Monday, April 29, 2013

Cathode Terminal App for OSX. Vintage UNIX computing fun.

Here is a pretty cool terminal app for Mac OSX. Called, Cathode, it brings back some retro fun (for those over 30). It is $10 at the app store which seems pricey for a terminal app. However, after playing with it, it is loads of fun for old timers like myself.

It simulates old Cathode tube monitors from days past. You can pretend you are working on an old Lost era 1970 Aames research terminal, a 286 from 1980, even a Commodore 64, a Pet, or pretty much any old UNIX workstations long before flat panel LCD. You even have the degauss effects, blur, random jitter, RF static as if you are on a real old school terminal. In short, cool.

This is how it looks on my Retina 15" Macbook Pro. 

I had low expectations; thinking it would come with at most, 3-4 themes. I was pleasantly surprise to see the myriad of options: screen themes, monitor faceplate themes, fonts, and you can even configure the background CRT reflection. In short, you can configure this in a hundred different permutations. For example, you can pretend you have Commodore 64 connected to a 9" TV from 1976 with a janky RF adapter. You'll get the RF backfeed, fuzz, noise, scan-lines, and refresh. If you are old enough to remember switching between Channel 3 and 4 due to local tv station back-feed while connecting a home computer to a television set in the 80s, you'll know what I am talking about.

The apps is even retina optimized so you can see with extreme clarity.

Here are some screen shots.

$10 doesn't seem so bad considering I am in the terminal 90% of the time. It makes it fun. And with Apple's download policies, I can install this on multiple macs I own via the App-store. In essence, it takes the bite out of $10 for a terminal app when you spread it across 4-5 macs. It is definitely worth it for the fun and nostalgia.

I only wish for a 1990 MacTerm and Nextstep theme to complete this. And if this developer ever made this app as an SSH client for the iPad, I will be the first one in line to download.

Lastly, I finally have a reason to pull out my old 7" portable USB displaylink monitors. At 800x480, they're pretty useless but as a second terminal window, they're pretty cool.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Macbook Pro 15 Retina Initial Review. That screen is amazing.

I finally got myself an ultimate Macbook Pro 15". 2.7 GHZ Core i7-3740QM Quad CPU, 16GB 1600 mhz RAM, and a 768 GB SSD. This is one shy away from the top spec (2.8 vs 2.7) of the current shipping Macbook. Sure, I know Haswell is just around the corner but my corporate budget spending doesn't coincide with product announcements.

This thing is a beast. Of course the hardware specs are impressive but the thing that blows my mind is that screen. This review is coming from a developer's point-of-view where screen resolution is of the utmost importance. If you want a laptop for coding and development, continue and read this review.

The screen has a native resolution of 2880x1800. That is more than my 27" iMac, 30" Apple Cinema Display/Dell U3011. Of course, that is insanely high on a 15" laptop. 

Hence, this end-user review will mostly cover the screen and that amazing resolution.

(Macbook Pro 15" Retina running native 2880x1800 resolution)

Just for comparison, compare this to my 14" Thinkpad T420 with a resolution of 1600x900.In the opening image above, you can see a VM guest playing a youtube video. That VM is set to 1600x1200 which is equivalent of how much my Thinkpad would display if it was inside the Macbook.

Now, here is a more compelling comparison side-by-side and how it looks like:

The Thinkpad runs Linux but the comparison is still valid. The Macbook has 3 full size terminal windows, a browser with the full Craigslist's homepage at 100% zoom, a file browser, and the NY Time's website full page at 100% zoom. The Thinkpad shows the NY Time's website at 100% zoom and a terminal console at 100% zoom. Simply, there is no substitute for real-estate. The NY Time's website on the Macbook Pro shows double the content and news articles. I feel like I have an extra screen with my Macbook.

Here is Photoshop CS6 editing a 1080p (1920x1080) image at 100% zoom. A full web browser open to give you the depth of scale.

Simply, if you need real-estate, the Macbook Pro 15" Retina is in a league of all its own.

I wouldn't be running that resolution everyday so Apple devised HiDPI into the operating system which is pretty ingenius. You can run at 1680x1050, 1920x1200 HiDPI which are all 16:10 ratio. Perfect for programmers and developers. There are 3rd party utilities that unlock more resolutions. I am currently using resolution tab and it allows me to run 2048x1280,2560x1600,and native 2880x1800. 

I am starting to realize anything over 1080p is crazy on a laptop form-factor for day-to-day use. If you are running it at native resolution with 100% zoom, I can see where it can get straining.

I'm sure I can live with 1920x1200/1920x1080 all day but it is a treat just to drop it down to 1440x900 HiDPI (Best for Retina) and see the razor crisp text. Speaking of razor crispness, as of today, most of my major apps have been Retina modified- Office, Photoshop/Lightroom, Textwrangler, Sublime 2, Sequel Pro, and even LibreOffice looks good.

Quick Benchmarks

Speed Demon! There is no doubt this is a fast machine. Some quick benchmarks for those who are interested.

Geekbench and Black Magic speed test of the 768GB SSD.

I was previously toting two laptops everyday side-by-side. A Thinkpad running Linux and a late 2012 Macbook Pro 13" running OSX. I was using the Thinkpad because I needed the resolution and because of the upgrade-ability (ultrabay, eSATA, expresscard, docking station,etc). I shuttle a lot of large Virtual Machines so I need the fastest I/O connection I could have.  I have simply replaced the two. The Macbook Pro 15 and has two thunderbolt jacks and all my drives, RAID are Thunderbolt. For eSATA, a USB 3.0-eSATA dongle on the Macbooks have been faster than the built in eSATA of the Thinkpad. 768GB of SSD is enough to for me to run a couple of large (100GB VMs). And with iTunes Match, I no longer have to worry about my 1TB music files using up precious space on my portable computer. With everything installed (Full CS 6 Suite, Office 11, dev apps), I still have a healthy 650 GB free on my SSD.


16:10 Aspect Ratio. Default.

You can run your browser, IDE text editor, SQL database clients, a few debuggers/console, and even a large res Virtual Machine on one screen. The display is geared for work with the 16:10 aspect ratio.

Text. I don't think there is even a way to demonstrate the remarkable clarity of the screen through a photo or screenshot. It is that sharp. Open up the new version of Page or updated Excel and pull up a spreadsheet is probably the best way to demonstrate the clarity. Even browsing the Finder is sharp.

 I do most of my text editing in TextWrangler or Sublime. In Sublime, you can almost read the preview code pane. Again, I don't think it can be demonstrated with screenshots.

The CPU is an Ivy Bridge Core i7 3740QM Quad CPU with all the Virtualization features VT-x,VT-d.  Four cores and 8 threads. So, this makes it a great Virtual Machine provisioning machine. Coupled with a fast SSD and Thunderbolt, you can do all your pre-deploy cooking. Everything is bootable on this machine. USB3, Thunderbolt, and even the sdcard. Yep, you can even boot of a micro-sd card if you wanted to run an alternate OS. Booting off a Thunderbolt RAID (read my other posts), I have machine that can boot Windows in 7 seconds with I/O of 400-500 MB/sec.

I run a lot of VM (VirtualMachines) and this thing is impressive and problematic. The problem is the screen resolution is too high! Running VMs in HiDPI mode, gives you this:

This for the most part is fine for me because I need the real-estate. However, there is no toggle switch to HiDPI on and off as you can do with OSX. I can see where this can be a problem for others. Everything is so small!! I wonder how people manage with 13" 1080p Asus ultrabooks. This can either be a blessing or curse depending on your outlook.

My Mac resolution is set here to 1680x1050 HiDPI which is fairly good for people even with bad eyesight. Text and mac apps are their normal size. Windows 7 is running 100% zoom at 1280x1024 which would often take up the full screen on other laptops. The blue box you see is a 640x480 Linux console found in most headless VMs like Turnkey Linux.

Now here is the same Linux VM running at 100% zoom on my 1600x900 Thinkpad for comparison. There is such a dramatic difference in experience. The blue box you see (the VM) takes up 1/15 of my screen on the MBP vs 1/8 on the Thinkpad.

If you are working in console only VMs, it is best to turn off the HiDPI and zoom in. Zooming in will make things look blurry. Here is the Turnkey VM zoomed in, It is a little blurry but acceptable.

Running Desktop Virtual Machines (in non-HiDPI) mode looks pretty jarring. I had to run them in native mode and change the DPI to 200% in Windows and Linux. Even then, it isn't optimal. When the DPI settings are set to anything above 100%, text will appear the for the most part fine but you will have itty-bitty UI elements like buttons and icons which looks funny. Hence, Windows and other operating systems have a long ways to go to catch up with the higher DPI monitors.
Below is Windows 7 and Ubuntu Pear OS running at 150% dpi.

For example, running Photoshop in Windows with 150% DPI, the buttons and toolbar is ridiculously small while the text is legible.

Without HiDPI and running at 100%, you can see how blurry text is. My VM's resolution is set yo 1440x900.

A larger view to see the details.

Have in mind, this is not the fault of OSX or the Macbook. This is due to the fact that other operating systems do not yet have a good grasp on dealing with HiDPI monitors.

Your choice is to run native resolution and double the DPI if you want to run an OS with a desktop environment. This is the best thing to do but UI elements such as icons will look out of place. In Ubuntu, many apps do not conform with any DPI scaling. Java based apps tend to ignore it completely so you have apps with scaled and text and some without.

If you are running console only OS (e.g headless servers), this wont even be an issue.

Battery Life

This thing runs. It runs and runs. I would attribute this to the dynamic GPU switching. I am using a 3rd party app, gfxCardStatus, to monitor my GPU. The laptop will switch integrated Intel's Ivy Bridge IGP HD4000 when it needs to and when you power up an GPU intensive app, the discrete card kicks in.

I'm getting 5-6 hours with my normal workflow - programming in Sublime and making database queries. Impressive. Once plugged in, it pretty much runs on discrete Nvidia. I'm certain the Haswell refresh will do more on this front. However, as a person who docks most of the time, I'm happy with my current purchase instead of waiting another 3 months.

I/O Ports.

The slimming of the chassis was a big concern for me and many others. There were some compromises made. The lack of optical disk wasn't an issue for me. Firewire. Well, I've moved on to USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt so the remaining older FW enclosures I have can't even do justice to the faster SSDs now shipping. That omission won't be an issue as we forge on to faster external storage options that I've been covering on my blog for the past year.

I have to say that the missing ethernet port is a bummer. However, I can understand the justification and I am more than happy with the alternative. Two Thunderbolt ports! This more than makes up for it.
I also love the fact that the USB ports are on separate sides. Before,I would have chunky USB sticks and they would interfere and block one another.

Two Thunderbolt ports is also supplemented with a HDMI port on the opposite side. So, in theory, you can connect 3 external monitors (which I have seen posted elsewhere on the Internet).  Two of those monitors can be 2560x1600 which is impressive in its own right.

When I am mobile, I can use one Thunderbolt port for a portable SSD, a second for ethernet, and the HDMI can connect to a presentation monitor. So, I am pretty much covered and the lack of on-board ethernet concerns are no longer an issue for me. That was the biggest pre-purchase concern I had. Once docked in a desktop environment, my desktop RAID/external Thunderbolt drives have daisy chaining ports so I only need to use one TBOLT port while stationary.

In short, I wouldn't worry about the port I/O on this. As for extra USB ports, Mac users tend to use bluetooth for their low level HID input devices like mouse and external keyboards. Overall, I am more than satisfied with the set-up on the Retina Macbook Pro. My only real gripe is the sd reader doesn't flush full size sd cards.


So far, I am loving this new rig. Once you use that screen for an extended period of time, nothing even comes close. I am dead serious. I no longer want to use my 27" iMac or various Macs/PCs running 27 & 30" Dells at 2560x1440/2560x1600. I've been running large multiple monitors for years now and I thought I would be prepared for this experience. I even thought owning and using an iPad 3 Retina since launch would acclimate me to this laptop.

I was dead wrong. It is completely different. Unlike an iPad, I use my Macbook Pro for work where I am typing lengthy amount of code. I am looking at spreadsheets/database views with thousands of records and 60-80 columns across.   I've always been trained to think if you are not running native resolution (downscale), the text would be blurry and the experience would be not optimized. Again, I was wrong with my pre-conceived notions. HiDPI is amazing if the OS and apps are optimized for it. Opening up PDF reports, Excel documents and even bland Word files is a new experience.

Now, not everything is perfect. There are a handful of older apps that have not been optimized and they look like crap.

Hence, I am now at a dilemma. I even bought myself a new 27" Dell U2713HM for the house and I've been using it with my iMac and other Macbook. Prior, I would make the larger monitor my main display and convert my other Macbook into a palette monitor for secondary use.

I can't even plug an external monitor to this Macbook 15" retina and extend the display. I simply can't. It is simply annoying to see text so sharp and them get jarred by another display right next to it.

This is why this laptop is so special. It is one thing to play with it a store or mess around with a friend's or colleague's machine for a few minutes. Once you use it for more than 3 days (36 hours), your preference will totally change. That is how amazing this screen is.

Pricey. Yep, it is pricey. It came to nearly $3400 with California sales tax.

For some eyecandy, here is the Macbook Retina 15" running Earth 3D which turns your desktop into a live wallpaper of a 3D earth. The discrete GPU will kick in and it is a treat to show off the screen.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

5 minutes to clone a factory fresh mac

So I got myself a new Macbook Pro Retina 15". I cloned the factory image using Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode. It took less than 5 minutes to clone the entire factory new image. 

That is fast.That is more than fast. That is insanely fast.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How-To: Multiseat set-up with VMware Fusion 5. Independent mouse keyboard monitors.

With VMware Fusion, you can easily set up a multiseat configuration where the Virtualized guests act and operate as an independent computer with its own mouse and keyboard. This is called multiseat.

Multiseat computing is where a single computer provides multiple, independent, multi-station computing where multiple users have their own console access.
Sounds confusing?  Well, it is basically one computer providing resources to multiple workstations where each users have their own monitor, keyboard and mouse.

The picture from HP below illustrates how a multiseat set-up works.

In essence, each user will have their own computing experience. They have their own desktop and full control as if the multiseat clients are real independent computers.

This is not a new idea. Companies have been doing this for decades. There are even thin client distributed multiseat devices on the market. Plugable has one but requires a dedicated Windows Multipoint Server 2012 for Windows or a custom Fedora Linux build.

Today, I am going to show you how to do it with VMware Fusion 5. In fact, you can and provide multiple operating systems to each and every user. Mom can be doing her spreadsheet in Windows XP while little junior is surfing the web in Chrome OS (Chromium) and everything can be hosted off a single Macbook. You are not tied to a hosted server solution.

The requirements are: Extra monitor, extra set of keyboard and mouse. You'll probably need a USB hub. This is the minimum for a single multiseat setup.

Extra network card and extra USB sound stick are optional. If you need more seats,you will need to look at extra graphics output. In this case, you can use a displaylink adapter.

VMware Fusion setup.
The goal is to setup independent monitor, mouse, and keyboard for your guest.

The first part is easy. Set your guest to fullscreen on your second monitor and make sure you disable the "Use All Displays in Full Screen" option. Your guest(s) should start up on their screens.

Getting the extra, external mouse and keyboard isn't so straightforward and obvious. By default, this is disabled in VMware. It requires a little editing of the .vmx file in your VM Guest.
Go to your VM guests, show contents and open the .vmx file. You will need to add a line in the .vmx file that allows the guest to capture and use USB HID (input devices).

usb.generic.allowHID = "TRUE"

Once this is done, go to your USB&Bluetooth settings and assign the external USB keyboard and mouses to your guest. Once this is done, any mouse/keyboard movements will be independent from your host computer. This is how you set-up an independent mouse and keyboard for your VMware guest machine. Here, I paired an external Apple keyboard and mouse to my VM.

Next Steps.

Thats it. The only major hurdle is to get USB HID devices to recognize.
Note. Not all mouses and keyboards will work. You will need to use one with a standard HID interface.

The next steps are optional.

Picture below is my ad-hoc multi-seat set-up I setup for my Macbook Pro. It is a USB 3.0 four port hub with a USB 3.0 Displaylink HDMI adapter, a USB 3.0 Gigabit Ethernet adapter, and an extra set of keyboard and mouse. There are now USB 3.0 Displaylink port replicators on the market that you can use but those will cost you some money.

The extra network adapter is totally optional as you can NAT with VMware.

If you want a separate network interfaces for your users, you will need to setup bridging and assign a network card to your guests.

Once this is setup, the guest will now be a completely separate entity from your Host. It will act and behave as if it is an independent computer on your network.

Now, this is where things will get interesting in the future. With Thunderbolt docks coming in from Sonnet and Caldigit, I'll be able to set-up secondary multiseat guests with their own fast network and high-resolution (2560x1440) displays.

You can also do multiseat on-the-go.

Below is a hypothetical portable setup - portable MHL HDMI battery powered monitor and a separate portable keyboard/mouse. The main macbook is running OSX 10.8 while Pear OS, Ubuntu Linux is running off the portable monitor. This is pretty awesome when you want to demo client-server applications in meetings.

A simple youtube example:

Once I get my cables and adapters for my Motorola Lapdock, I will update this post with this as my thin client. Also, I got this partially working in a Linux Host running VMware's free VMware player for Linux. I could get the keyboard but not the mouse to act independently.

Hmmm. Motorola Lapdock as second multiseat thin-client console.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Old school geek and his watches

Watches is another interesting subject for this geek.

Today, one of my regular geek blog, Gizmodo, has an article on Chronograph watches. It show cases a nice Heuer, old school Rolex Daytona, and an Omega Speedmaster Professional. It is kind of light on content. An introduction to Chronograph should explain some of the features. For example, the Tachymeter and how to use it. Not all Chronographs have Tachs. The watch I am wearing today is a Sinn 156 Military and does not have a Tach. It is a military watch with an unusual dial arrangement fitted with a Lemania 5100 automatic complication. It also has a 24h our sub-dial which leads to an interesting subject of discussion for watch geeks.  In short, there are different chronographs of all sorts.
So, I was a bit disappointed in the Gizmodo article.

However, today is a good day to profess my love of mechanical watches as a geek.

First of all, watches are oldest form of gadgets for the gentlemen. You have a hundred moving parts that require high precision and tolerance. Like most 30,40 something tech geeks. I started my watch habit during the dot-com era. When money was flowing, I was buying a high-end time piece every 3 months and spending my time with other dot-commers on

I was always a big fan of NASA and astronauts in general. Buzz Aldrin was my hero so one of the first watches I got was an Omega Speedmaster Professional. Notice in the second picture below, Aldrin is wearing his Speedmaster professional strapped outside his spacesuit in m*therf*cking outer space. How cool is that. That watch can take a serious beating as it passed many tests by NASA.

Over the years, I collected a great deal of watches, My entire collection is mostly "tool watches."

Tool Watches are worn by professionals (NATO pilots, astronauts, bomb squad,exploreres)  and most of them are military watches or ones used by adventurous types. I'm one of those collectors you can call a "Desktop diver." I have diving watches that can go 300 to 1000 meters deep but the deepest I'll go is a 9 foot pool. I have no biases like some (Omega vs Rolex). I collect them all.

This youtube video explains it all.

In this day an age, most people ask why do I still wear a watch when you can get your time off a phone or computer. Well, I have two good long answers for this.

1. Appreciation. I don't think of watches as an investment but all of my watches have doubled or increased in value. The Sinn 156 pictured above can no longer be bought. It has a rare Lemania movement sought out by others. I can easily sell it for three times what I bought it for. In 1996, I traded an Apple Wall Street Powerbook (worth $600 at the time) for a rare 168000 Rolex Submariner. The laptop is worth $80-120 on eBay today.On the other hand,the Rolex Sub is worth over $6000 in the secondary market. It is highly sought after by Japanese collectors due to the fact it was a transitional model (matte dial pre-lumia). In 2001, I bought a brand new Rolex GMT Master II for $2700. To buy one now will cost you over $6000. The Speedmaster professional you see Buzz Aldrin wearing, well, I bought one brand new in Europe for $1200 in the early 2000. Today, speedmaster "moonwatches" still fetch over $3,000. In short, electronic gadgets will depreciate faster as the next and greatest item replaces it. Unless you have a rare first edition Apple II, electronics are disposable gadgets. My watch collection is a family heirloom I can easily pass on to my kids.

2. Doesn't need a battery. Very simple. I realized how important this was early this year when I was hospitalized for a few days. I had my iPad, laptop, phones and they all died on me on the first day. I was constantly asking nurses to borrow their phone chargers. In the end, all my electronic gadgets died on me. Waiting and waiting for hours in the emergency room for the next blood tests, the only thing keeping me sane was measuring time. I would wake up in the middle of the night and my wristwatch was the only thing that kept me in check with the reality of the world. Knowing what time it was, I could easily meditate myself to sleep; knowing I didn't have to stay awake for 3 or 4 hours. I'm surprised my hospital didn't have wall clocks.

There you have it. Watches and why this old school fortysomething geek plays with them.
And those talks of iWatches, I won't be buying one. Digital watches will never have the same breadth of cool as any mechanical watch.