The Glorious Goldilocks: Dell’s 25″ U2515H

I really liked the new 27″ Dell UltraSharp monitor, but with the 25″, it’s love.  There’s a certain synergy between the resolution and the new 25″ size that makes the whole experience greater than the sum of its specs.  Here’s my opinion in a chicken scratch nutshell.

There's a certain synergy between the resolution and the 25" size that makes the whole experience greater than the sum of its specs.
Goldilocks 2015

The 27″ version seemed great until some color uniformity issues started to bug me. TFT Central’s detailed review of that monitor described similar issues with their test sample, so it’s not just me.  Thankfully, this new U2515H does not suffer the same problem, and is overall better than its big brother in every way.  Though the hallmark “IPS glow” is present, light bleed is nearly non-existent, and the improved pixel density is noticeable in unexpectedly good ways.  With a solid 3-year warranty from Dell, this will be my monitor of choice for a while.

A note about small fonts and Rick James:  If you have less than stellar vision, a larger monitor might seem like a no-brainer, but in this case the higher PPI text of the 25″ is commensurately sharper, making the 27″ seem just a little fuzzy by comparison.  From old monochrome CRT’s to Apple’s current crop of Retina displays, like a Super Freak, this new Dell monitor is my all time favorite. It has enough resolution to effectively use modern browser zooming, yet the pixels are just the right size such that a one-pixel-wide font shows up clean and bright. Text looks fantastic. Games look stunning and will run fluidly at full resolution on mere mortal-class graphics hardware.

Between the new 27″ and 25″ Dell UltraSharps, I’m a little surprised to unequivocally prefer the 25″. Both have the same excellent design, stand adjustments, slim bezel, and the best anti-glare coating I’ve ever seen. But, even if you win the display lottery and get a perfect 27″ specimen, the higher pixel density and convenient, comfortable size make the U2515H a very attractive alternative. It’s the only 25″ 2560×1440 monitor currently available in the U.S., but it definitely won’t be the last.

MacOS Sierra Upgrade — Folder Question Mark and Pinwheels

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Problem

After upgrading to MacOS Sierra on a Mid-2012 Retina MacBook Pro with an aftermarket OWC SSD, the “folder with question mark” icon appears upon boot, and intermittent pinwheels cause hard-resets/crashes — especially coming back from sleep mode. System heats up during charging.

Things Tried That Did Not Work

  • PRAM Reset
  • SMC Reset
  • First Aid with Disk Utility
  • Flashed the OWC SSD to latest firmware
  • Disabled FileVault
  • Clean install of Sierra
  • Opened up the laptop and reseated the OWC SSD
  • Disabled the “put hard disks to sleep when possible” check box in the Power section of System Preferences
  • Changed “hibernatemode” value from 3 to 0.
  • Disabled Wake for WiFi, Power Nap and Automatic Graphics Switching
  • Removed the OWC drive, cleaned the contacts with alcohol and placed a small pad to apply pressure to the contacts to ensure good contact.
  • Secure-erased the SSD

What Finally Did Work

Replaced the OWC drive with a new 480MB mSATA drive (MDMS-BP4e-512) and a model-specific adapter.

The adapter and drive together are a bit taller than the original equipment.  There appears to be a slight clearance issue.  The drive fits right up against the bottom panel and pushes it out slightly, about~0.2mm, after reassembly.  It’s not enough to notice unless you’re looking for it, but the adapter could be improved with a slimmer profile.  For half the cost of a more perfect fit, it’s a satisfactory option.

So much for the fabled longevity of SSD‘s — the OWC lasted about three years.

Vizio Soundbar Subwoofer Volume Too Loud?

Problem

An otherwise elegant 5.1 sound system, the Vizio S4251W has a known bug which causes the subwoofer volume to jump to full volume from time to time, even with the latest firmware update.

Discussion

You will know when this happens.  If you move the subwoofer volume up or down, it returns to the previously selected setting.  Not the end of the world, but since humans have largely uncontrollable physiological responses to loud unexpected noises, this intermittent characteristic is highly undesirable.  While the exact conditions that recreate this bug remain a mystery, a fix is in using the Logitech Harmony Smart Remote/Hub, and you can probably use this sequence with other home automation solutions, too.

Solution

Having tried several different approaches to alleviate this problem using the Harmony Hub‘s Customize Activity options, here is an algorithm that works well.

For each Activity, add a variation of the following example sequence steps 4-12 just after the default sequence:

Harmony Hub Settings for Vizio Soundbar Subwoofer Bug

 

This causes the subwoofer volume to reset to a specific level, in this case level three, each time an Activity starts.  With this configuration sequence, the loud subwoofer volume bug is no longer a problem.  Without the initial VolumeUp/VolumeDown, the sub volume sequence didn’t seem to register reliably when switching Activities or coming out of low-power mode.

Retina Display Image Retention: Fix Yourself with a Custom Random Screen Saver

The Retina display makes screen savers are useful again. To select which ones run in Random mode, manually delete the ones you don’t want in OS X’s Recovery Mode.

Image Retention — Retina Displays Do Not Burn In

Once used to prevent permanent burn-in, screen savers are a vestige of the past. Modern screens don’t have this problem, but the recent Retina displays have a well-documented flaw that results in a similar, if temporary, image retention effect. The problem doesn’t show up for a while, and can become more pronounced over time. All the attention — 1.7 million views and 10,000 posts — to this relatively minor first-world problem is due to very high expectations. Apple customers paid a premium price for a less-than-perfect machine. They haven’t been appeased by Apple’s solution, which is essentially, “there is no problem.”

Image Retention

Repairs and Exchanges: Time Well Spent?

Rather than spend a lot of time with exchanges and hope to get a better unit that may or may not develop the problem, it’s easy to use a simple work around and put the old screen saver back to work. The original LG-manufactured Retina display was the best laptop display available at the time. It remains a superb screen with otherwise excellent characteristics. A screen saver configured to kick on after two minutes of inactivity doesn’t give image retention much time to develop, and the annoyance factor goes down. Instead of fretting about image persistence, enjoy some interesting screen savers. Lotsawater is one you might have otherwise overlooked.

Tailor the Random Screen Saver Selection

Once a few choice screen savers are assembled, the Random function is handy. The problem is that the comparably pitiful Messages screen saver can’t be disabled in the Preferences pane. How can you selectively specify which screen savers are active in Random mode? Manually delete the ones you don’t want. This was a little tricky, so here’s how to do it in the current pre-release version of El Capitan 10.11 and circumvent the “Operation not permitted” problem you might run into trying to delete the files.

Remember, always make a backup before deleting system files that OS X specifically discourages you from deleting.

1. Restart and press Command-R to enter Recovery Mode.
2. Launch Terminal from the Utilities menu.
3. Run these commands:

rm -R /Volumes/Macintosh\ HD/System/Library/Frameworks/ScreenSaver.framework/Versions/A/Resources/Computer\ Name.saver
rm -R /Volumes/Macintosh\ HD/System/Library/Screen\ Savers/FloatingMessage.saver
reboot

Your Macintosh HD folder might be different if you’ve renamed your disk volume.

The image retention problem on the Retina display is obviously a flaw, and sometimes it’s easier to throw money, time and hardware at a problem than to try to change your own mind. Other times, a new perspective and a tweaked screen saver offer bliss with a nearly flawless display.