Alternative Retina Display for Mac Pro?

As I previously mentioned, the iMac with 5K Retina Display is going back to Apple. Not because there is anything wrong with it, it’s a beautiful machine, but mainly because I wanted to keep my Mac Pro and I couldn’t justify (to myself anyway), the extra expense of a second powerful machine, just for the display.

However, once you’ve experienced a Retina display, it’s really hard to forget about it!

So in looking for possible alternatives, my eye was taken by the LG Flatron 31MU97 31″ True 4K 60Hz Professional WideScreen LED Monitor.

This is a true Cinema 4K display, with a native resolution of 4096 x 2160. The iMac 5K Retina Display is 5120 x 2880. These figures are significant.

Firstly, some words first about using these humongous resolutions in real life.

Yes, you can run these monitors at these incredible resolutions. It’s quite a buzz to play a 4K Ultra HD resolution at full size – and it looks awesome too.

However, in real life, you’re really not going to stick to these maximum resolutions, the on screen elements – menus, dialogue boxes, etc, are just too small.

The true power of these monitors is that it allows you to run in HiDPi mode, or in Apple’s parlance in Retina Mode.

In HiDPi, all the pixels available are used, but they “scale” the resolution to something more reasonable.

With a normal iMac or Apple Cinema Display, the optimum resolution for the 27” screen is 2560 x 1440. At this resolution, all the on screen elements are perfectly readable and correctly sized for the display.

With the iMac with Retina Display having exactly 4 times as many pixels as the 2560 x 1440 display, when in HiDPi mode, each point at a resolution of 2560 x 1440 is made up of exactly 4 pixels. As such, the crispness of the display needs to be seen to be believed. You can scale up the resolution and it still looks great, but the sweet spot is 2560 x 1440 HiDPi. The added benefit is that if you play 4K media it will be displayed in its true resolution.

So as the iMac was going back, I decided to throw caution to the wind and ordered the new LG Flatron 31MU97.

It arrived a couple of days ago and as the iMac isn’t going back until tomorrow, I was able to do some comparisons.

I discovered that at a certain optimal resolution, the LG Flatron 31MU97 is as eye popping as the iMac Retina.

The only problem is that the optimal resolution is 2048 x 1080 not 2560 x 1440

At 2048 x 1080, the LG also is able to use exactly 4 pixels per point making the display super crisp and gorgeous, just like the iMac display.

So what’s the problem?

2048 x 1080 HiDPi on a 31” monitor makes everything pretty damn large!

It’s usable, but realistically, you’d want a bit more screen real estate on such a large monitor.

But all is not lost, if you scale the display up to 2560 x 1350 HiDPi (same as the iMac but just slightly wider as it’s a 21:7 ratio display), it still looks pretty good.

Very good in fact.

If you’d never seen an iMac with 5K Retina Display, you’d be blown away by the quality of the LG 31MU97 at 2560 x 1350 HiDPi.

But it’s not as good as the iMac, very close, but not quite. Presumably due to the fact the scaling is not using an exact number of pixels for each point at this resolution.

Even so, I’d recommend it to anyone with a Mac Pro who wants to go with a Retina Display.  It’s still a Retina display in my eyes as you still can’t discern any visible pixels.

The LG 31MU97 is able to be driven at the full 4096 x 2160 resolution using DisplayPort rather than Thunderbolt, and it is VESA mountable. Not forgetting the fact that it’s half the price of an entry level iMac with Retina Display.

There is one issue in that the monitor is so new, the Mac Pro doesn’t appear to support the full resolution out of the box. However, due to some fantastic work by Stéphane Madru, the developer of the awesome SwitchResX, the full resolution is available by the addition of a small config file on the Mac Pro. You don’t need to purchase SwitchResX, it’s a simple text file that Stéphane has created.  This is documented over on the MacRumours forum.

So I’m a happy bunny again.

I can get my refund on the iMac and have a full blown 4K Retina display on my Mac Pro.

At least, until the next new thing comes along.




The Aftermath

It’s taken me a day to get over the disaster that was the live stream from the Apple event.

Absolutely inexcusable, especially as the event was hyped so much by Apple.

I was so miffed by the whole debacle, I think it has jaundiced my view of the overall event – hence the delay in posting some thoughts. But I think I’m nearly over it so here we go…

So the iPhone was nailed by the rumours following the leaks of the form factors – except no Sapphire! Always good to see the incremental improvements across the board – yay for 802.11ac. Double the transistors in the A8 and significant performance improvements across the board.

Both versions look absolutely gorgeous, and I think the larger screens are well overdue.

As did many people today, I undertook the mockup test and have no qualms about the larger screen. The mockup fitted just fine in my jeans front pocket.

I’ll be opting for the 128GB iPhone 6 Plus in Space Grey.

The larger size really doesn’t freak me out, unlike some people, and the benefits of the optical image stabilisation as well as the increase in battery life swayed it for me. I would rather they added a few millimetres to the thickness to add additional hours to the battery, but on such a large device, the thinness is probably needed.

Pay will be a world changer – no question.

As for the Watch…

It didn’t grab me!

I think the issue was I wasn’t expecting a watch, I’d thought Apple would have introduced an “off the wall” wearable concept.

24 hours later, I’m starting to get it.

It’s definitely positioned as a fashion item and is exceptionally photogenic.

Despite its apparent “chunkiness”, it seems to sit OK on the wrist, and doesn’t look as thick from several angles. Reports from the event seem to suggest it’s light and comfortable to wear (especially the sports edition).

They are definitely positioning it as a luxury item, and so well they might if it’s to partner with the iPhone.

Some of the applications shown did appear slightly “gimmicky” and of dubious necessity.

Great emphasis was made of the “Digital Crown” yet most of the live demo used gestures on screen.

But I think I get it now, and they’ve got another three months to refine the software, as well as give developers time to create additional 3rd party apps.

It might well be the first Apple product that I’ve never immediately lusted after – but I have a feeling its a slow burner.

Will I buy an Watch?

Ask me again in three months…

but probably!

PS The blog might need to go quiet over the next few days. I’ve been called away to foreign shores due to an illness in the family. Should be back to normal next week, or I may find the odd time to get online in the meantime.

Twas The Night Before Christmas…

The Apple event tonight is pretty much unprecedented in both the amount of external hype being generated, as well as the hype being generated by Apple itself. To mention a few examples…

  • Apple have a countdown clock and have redirected to the clock.
  • They’ve built a huge white structure at the event of which we have no clue.
  • They’ve pre-announced Home Automation functionality with HomeKit, Health integration with HealthKit, close integration between iOS and OSX with proximity awareness and Handoff, as well as all sorts of extensibility we could only have dreamed of 12 months ago.
  • They’ve cracked secure and reliable biometric identification with TouchID and proven it works on millions of devices.
  • There are rumours a plenty that NFC and Payments via your mobile device has been cracked and is about to be rolled out.
  • Mainstream news outlets are describing the event as an “historic announcement”.

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore

All very exciting and I hope Apple can deliver.

I trust they will.

However, the most exciting concrete thing I’ve seen in the past 24 hours is the availability of Transmit on iOS 8.

Frederico Viticci over at has had access to a pre-release version of Transmit for iOS 8. Transmit is my go to FTP transfer application on the Mac and is developed by Panic, one of the most respected software development houses.

Transmit for iOS 8 is a full-featured adaptation for the iPhone and iPad.

Inside the app, users will be able to create favorite servers (for FTP, SFTP, WebDAV, and S3 connections like in Transmit for Mac), tweak advanced settings, upload local files to configured servers with drag & drop, and secure the app with Touch ID.

This isn’t a cut down or compromised iOS application, it’s not a mere shadow of its Mac counterpart…

The core aspect of Transmit for iOS 8 will be its share extension, which will enable users to upload files using a custom Transmit interface from any app. Once enabled in the system share sheet, Transmit will appear as a sharing option for images, documents, voice memos, and any other file that can be shared; with a single tap on the share sheet’s icon, Transmit’s UI will come up (requiring Touch ID authentication if enabled) with the app’s full feature set to navigate across folders, connect to servers, and see connection history. Considering the old limitations of iOS for inter-app communication and file management, using the Transmit extension feels like a major breakthrough and exactly the kind of experience that the app was meant to be on an iPhone and iPad.

This is exactly the sort of functionality we need to enable the iPad to move to the next level. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, the iPad has been constrained not by hardware limitations, but by iOS.

With the release of iOS 8 and the new ability to create fully featured desktop class apps as demonstrated by Panic, I think we’re about to see the iPad move to the next level and usher in the next phase of the Post PC era.

And that’s before we even see what might be unleashed by the integration of the new wearable range of devices.

Exciting times.

Apple Revving Up!

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a concerted promotion for an Apple event ever!

As of yesterday, Apple have both publicised the fact that the September 9th event will be live streamed as well as adding a countdown clock on the Apple website.


They are really going for it!

You might also be aware that they have built a huge structure next to the event location at the Flint Center in Cupertino. As is becoming common now, there’s a drone video taken of the structure – it’s huge!

My guess is that it’s an after event demo area to allow the 2000 or so attendees to have some hands on time with the new devices announced during the event.

The excitement leading to the September 9th event is palpable.

iCloud compromised?

Bad, bad timing for Apple.

The latest rumours swirling round about the personal photos allegedly stolen from iCloud come at the worst time possible for Apple, with the new iPhones being announced in a week or so and the likelihood of a new payments system being introduced.

iCloud security really needs to be perceived as water tight.

Some thoughts on the latest debacle.

Personal photos are personal and the outcry about people not taking certain kinds of photos is misguided. People should be allowed to take what ever photos they want, but they do need to take responsibility in protecting them. Extra precautions are needed if the photos are of a highly personal nature, or could cause issues if they fell into the wrong hands.

It’s still not confirmed that the source of the stolen photos (stolen – not leaked or hacked), was in fact iCloud.

There has been information that a brute force vulnerability has been exposed in Find My iPhone but this has since been patched by Apple.

If this was the source of the theft, then Apple is partially to blame in that a brute force vulnerability should not have been allowed to be present – brute force attacks rely on repeatedly trying and re-trying to access an account using multiple passwords.

It looks like that the stolen photos may have been obtained by a brute force attack on accounts having weak passwords.

However, the owner of the account is also to blame by not securing their account with a strong password, or even better a strong passphrase. In the case of iCloud, it’s also possible to further protect your account with two factor authentication.

So this will reflect badly on Apple (if it is proven that iCloud was in fact compromised), but we all have a responsibility to look after our own stuff.

Do yourself a favour and get a copy of 1Password and if you’re really concerned about security, switch on two factor authentication on those primary services that support it.