tips : which affordable display is best for working from home with a MacBook Pro ?

Question :

I need to work from home and I am looking for an affordable display to hook up to my MacBook Pro, to make my work a little easier.

Do you have any recommendations ?

 

Answer :

When buying an external display and having only a few hundred euros of budget*, look at these specs mainly, and decide which order of priority they have in your specific case :

*= this is for people who do not have a budget of €500 or more

  1. HDMI or DisplayPort :
    • what ports does your MacBook (Air/Pro) have ?
      • if it has USB-C (or Thunderbolt 3) only, get a display with HDMI-input and get a USB-C-to-HDMI-cable that can handle 4K@60Hz
      • if it has a miniDisplayPort (or Thunderbolt 1 or 2) and regular sized USB-ports, get a display with DisplayPort(v1.2)-input and a get a miniDisplayPort-to-DisplayPort-cable
  2. number of pixels (is preferrred over screen size) :
    • in any home office or home schooling situation, you will not be more than 60cm away from your screen (note : the front of the screen will be about 10cm in front of the wall, because of the display stand) : so there’s no need for a huge screen :
      • when you are about 40cm from your screen, go for a 21″ to 24″ display
      • when you are about 50cm from your screen, go for a 24″ to 27″ display
    • any display with 1920×1080 (1K/HD) pixels or more will do just fine
      • 1920×1080 looks great on 21″ or 24″ 16:9 screen
      • but 1920×1080 looks fuzzy on a 27″ 16:9 screen
      • 2560×1080 looks okay on a 27″ wide screen
      • but 2560×1440 looks great on a 24″ 16:9 screen
  3. IPS display :
    • for home office work or home schooling, get an IPS display – it has better color representation and is easier on the eyes when using it for extended periods (hours and hours of continuous working)
    • for gaming, you might consider getting some other type of display, like TN, that enables you to get higher refresh rates for a tighter budget, but you shouldn’t use those for anything other than gaming
  4. refresh rate :
    • for home office work, a refresh rate of 5ms @60Hz is perfect
    • for gaming, get as close to 1ms @144Hz as your budget can afford (3ms @100Hz or 2ms @75Hz is okay for budget gaming)
  5. adjustable height (and orientation) :
    • because of ergonomics, it is important that you adjust the height to make sure top of the display is at the same height as your eyes when sitting straight up
    • because light reflection on the screen will be extremely annoying, make sure the display has the option to slightly tilt
    • only if you are working on a lot of text documents you will benefit from the option to twist the display’s orientation from landscape (regular) to portrait mode
  6. integrated multi-port USB3-hub :
    • this is an essential ! make sure that there is a USB-multipier in the display and that it’s USB3.0 or USB3.1 based
      • since there aren’t many USB-ports on your MacBook (Air/Pro), you will need extra USB-ports (especially if you have a USB-C MacBook (Air/Pro), since you will need one USB-C port to connect the screen)
      • a USB-port on your screen will enable you to connect a USB3-to-GigabitEthernet-adapter which will outperform your WiFi connection, and your MacBook (Air/Pro) will instantaneously be connected to fast wired internet the moment you connect it to your display
    • 2 extra USB-ports on the Display is the bear minimum : you should prefer 4 or more USB-ports, so you can connect these if you need to :
      • a USB-mouse
      • a USB-keyboard
      • a USB-to-Ethernet adapter (preferably USB3-to-GigabitEthernet)
      • a USB-printer
      • a USB-scanner
      • a USB-flashcardreader (for photo camera memory cards)
      • a USB-to-TV adapter (e.g. an EyeTV stick, to watch picture-in-picture TV)
      • connect or charge your iPhone or iPad
      • an external harddrive or backup drive
    • for a keyboard or mouse (or even a wired joystick/joypad) you don’t really need a USB3.0 or USB3.1 connection, but for data transfer it will save you a lot of time
  7. price :
    • do not go for ‘lowest budget’ if you need to use the display for working from home or home schooling, find a display for €200 to €250 : even though you cheaper displays are available, do not buy any display that was under €200 when released : most of the time, you will be better of getting a slightly older (up to 3 years) display model that used to cost €300 or more
      • make sure you also take into account the extra headphone, sound system, ethernet-adapter, mouse, keyboard and alike when deciding on your budget for the display
  8. integrated webcam :
    • if you need to do video-conferencing, make sure you get a webcam with your display – an integrated webcam will turn out to be very convenient (an integrated webcam cannot compete with a high-quality webcam, but if you use an external webcam, make sure to get a display with a USB3-hub with enough ports in your display)
      • added bonus of most integrated webcams is that de webcam is either pop-up or slide-to-open, so you can easily prevent being ‘accidentally’ exposed to webcam viewers
      • make sure the integrated webcam is 1.2 megapixel (1.2MP) or more : the FaceTime HD webcam that is built into a MacBook is at least 1.2MP (in an iPhone X the selfie camera is even 7MP)
  9. integrated microphone :
    • if you have the need for a webcam on your display, make sure you also have a microphone – an integrated microphone will turn out to be very convenient (an integrated microphone cannot compete with a headphone with integrated microphone, a gaming headphone or a separate directional of voice microphone)
  10. integrated speakers :
    • most displays do not have integrated speakers, but having the option to watch home schooling lessons or YouTube-videos without a headphone are very convenient, even though audio quality of most integrated speakers is okay but not impressive (if you do not already have an audio systemconnected to your MacBook, these integrated speakers might even turn out to be essential)
  11. bezel thickness :
    • the bezel (the edge around the actual screen) is really important if you want to set multiple displays side-by-side, but most of the time it is only a matter of taste in design : about 15mm is okay, especially if the display will be placed in front of a distracting environment (like a window, fancy wallpaper or a hallway)

Note : make sure you also think about these :

  • you need to use an external keyboard and mouse (or trackpad) :
    • any mouse or keyboard that suits you will do, so if you have an old mouse and even keyboard around, use those
      • for work, USB, Bluetooth and RF (wireless connection from a dedicated USB-to-wireless-plug) will all do
      • for gaming, only USB is advisory as any wireless connection might get laggy during intensive use
    • if you need to buy a new keyboard, think about these :
      • get a ‘Designed for Mac’ keyboard with the Mac key-layout, so with a COMMAND/CMD-key (and not a WINDOWS-key : only if you can typ blindly without any restrictions, you can get a Windows-layout keyboard and remap the keys in macOS)
      • get a keyboard that suits your main language : usually that is a QWERTY-layout, but for French it is AZERTY-layout and for German it is QWERTZ-layout (this will also help when you need to use accents in texts)
      • if you need to typ a lot, get a keyboard mechanical keys and spacing between all keys
      • if you need to input a lot of numbers (if you’re in accounting or working with Excell sheets) get a full-size keyboard with an integrated numeric pad (on the right of the keyboard)
      • a keyboard with an integrated trackpad can be beneficial for some, but make sure you get one with a Mac key-layout
      • an ergonomic keyboard can be really beneficial, but there are very few ergonomic keyboards with a Mac key-layout
    • if you need to buy a new mouse, think about these :
      • a mouse with a right and left button and a scroll-option will do for most purposes
        • most people have no need for a fancy gaming mouse with more than these 3 functions
      • consider using a trackball or ergonomic mouse
      • a Bluetooth or RF-wireless mouse does have downsides :
        • it will need to be charged (Apple’s Magic Mouse 2 is problematic in this respect…)
        • it easily gets lost
        • when the battery is down, you will need to open your MacBook and use the built-in trackpad until the mouse is recharged
    • if you need to buy both a new mouse and a new keyboard, have a look at the mouse & keyboard combo offerings by renowned brands like Logitech,
  • make sure your MacBook (Air/Pro) has it’s power adapter plugged in when using an external display, else you cannot use your display with the MacBook’s lid closed and your MacBook will quickly run out of battery
  • if your MacBook has USB-C (Thunderbolt 3) ports, and your Display doesn’t have a built-in multi-port USB3-hub, consider getting a USB-C Docking-hub
  • if your MacBook has regular USB ports, and your Display doesn’t have a built-in multi-port USB3-hub, consider getting yourself an additional USB3-hub
  • if your mouse is on a very reflective surface (like a glass table) or a wobbly surface (like a rustic wooden table), your mouse will not work reliably, so it is advisory to use a mouse mat (or a plastic placemat or even a sturdy-covered magazine)
  • to minimize the clutter of cables, you can use a cable hose to keep your cables together (budget option : use tie-ribs, or even ‘the pieces of plastic covered metal wire’ that you get with nearly every cable or electronic device you buy, to tie your cables together)

 

Some suggestions (no single display is optimal on all requirements) :

for office & graphic work : BenQ BL2420PT display : 23.8″ / 16:9 / 2560×1440 (2K/QHD) / 5ms / 60Hz / IPS / HDMI v1.4 & DisplayPort v1.2 / adjustable height & orientation / 2x USB2.0 out / no webcam / 2x 1W stereo-speakers / audio minijack out / 15mm bezel

for videoconferencing & office work : Philips B-line 241B7QPJKEB / 23.8″ / 16:9 / 1920×1080 (1K/HD) / 5ms / 60Hz / IPS / HDMI v1.4 & DisplayPort v1.2 / adjustable height & orientation / 3x USB3.0 out / pop-up 2MP webcam / 2W stereo-speakers / audio minijack out / 2mm bezel

for gaming : BenQ Zowie XL2411P display : 24″ / 16:9 / 1920×1080 (1K/HD) / 1ms / 144Hz / TN / HDMI & DisplayPort v1.2 / adjustable height & orientation / no USB out / no webcam / no speakers / audio minijack out / 15mm bezel

miniDisplayPort cable : Rankie miniDP-to-DP-cable : miniDisplayPort in / DisplayPort out / up to 4K/UltraHD (3840×2160)

USB-C to HDMI cable : Uni USB-C HDMI cable : USB-C in / HDMI out / up to 4K/UltraHD @60Hz (3840×2160)

USB3.0-to-Ethernet-adapter : TP-Link UE300 Gigabit LAN adapter : USB3.0 / RJ45 LAN / Gigabit (10/100/1000Mbps) Ethernet

USB-C-to-GigabitEthernet-adapter : AmazonBasics USB-C Gigabit LAN adapter : USB-C / RJ45 LAN / Gigabit (10/100/1000Mbps) Ethernet

USB2.0-to-Ethernet-adapter : TP-Link UE200 LAN adapter : USB2.0 / RJ45 LAN / 10/100Mbps Ethernet

USB3-hub : Vogek 6 port USB3.0 hub : powered hub / 6x USB3.0 out

office keyboard : Logitech K380 keyboard : full-size keys / wireless RF & Bluetooth / no numeric pad / macOS printing on-key / no trackpad

high-end office & design keyboard : Logitech MX keyboard : full-size keys / wireless RF & Bluetooth / numeric pad / macOS printing on-key / no trackpad

keyboard with trackpad : Logitech K400 Livingroom keyboard : full-size keys / wireless RF & Bluetooth / no numeric pad / no macOS printing on-key / trackpad

ergonomic mouse mat : Comfort Gel Wrist Support Mouse Pad

cable hose : Neoprene Cable Tube

 

 

fixed : which iOS app can I use for the LeadEdge H245 dashcam ?

Question :

I have a LeadEdge H245 dashcam (1080p & WiFi) in my car that has been doing a great job for a few years now.

Recently, I switched to a new iPhone and in an attempt to free some space by deleting apps that I seldomly use, I have deleted the app that I had installed for my LeadEdge H245 dashcam…

And now I want to get some video of my dashcam and I therefore need to reinstall the app… but I can’t remember its name or find any info on this online…

Can you help me ?

 

Answer :

The LeadEdge H245 dashcam is a rebrand of the Novatek 96658 dashcam that is also sold as Junsun S550, Podofo, SLB Works, CarSun, Vakind and probably other brand/product names too.

There are at least 4 FREE apps that can connect to this dashcam (maybe there are more) :

  • Lerccenker.app
    • this app is pushed by LeadEdge as the app to use with your dash cam : it’s okay, but rather slow and feels a little out-dated
  • FinalCam.app
    • this app is suggested by LeadEdge as the alternative : it works, but apart from the live view, options are very limited
  • NovaCam.app
    • this app is made by Novatek and works with any Novatek-based dash cam : it’s far better than both Lerccenker.app and FinalCam.app
  • Dride.app
    • this app is made to work with any dash cam : it is fast and has a very nice user interface that is more intuitive than the NovaCamp.app (the ads are a little annoying though…)
    • note : Dride.app can also include GPS data to your dash cam videos by connecting to your iPhone (although you might find this option a little too privacy invasive…)

For all 4 of these apps, this is the way to connect to your Dash Cam :

  • turn ON the WiFi on your Dash Cam by pressing the DOWN-button on the left side of the housing until the WIFi-icon is displayed on-screen
  • then, on you iPhone, goto Settings.app > WiFi
  • on the Wi-Fi page, connect to the WiFi-network of your dash cam (probably the only one with a criptic name)
  • then open the dash cam app you want to use
  • fiddle around to get to know the options the app has, generally you can choose for ‘live video’ or ‘recorded video’ and you may also have ‘take picture’ as an option
    • additional instruction for NovaCam.app : in the Camera List, click on the Plus-icon (top-right) and click on ‘Wi-Fi’ when it appears in the list
    • additional instruction for Dride.app : choose “UGP 100 Universal Dash Cam” as your device

That’s it !

enjoy 😉

fixed : best iPhone-app for DHL, UPS and PostNL track-and-trace in The Netherlands

Question :

I live in The Netherlands and on my iPhone, I want to trace packages that will be delivered to me shortly.

The PostNL.app works perfectly, but it’s for PostNL shipments only…

The UPS.app works perfectly too (despite the privacy agreement is a little awkward), but it’s for UPS shipments only…

There are various apps in the Apps Store for DHL shipments, but none of them work for The Netherlands…

I’ve tried the iPhone-apps by Deliveries, ParcelTrack and 17track, but even though they are advertised as ‘perfect solutions’ in most countries, they fail for at least one of the main delivery services in The Netherlands…

Isn’t there any iOS-app that can track all mayor post & parcel delivery services like PostNL, UPS, DHL, GLS and TNT in The Netherlands ?

 

Answer :

Yes there is… but there’s only one : AfterShip.app [click to download]

…and it’s not perfect yet, it still needs a little more do-it-yourself than advertised :

  • the Auto Detect function doesn’t always select the proper delivery service, nor does it always include the proper delivery service in it’s short list of options, so (especially for DHL deliveries) you must always double-check the exact delivery service from your shipment confirmation eMail
  • there’s only one Title (or Description) field you can add to your Shipment-entry, so if you want to include both Sender and Content description (as you can in most other Track&Trace apps) you will have to combine those into only one line of info
  • the Edit option only allows you to edit the Title (a.k.a. Description) of your Shipment-entry, so… if you’ve erratically chosen (or guessed) the wrong delivery service, you will not be able to edit or correct it… you will have to delete the entire Shipment-entry and create/add a new, corrected one entirely…

But apart from that… it’s FREE and once you have picked the delivery services correctly, it works as expected ! (and that’s far better than any other Track&Trace app)

There are a few things to know :

  • TNT-shipments from Amazon UK and Amazon DE to The Netherlands : if your online Amazon account info lists TNT (or “TNT (Netherlands)”) as the delivery service, the actual shipment will be done by PostNL, so you’ll need to choose “PostNL Domestic” as the delivery service ; if in the “Verzendbevestiging” you have received through eMail, the fine print says “Je items worden verzonden door Post NL Pakketten.” the actual shipment will expedited be by PostNL Domestic, even if your online Amazon-shipment-info says something else !
  • DHL-shipments from Amazon DE to The Netherlands : if your online Amazon DE account info lists DHL (or “DHLNL”) or DHL_CONNECT as the delivery service, this will NOT be DHL Express or DHL Benelux (the ones suggested by AfterShip.app), this will usually be shipped using DHL Parcel NL ; in the “Verzendbevestiging” you have received though eMail, the fine print says “Je items worden verzonden door DHL NL Pakketten.” the actual shipment will be expedited by DHL Parcel NL, even if your online Amazon-shipment-info says something else !
  • DHL-shipments from Dutch resellers to addresses within The Netherlands will be usually expedited by “DHL Benelux” (and NOT by “DHL Express” or any other DHL branch)

enjoy !

info : comparison of lightning-splitters

Question :

I would like to use two lightning-connections on my new iPhone that only has one lightning-connector. Are the available lightning-splitters any good ?

 

Answer :

Yes and No.

Yes, if you only want to use a pair of wired headphones and charge your iPhone at the same time, all lightning-splitters I’ve tested are up to the job. And if you have a USB-headphone (or a mini-jack-to-USB-adapter) you could even use the Apple Lightning Camera Connector.

But if you want to connect anything else, the lightning-splitters that I’ve found won’t do the job… even the ones that claim to support data syncing didn’t support in iOS 12 in my testing…

So, for now it’s only power&audio-splitters…

Here‘s an in-depth comparison [open attached file] of the lightning-splitters I’ve tested :

Apple Lightning Camera Connector

Auswar Lightning Audio Splitter

Beyeah Lightning Audio Splitter Argent

Beyeah Dual Lightning Splitter

PowerBear Dual Lightning Splitter

Arotao Dual Audio & Charge Adapter

 

My recommendations would be :

  • if you want a mini-jack-adapter for your headphone : get the Auswar Lightning Audio Splitter
  • if you want data-transfer : get the Apple Lightning Camera Connector

fixed : budget friendly OBD2 dongle for my car

Question :

My car’s on-board computer system sometimes gives unexplained, rather random, error messages. Up until now, I went to the dealer garage to have my car’s on-board computer system be analyzed and reset. Recently I heard that I could buy an OBD2-dongle myself and read and erase error messages myself. That would be a real time (and money) saver.

Is there any budget-friendly OBD2-dongle that I can use with my iPhone ?

 

Answer :

Yes there are several OBD2-dongles available that can do the job for you. Just make sure that you keep these things in mind when choosing one :

  • make sure the OBD2-dongle is compatible with iOS (as some are only compatible with PCs or Android-devices)
  • make sure the OBD2-dongle’s connection is over Bluetooth LowEnergy a.k.a. BLE (since that’s the only way to be able to connect your iPhone to your regular WiFi-network (internet) and to the OBD2-dongle at the same time)
  • make sure the OBD2-dongle is based on the original ELM327 chip (most cheap Chinese knock-offs are based on problematic, unreliable clone chips)
  • make sure the OBD2-dongle is compatible with the software you are planning to use with it (not every OBD2-app connects equally good to every OBD2-dongle & if you need to erase the error messages, most FREE versions won’t do so you will usually need the Pro version)

One of the cheapest reliable OBD2-dongles I’ve found is the TONWON OBDII Pro Bluetooth BLE4.0 for about €26,- ;

buy it on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.de

And do not forget to get an accompanying iOS-app :

most interesting for the budget-wary is Car Scanner ELM OBD2 Pro for about €5,50

(or the more expensive OBD Fusion at about €11,- or even the €20,- OBD AutoDoctor that even has an additional Mac-version)

…so buying into this DIY-solution is cheaper than having your car’s on-board computer system reset only once !

enjoy !

test : best sleep tracker next to AppleWatch ?

Question :

My AppleWatch is great. The only thing it doesn’t do, since you need to charge it every night, is sleep tracking.

Which sleep tracker would you recommend next to an AppleWatch ?

 

Answer :

If the only thing you really need is sleep tracking, I would still recommend an armband-like device. Armband-like sleep tracking devices are easier to carry around if you go on a business trip or holiday, they don’t require you to lie nearly still in your bed and they’re far less expensive than the other sleep tracking devices available. The only reason not to use an armband-like sleep tracking device is if you need extremely in-depth sleep tracking because of medical reasons.

Since you already own an AppleWatch and an iPhone (or iPad) to run the Watch-app on, you also have the iOS Health-app, so there isn’t any need for more than an extremely basic display on your sleep tracking armband device. Keep in mind that you don’t need a display while you’re sleeping, you can’t even use it during sleep…

Based on this observation, you’re best option is to choose the most basic and most affordable armband-like sleep tracker you can find. I’ve been testing these 2 side by side for a while now :

Xaiomi MiBand 1S : about €20 : buy it on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.de

Jawbone UP Move : about €15 : buy it on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.de

As an alternative, you might also consider the “upgraded versions” :

Xaiomi MiBand 2 : about €35  : buy it on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.de

Jawbone UP2 : about €40 : buy it on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.de

Jawbone UP3 : about €55 : buy it on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.de

Fitbit Flex 2 : about €85 : buy it on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.de

But, in the end, if it’s mainly for sleep tracking, these “upgraded versions” are quite a bit more expensive, but still, keep in mind that they are only different in features that have no added value for you since you already have an AppleWatch.

Reasons to choose the MiBand 1S over the UP Move (or the other way around) :

Xaiomi MiBand 1S – the pros :

  • automatically detects whether you are sleeping or not
  • USB-rechargeable battery ; one charge last at least one month
  • good quality armband ; no traces of wear and tear even after extensive use
  • very nice iOS MiFit-app
  • can be worn all day
  • minimalistic design
  • can take over activity tracking and (manual !) heart rate measuring when you’re not wearing your AppleWatch

Xaiomi MiBand 1S – the cons :

  • maybe not as waterproof as claimed ; probably water-resistant or splash-proof at the most, but suitable for showering (maybe not for swimming)
  • quality of individual devices differs, some may only last for a month or so
  • reset includes strange ‘put it in the fridge’ procedure
  • if something doesn’t work there’s hardly any feedback to what’s wrong
  • no way to directly use it as input device for iOS Health-app ; the MiFit-app is always needed
  • will irritate the skin when worn tightly (which is needed for heart rate measuring, but which you don’t need since you have an AppleWatch)

Jawbone UP Move – the pros :

  • easily exchangeable CR2032 cell battery ; will last up to 6 months per battery
  • very good iOS UP-app includes interactive coaching (sleep coaching also)
  • can be worn nearly all day (not for swimming or showering)
  • simple reset option (just take out the battery)
  • can take over activity tracking when you’re not wearing your AppleWatch (not heart rate measuring)

Jawbone UP Move – the cons :

  • switching to sleep tracking must be done manually
  • quality of the bracelet strap is dubious ; tends to break unrepairable after a few months
  • splash-proof only (not for showering)
  • design is slightly bulky compared to minimalistic armbands
  • no way to directly use it as input device for iOS Health-app ; the MiFit-app is always needed

CONCLUDING :

Both the Xaiomi MiBand 1S and the Jawbone UP Move are great choices ar sleep trackers next to your AppleWatch. Personally, I slightly prefer the MiBand 1S because of the fact that it automatically switches to sleep tracking when you fall asleep.

Note :

There is a reason that both the newer Jawbone UP3 and the Fitbit Flex 2 have nearly the same design as the older MiBand 1S : this design is the ‘near perfect’ design for such a simple armband device. In my opinion, the only reason to prefer the Fitbit Flex 2 over the MiBand 1S is the fact that is is very well suited for swimming… but it’s up to you to decide if that’s worth the extreme price difference, especially if you already own an AppleWatch.

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BEWARE ! : these dangerous USB chargers are prohibited by Dutch authorities immediately

BEWARE !

This spring (2016), Dutch authorities have tested 230V USB chargers for electronic devices like iPhones and iPads. And the results are alarming : of the 41 chargers tested, 10 have tested ‘high risk of fire, explosion and injury’ (most of these were cheap unbranded USB-chargers) and another 14 have tested ‘dangerous because of missing safety documentation’ (these even included USB-chargers by Sony, Samsung, Huawei and Nokia). All these 24 USB-chargers have been banned from the Dutch market immediately, and selling these is now prohibited.

PLEASE BEWARE !

As you may already have purchased one of these dangerous USB-chargers, be sure to check the list below and compare with the USB-chargers within your household. If you find one, stop using it immediately !

The full list [with pictures] of USB-chargers tested can be found here (Google-translated into English) :

https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=nl&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.inspectieresultaten.nvwa.nl%2Fproductonderzoek%2Fusb-laders%3Fsort_bef_combine%3Dweight%2BDESC

GREEN label = tested okay (no safety risk)

YELLOW label = dangerous because of missing documentation (safety risk)

RED label = hazardous (high safety risk)

 

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