I recently purchased a Mac Mini to be my home media computer. I plan to blog more about that later. For now, the only tricky thing about using a Mini has been using my TV for a monitor.

There’s a lot of noise on the web (or Google at least) when trying to search for a solution to using a Mini’s DVI output on LCD TV’s. Typically they recommend using DisplayConfigX  or SwitchResX to tweak your display modelines, timing, resolution, and just generally dive deeper than I like  into display configuration. My solution was MUCH simpler.

My television is a Samsung 46″ LCD (LN46A539P1F). It has 3 HDMI inputs, but one is specifically intended to be used for PCI DVI input converted to HDMI.  It also provides a VGA DSUB input which works perfectly with a Mac Mini’s miniDVI->VGA apapter, but the point here is to get direct digital signal without converting to analog.

The Mac Mini has a miniDVI output and is packaged with a miniDVI->DVI adapter, so to get a signal into the TV, you’ll need a DVI->HDMI or miniDVI->HDMI adapter. I bought both from Monoprice as they are very inexpensive and either works fine.

Once you have the apdapter on and the HDMI cable connected to the TV, the Mac will recognize that it is displaying on an HDTV and will recommend 720p (1280×720 resoution) or 1080p (1920×1080 resolution). However, you will now most likely see that your output is either too small on the screen (has a few inches of black border around the picture)  or is too big (extends beyond the screen). If it’s too big, you have Overscan enabled in your Displays preference pane. If not, you should enable Overscan.

Now, on your TV, go to the Menu:

  • Choose “Picture” (should be first option)
  • Choose “Picture Options” (near the bottom of list)
  • Choose “Size” (will have options like 4:3, 16:9, and Just Scan)
  • Choose “Just Scan”
  • Close Menu

Bam! Your display should now be just right!

Updating RubyGems on Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard

I’m just posting a simple tip today.

I was wanting to play around with the very cool SASS meta-language using Compass. The language and tool are implemented in Ruby, which is pre-installed on OS X, but as I discovered, I needed a newer version of RubyGems.

I had already known I needed to update Gems, so I was doing the following:

$ sudo gem update

Eventually I got errors like this:

Updating installed gems...
Bulk updating Gem source index for:
Bulk updating Gem source index for:
Attempting remote update of RedCloth
ERROR:  Error installing RedCloth:
    RedCloth requires RubyGems version >= 1.2
Attempting remote update of capistrano
ERROR:  Error installing capistrano:
    capistrano requires RubyGems version >= 1.2
Attempting remote update of net-sftp
ERROR:  Error installing net-sftp:
    net-sftp requires RubyGems version >= 1.2
Attempting remote update of net-ssh
ERROR:  Error installing net-ssh:
    net-ssh requires RubyGems version >= 1.2
Gems updated: RedCloth, capistrano, net-sftp, net-ssh

Turns out, to update RubyGems, one must update the gem system!

So, the next correct command to run is:

$ sudo gem update --system

This updated my RubyGems to version 1.3.1 and allowed me to move forward in playing with Ruby.

Foxmarks: Bookmark Synchronization Heaven

Long have I searched for the magic bullet solution to my bookmark synchronization woes.  I’ve wanted a simple plugin that would synchronize my bookmarks between multiple installations of Firefox and Safari, thus making it simple to access said bookmarks from any computer, or between the two commonly used browsers on my Mac.  I’ve looked at many options, but always the solution only allows me to sync one browser or the other, leaving me looking for some secondary sync tool to get between Firefox and Safari on my Mac itself, not via network or a proper sync.

I’d almost given up on finding a solution, then, a few months ago I started using Delicious. It was cool because there were plugins for Safari, Firefox, and IE, and of course, it’s by default a web based bookmarking system. Its cool, I like it, but I just didn’t use it much. The plugins integrate it into the browser by giving you ANOTHER bookmarks menu, not by integrating with the browsers’ bookmark system.

Before ever using Safari or Delicious, my Firefox bookmark sync tool of choice was Foxmarks. It provided a web interface for remote access to my bookmarks, plus a nice sync interface for all my Firefox installations. I was randomly poking around today and discovered that Foxmarks now works with Safari and IE! I was excited and wasted no time installing Foxmarks for Safari. So far, it works great!

For the most part, it works just as you’d expect, bookmarks sync between all my Safari(Mac only, for now, I think) and Firefox(Mac, Linux, and Windows) installations without hassle. I’ve yet to try out the Internet Explorer functionality, but I’m guessing it works pretty well. I just don’t use IE enough to care.

One caveat to be aware of: both Firefox and Safari use some browser specific URL syntax to access internal functionality for recent bookmarks, etc. That stuff will only work on the browser where it was created, Safari on Safari, Firefox on Firefox, etc. For me, that’s a non issue, I rarely use those features. I have tested and confirmed that javascript bookmarklets (like for Tinyurl and Cornify) do seem to work after syncing. Those are about the only reason I use on the bookmark menubar.

Building a Hackintosh Successful Attempt #1

Since getting a Mac Book Pro for work, I’ve become quite the fan of OS X. As a unix/software guy, I really enjoy having the power of a BSD/Unix system readily available, without having to install some hack like cygwin. (I’m not knocking cygwin, it’s a really nice Windows add-on, but I prefer not to run Windows, in general.) I also like the OS X user interface, and lately, that it runs the very cool boxee media center software. So, I wanted to build a boxee box. My options were AppleTV, Mac Mini, or Hackintosh. The Mac Mini was more money than I wanted to spend for an untested solution. The AppleTV would probably be a good solution, especially now that it’s getting more testing from the boxee community, but I wasn’t sure about it. Finally, I thought that a Hackintosh would be a cool project, give me not just boxee but a full OS X system, and I could buy the parts for $235 from newegg. That’s a cheap computer, and especially a cheap Mac.

I went with an Intel D945GCLF2 motherboard. It’s a mini-ITX board with built in dual Atom 330 processors, the kind of CPU’s used in the new and inexpensive NetBook computers. It’s a very low power solution, but with the dual processors most of the research I did suggested it should do 720p HD content. It has a S/PDIF header for digital audio out, but requires an extra cable and I have yet to test it. VGA out is less preferable than DVI, but again, this is cheap, and my Samsung 46″ LCD has VGA-input, so it certainly works. Also, it’s limited to a single 2GB DIMM, so max out that RAM early. 🙂

I bought the following from newegg:

  • D945GCLF2 motherboard – $80
  • Any old PATA (SATA should work, too) DVD Burner – $25
  • 2GB Kingston 240-pin DDR2 667 SDRAM – $21
  • APEX MI-100 Black/Silver Mini-ITX Case w/ 250w PSU – $56
  • 80GB Western Digital SATA Hard Drive – $37
  • Shipping/Handling + rush processing – $15

Total cost: $234
Full disclosure: I later bought a cheap USB bluetooth dongle ($25) and Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard and mouse (full retail, ouch) as that was the best wireless control solution, but any USB keyboard and mouse combo should work fine for normal usage.


Continue reading Building a Hackintosh Successful Attempt #1

I Bought a New Camera

I’ve been a bit obsessive this week as I’ve been trying to research and find a new camera that I would really like. The last one died last weekend… so we were facing the trip home for Christmas with no camera! Before Beaumin was born, not having a camera for a few weeks would have been a non-issue, but now, we take multiple pictures a day!

I talked with several friends who are way more “camera geeky” than I am… I’m pretty ignorant of photography for the most part, but I wouldn’t mind learning a bit more. So I only had a few basic criteria:

  • Pretty decent low-light (indoor) photos
  • Use AA batteries (I really like having easy access to spares in a pinch)
  • Some advanced features so I can learn more if I get motivated

Not required but very nice to have items were:

  • Big optical zoom (because its really nice)
  • Viewfinder (because sometimes glare just makes LCDs useless)
  • Semi-fast flash recharge

It was soon obvious that I was looking for an “Advanced Point and Shoot” for which a few of the top players were Nikon’s P80 and Canon’s SX10 IS. I have some friends who are die-hard Nikon fans and others who are die-hard Canon fans, so this was tricky. 🙂

Continue reading I Bought a New Camera

WordPressMU Plugin Commander

I’m solidly impressed with the WPMU Plugin Commander. One thing that seemed odd to me about WPMU was that I either enable users to have plugin control, or NO ONE (not even the site admin) has the ability to enabled/disable plugins (without a lot of hacking).

This plugin provides a control panel where I can globally enable/disable plugins, set plugins to be auto-enabled for new blogs, and give users the ability to enable/disable only selected plugins.

The perfect scenario is, I want to auto-anable Akismet for my users, so they get spam filtering on comments. Also, I want them to have the ability to try out other various plugins, but don’t want them able to turn off Aksimet.

I’ll echo the sentiments of others I read when discovering Plugin Commander, “this functionality should be in WPMU core!”