Fixing a Blank Default Web Browser Setting in OS X El Capitan

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I don’t know what causes this problem but recently I discovered that the “Default web browser” setting in the General preferences tab was blank. Clicking on the drop-down showed no browser names so I could not change the use of Safari as the default browser.

The fix was relatively simple. I opened Chrome and via settings within Chrome I set it to be the default web browser. After completing this action I then had the names of the installed browsers in the “Default web browser” drop-down.

This fix may work using any browser that allows you to set it as the default from within the browser settings itself.

Home Automation: “The dryer has finished drying your clothes.”

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While most of the things that I can do with my home automation setup are only of interest to myself on occasion I manage to add something that my wife also thinks is useful. This is one of them.

A while back I decided to add the ability for the home automation system to know when the washer has finished washing clothes and to make an announcement. This worked well though the module itself appears to have been damaged and is no longer communicating. Before that module failed I managed to find a way to sense when the dryer has finished. This was accomplished using an Aeon Labs Energy Reader that I purchased from Amazon.com (of course).

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The unit is a Z-Wave device with two clamps, which is typically intended to be used at a breaker box. It wouldn’t have been able to properly sense current flow if I had just placed the clamps around the power cable for the dryer; the clamps need to be over individual wires that are normally within the cable sheath. However, on my dryer the three wires are individually accessible for a few inches before they enter the main sheath and are then covered.

It was just a matter of placing the clamps around two of these cables. Fortunately, as with the washer, our dryer is low-tech and doesn’t draw any power while not in use so setting up the sensing thresholds in Indigo was relatively easy (actually easier than setting up the washer). Though the washer module is not currently working the dryer notifications still continue to work.

Macs Unable to Connect to Wi-Fi After Changing Network Mode (Cisco Wireless Router)

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One day, while modifying the wireless settings for our Cisco wireless router, I discovered a rather stupid problem. It surfaced when I changed the Network Mode for the 5 GHz network from Mixed to Wireless-N Only. This seemed to make sense since we don’t have any devices using Wireless-A. This is in reference to 802.11a in case anyone was wondering if I had actually meant 802.11ac, which my current router does not support.

And that’s the moment when I was disconnected from Wi-Fi and unable to reconnect. Two different Macs (one MacBook Pro and one MacBook Air) were unable to connect. Once again, I resorted to searching and found the solution. It seems, that for whatever unknown reason, when Wireless-A is disabled on my router then all Macs will decide that they require a different feature enabled in order to connect. In this case WMM (Wi-Fi Multimedia).

The reason for this seems more absurd considering that the support doc implies that it must be enabled in the first place but, before changing the Network Mode, those devices connected just fine with it disabled.

Enabling this capability on my router solved the problem. I’m not sure why. It doesn’t seem to be a feature that should be required simply to connect to a wireless router but there’s no question that enabling it resolved the problem. More details are available via the linked support page included below:

Wi-Fi: Unable to connect to an 802.11n Wi-Fi network

Simultaneously Pushing Audio to External Speakers and Bluetooth from a Mac

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A couple of months ago I had the idea to see if there was a simple way to play iTunes music from the built-in iMac speakers while also playing it through a Bluetooth speaker (in this case a JBL speaker). My goal was to have the music playing from the computer in one room and also playing from a Bluetooth speaker in the dining room. Sure enough, OS X has a way to do this (I’m running 10.9 so I don’t know how widely this feature is supported across older versions of OS X).

Thanks to user Eric Ross in the Apple Support Communities I didn’t have to do much searching to find the answer. As detailed in his response, the solution is to open the Audio Midi Setup application located in the Utilities folder and then simply create a Multi-Output Device that has both speaker types selected. Note that in order for this to work the Bluetooth speaker needs to already be connected to the Mac.

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At this point we’ve only created the multi-output device. One additional step is required – setting it as the current output device (System Preferences -> Sound -> Output) :

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I originally did this with my iMac but the screenshots in this post were created using my MacBook Air.

And that should work. The Bluetooth audio (at least with the settings I used) will have a slight delay in comparison to the system speakers. Bluetooth has a relatively short range so the practical applications of this method may be limited by obstructions within one’s home and the receiving capability of the Bluetooth device that is used.

 

My Experience with Google Chromecast

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A few months ago I picked up a Google Chromecast from Best Buy. I was curious about them for a while and at $35 I wasn’t going to be out very much cash if I didn’t find it useful.

It turns out that $35 is an excellent price point for this product and, compared to most similar devices, I think you may actually get a bit more than you paid for. In some cases it can be very convenient. If you already have a device such as a Roku or Apple TV this may not be very impressive, but that all boils down to how each person chooses to use it.

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