboard, but I still prefer my old unibody MacBook keyboard)

The M1 iMac Should Have Been USB-C Powered

The new M1 iMac is sure to be a hit, but given its lower power processor, it would have been great to make it USB-C powered, so a power supply could be shared between the iMac, MacBook, and iPad, now all running the M1 processor. USB-C supports power along with data, so the ethernet on the power supply (which is a great idea.) could still be included and made available to the MacBook and iPad. It would have also allowed USB-C wall power sockets to start becoming a standard, which could also start including the ethernet connection, wired internally in the wall. At the very least it should have done a MagSafe connector which was the same as the MacBook, which is rumored (leaked!) to be on the M1X 14″ and 16″ models, scheduled for release mid-2021, but it looks like the connector for the iMac is far too big to work on a laptop.

M1 Mac Mini Internal Storage

Was looking at the M1 Mac Mini and wondering if you could fit some extra internal storage inside all that empty space. I’d love to see someone do this:

  • Add a USB to M.2 SSD in the extra space.
  • Take slim right angle cable out through the fan vent and plug it in a USB-C port out the back.
  • For the extra brave, maybe they could desolder one of the USB sockets, and attach the cable directly to the motherboard.

I realized this was probably more trouble than it’s worth when you could just stick a tiny 512GB USB, or maybe in in an M1X Mac Mini Pro use a 1TB SD card.

Changing Batteries on a Mobee Power Bar

I used a Mobee Power Bar to save money and the environment by not needing any batteries for Apple’s Magic Track Pad. I use in plugged in all the time, meaning that I never run out.

However this does eventually kill the rechargeable batteries inside, and meant mine would keep losing the bluetooth connection and need to be re-paired. Anyway, had a thought the other day and unscrewed it and used a spudger to prize it open gently. Its basically two AAA NiMH batteries inside a AA case. I replaced the AAA with new ones, and things seem to be fine again.

Western Digital Black² in a Apple Macbook Pro 13″

The method described below worked before Western Digital official supported the drive on a Mac. They now have both the firmware update tool and software to run as either a dual drive of a fusion drive on a Mac:

The Western Digital Black² is a 120GB SSD with a 1TB 7200rpm regular hard drive in a single 2.5″x9.5mm case. I thought it would be ideal for both expanding and speeding up my MacBook Pro 13″ without needing to use a hard drive caddy and remove the DVD drive, which I still use from time to time.

I went ahead and got one without realising it wasn’t compatible with a Mac. Since the move to Intel almost everything is these days, so I just assumed it would be. Not wanting to give up, I did some Googling and found that AnandTech reports that once partitioned using Windows, it is readable on a Mac.

Annoyingly you have to install the Black² as an internal drive in computer, otherwise the automatic partitioning tool won’t recognise it. I din’t have a Windows PC I could put this in, so I had to install it in my Mac first, install windows just to use the partitioning tool, and then copy back over my Mac OS. This is all the steps I did to get it working:

1) Backup your existing drive, its important to do this often anyway, but especially since this is not supported, I or Western Digital will not be responsible for any damage or loss suffered to you, your hardware, or your files.

2) Remove your old hard drive and install the Black² in its place.

3) Install Windows (I used Windows XP, so I also had to remove a ram chip to leave it with only 4GB RAM).

4) If on Windows XP SP2, install Windows Installer 3.1, download it onto a USB drive first so you don’t have to install the bootcamp drivers to get the WiFi working.

5) Run the WD Black² partitioning tool.

6) Hold the Alt key while booting and boot onto your backup or original hard drive on USB.

7) The Black² should now have two visible partitions. Erase existing partitions so that you’re left with one big one.

8) Create 2 partitions, the first one 119.8GB, and the rest for the remaining. I experimented with different sizes, but 119.8GB left the right block sizes (see appendix).

9) (Recommended) Add an additional partition of 1GB to the end of the first (SSD) partition you just created. I then cloned by old recovery partition using the instructions here. Update: I’ve changed this from optional to recommended, since when I tried to upgrade to OSX 10.10 Yosemite it couldn’t install because it wasn’t able to create the Recovery HD. I also tried to create it with Carbon Copy Cloner as a 650MB partition and that failed too. I don’t know if its because my partitions weren’t quite right and were overlapping the SSD/HD but when I created the Recovery HD as a 1GB partition it worked, and Yosemite installed.

10) Clone less than 120GB of your original or backup hard drive onto the SSD. If you have more data, you may need to clone your home folder on to the magnetic hard drive bit.

11) (Optional) If you have too much data for the 120GB, clone your home folder to the magnetic hard drive partition, and after booting up, move your home folder location.

12) (Recommended) Enable Trim. You can use Trim Enabler (paid) or what I used Chameleon SSD Optimizer (free). If anyone is interested, there seems to be an extra hardware controller in between the SATA and the drives to make sure trim command only effect the SSD not the magnetic partition.

There has been one or two settings that have changed on my Mac. I’m not sure if this is a result of moving my user home folder, cloning the hard drive, or something else. It seems unlikely that it would be because of using the Black², but I’ll report back as I’ve spend more time using the system. The settings changed were:
– Custom screenshot location overridden
– Mac gatekeeper changed from “All” to “Trusted”

Also strangely Western Digital do have a firmware update tool for the Black2 that does work on a Mac. I haven’t tried it, and not sure if I will yet.

– I just tried to update to Yosemeti and realised it won’t install if the partitioning scheme is master boot record instead of guid. I updated above to include these steps.
– In searching to fix the partitioning scheme problem I found that someone else has done this before, and also turned it into a full fusion drive!
– I also found this article helpful for how to check out the partition sizes in detail.
– Also since doing this upgrade I’ve noticed I get the the “Disk too slow (recording) -10004” error when using GarageBand. I’m not sure if its the hard drive, or making the upgrade to Yosemite on an older Mac, but now I have to record to an external hard drive (not the one that the OS is on. I used to be able to do this when I had a normal hard drive. The disk isn’t slow, my boot times are at leas 6-10 times faster, but it maybe “glitchy” in a way that GarageBand doesn’t like.

Partition Block Sizes using sudo gpt show /dev/disk0

After WD Black2 Tool on Windows + Converting to GPT. I really should have done this before converting to GPT for it to be more accurate. From this you can see that the last block of the 1st partition should of the 120GB SSD partition should be at most 234420417 + 63 = 234420480 to be sure its on the SSD. In addition the start of the 2nd block should be at least 234442752.

start size index contents
0 1 PMBR
1 1 Pri GPT header
2 32 Pri GPT table
34 29
63 234420417 1 GPT part - 48465300-0000-11AA-AA11-00306543ECAC
234420480 22272
234442752 1953523712 2 GPT part - 48465300-0000-11AA-AA11-00306543ECAC
2187966464 319
2187966783 32 Sec GPT table
2187966815 1 Sec GPT header

After deleting original partitions and formatting to two partitions using Disk Utility and the first set to 119.8GB. Apple creates the EFI partition at index 1, so now index 2 is the 120GB we will store the OS on. The last block of this partition 233984376 + 409640 = 234394016 which is < 234420480. Apple also intentionally creates a large gap after any user partitions. This makes the first block of the normal hd partition start at 234656160 which is > 234442752.

start size index contents
0 1 PMBR
1 1 Pri GPT header
2 32 Pri GPT table
34 6
40 409600 1 GPT part - C12A7328-F81F-11D2-BA4B-00A0C93EC93B
409640 233984376 2 GPT part - 48465300-0000-11AA-AA11-00306543ECAC
234394016 262144
234656160 1953048472 3 GPT part - 48465300-0000-11AA-AA11-00306543ECAC
2187704632 262151
2187966783 32 Sec GPT table
2187966815 1 Sec GPT header

After I used Carbon Copy Cloner to create the recovery partition on the SSD, this is what I get:

start size index contents
0 1 PMBR
1 1 Pri GPT header
2 32 Pri GPT table
34 6
40 409600 1 GPT part - C12A7328-F81F-11D2-BA4B-00A0C93EC93B
409640 231887224 2 GPT part - 53746F72-6167-11AA-AA11-00306543ECAC
232296864 262144
232559008 1835008 3 GPT part - 426F6F74-0000-11AA-AA11-00306543ECAC
234394016 262144
234656160 1953048472 4 GPT part - 48465300-0000-11AA-AA11-00306543ECAC
2187704632 262151
2187966783 32 Sec GPT table
2187966815 1 Sec GPT header

Ikea Standing Desks

While I was at Onoko I did a standing desk for a while. While it was really good, I found doing it 100% gave be cramps in my legs. Now that I work at home a smaller desk (in additional to sit down desk) that would take up less room and also allow me to move it around the house or even to the garden to work! I had some GERTON legs so I got a £1 piece of wood from the bargain bin and built my own. There are lots of fancy options at Ikea Hackers, but here are the other ideas I looked at:

At a height of 105cm the BILSTA Bar table would make a perfect standing desk. Its also available as just the base so you can add your own top from a piece of wood the bargain bin or any of: TROFAST / INREDA / ALGOT / KOMPLEMENT / BILLY / BILLY / FJÄLKINGE / IVAR / EKBY LAIVA or even the top off a LACK coffee table
Another bar table that works is BJÖRKUDDEN. Its quite deep so do can fit too people with laptops facing each other.
Get the GERTON legs extendable up to 107cm:

Get any of the compatible desks, or a piece of wood from the bargain bin or one of the tops mentioned above.

There are also the BILLSTA desk legs, but they’re more expensive and less flexible in terms of tops.

Use one of the wall mounted leaf desks:

Select an item from the various wall shelves available. If you want something bigger, buy the sturdiest brackets and again get a piece of wood from the bargain bin or one of the tops mentioned above.

I hope that’s helpful. Sorry the links are to the UK store if you live somewhere else. I’m still wondering if I should eventually get a Cycle Desk!