MacBook Pro Retina external display problems & resolution

I’ve just spent an entire afternoon messing around with my MacBook Pro Retina trying to get it to work with multiple high resolution monitors and I thought I’d share my misadventures here so that other people may benefit from what I’ve found out..

I run my 2013 MacBook Pro 15″ retina in two different offices both with two external Dell 2711/2713 displays.. I love all that extra space…

Today, I tried to connect up a third 24″ display also from Dell using a new cable and all hell broke lose.. suddenly ALL my monitors were stuck in HDMI modes making it impossible to select their native 2560×1440 resolution. It took me three hours to figure out how to change things back.. so this is what I’ve found.

The 2560×1440 resolutions were gone from the Display Preference Pane and I was stuck on 1080p and the screen mirroring kept coming on.

Things to try:

1. Zap PRAM

There’s actually no longer any PRAM in Macs, but the newer NVRAM works the same. The NVRAM stores some basic system settings including the screen resolutions of attached monitors.

So just shut down your Mac, press the Power button, hold the Command, Option, “P” and “R” keys (before the gray screen comes up) and keep them pressed until you hear the chime once.

No luck, the screen resolutions weren’t back.

2. Zap the System Management Controller (SMC)

In theory, this shouldn’t be necessary, but it’s another standard step in rectifying “weird” behaviors, so I went ahead anyway.

Shut down your Mac and start it up by holding down the Shift, Control, Option (all on the left side) and Power keys.

Still no change. So I spent an hour playing around with SwitchRes X, which is the step that I should have skipped.

3. In the Display Preferences Pane, Option-Click the “Scaled” radio button..

Suddenly all resolutions appear and you can choose whichever you want, not just the ones deemed “safe”. Hurray!

Except there still isn’t the the 2560×1440 resolution I’m after..

4. Finally, switch off the monitors while connected to the MacBook and pull their power supply cables, wait a few seconds, then reconnect the cables, switch the monitors back on and do the option-click trick.. hurray!

The 2560×1440 resolution appears and everything is fine again.

Obviously as always with this type of problem, who knows which bits are optional and which are necessary? It’s possible that if I had known about the Option-click trick and having to switch the monitors off, it would have worked straight away without a single reboot.

I’d recommend pulling the power supply cables of the monitors and trying the Option-click trick first before restarting anything. It does appear like the problem was that the monitors defaulted into some kind of “safe” mode where they don’t show any non-HDMI modes.. but as always: who knows?

I hope that somebody will benefit from this mini-report.

Best regards,


Vitamin-R progress

In my last blog entry, I announced that Vitamin-R, my very own solution to the productivity problems of people like myself who need to balance their scatterbrained creativity with “delivering stuff” on time and within budget.

I asked you to tell me whether my baby is ugly or not.. well, I asked for it, so I can’t complain.

The highly polished user interface of the first beta missed the mark somewhat.. far too much text and too “application”-y.

Initial Design

Initial Design

This lead to a late-in-the-day dash to get an interface that is minimalist and doesn’t get into the way of accomplishing your task. The idea was to make the application into a “menu bar item” that is always available:

Vitamin-R 0.4 Interface

Vitamin-R 0.4 Interface

In practice, this worked much better than the initial design and got out of the way when not needed.

It was certainly minimalist, but still not all that pretty. So in the latest 1.06 release you get a Snow Leopard/ iPad call-out type interface:

Current Interface Presets

Current Interface Presets

Better still, you can configure the appearance yourself using the Appearance Panel available under the “Appearance” item in the “Vitamin-R” menu. From there, you can configure background color, opacity, gradients, corner rounding, inner and outer strokes, padding, etc.

I hope that you’ll come up with your own favorite look and if you do so please drop me an email at with a screenshot. I’m thinking of including a number of different presets, so if you come up with something that might be of interest to the user community at large, it could well start shipping with every copy of Vitamin-R!

I can’t believe that version 0.01 beta only shipped on the 24th of March and the program has already gone through such a transformation due in great part to your feedback.. so please keep it coming!

As those of you who have been around since these early releases already know, the pace of development on Vitamin-R has been frenetic and I intend to keep it that way for at least a few more months before settling into a one or twice a month update cycle as with A Better Finder Rename.

In these last 7 weeks, the user interface has changed profoundly, I’ve introduced keyboard navigation, time slice pausing, workflow changes, a re-designed now & later board and fast type feature, fixed some bugs, etc, etc..

The next 7 weeks should be no less exciting. Next week, I will ship the drag & drop integration with OmniFocus which will allow you to drag & drop tasks directly from OmniFocus, click on the hyperlink to go back to the task in OmniFocus and have it ticked automatically when it is logged as completed. The hyperlink feature already works in 1.06.

I’ve solved most of the technical problems with providing the same integration for Cultured Code’s Things application and I’m investigating Task Paper integration.

Vitamin-R will also be able to work as a dock-less application within the next few weeks, as I know that many people would prefer this mode of operation. The current way of working will become optional.

Beyond this the highest priority item is to get the statistics module working. Originally this was supposed to be shipping with the 1.0 release, but with the frenzied development on the user interface front there simply was not time left for it. A rough version of it is already working, so it shouldn’t be too long before it is fully functional. Expect basic graphs and summaries in the first releases with more sophisticated analysis options not too far behind.

I think this will be a massive boost for Vitamin-R as discovering your own work patterns in itself is huge help in becoming more productivity and seeing your progress is highly motivating.

Vitamin-R is already used by many fans of the Pomodoro Technique and support for this technique will be growing in future releases. I’m not a great Pomodoro Technique fan myself, as I feel that with its rigid structure it is too prescriptive for many people and makes few allowances for human foibles and the creative mind in general, but many people do find that they are both capable of exerting that level of self-discipline and enjoying it, so who am I too argue. After all, Vitamin-R is about finding the way you work best rather than prescribing what that ought to be.

Some of you have asked about the lack of a screencast for Vitamin-R on the website and have tried to make me realize that this would be a great asset. Thanks. I’m very much aware of that and there most definitely will be a screencast on the website at some stage. The problem at the moment, is that the product is changing so quickly that a screencast is going to be out of date almost as soon as it is put up. I’m not a great fan of screencast that show a product that has changed beyond recognition in the meantime and updating a screencast a couple of times a month just isn’t practical. My intention is to get Vitamin-R to where I want to be first and then do a screencast that will remain relevant at least until version 2.0 in the far future.

Thank you all for your feedback and support!

Best regards,


MacBreakZ 4: What’s planned for the remaining betas?

Today, we finally released the first public beta of MacBreakZ 4.

With Beta 1 out of the door attention at is turning to the remaining betas.

Here is a list of what to expect:

  • More Stretches: 40 are planned for the shipping 4.0 version
  • A Setup Assistant that helps you configure MB4 to your requirements
  • New user interface mode that hides the menu bar, dock icon for more discrete operation
  • Adaptation mode that allows you to gradually get used to taking regular break by starting with short breaks at long intervals and gradually moving towards longer breaks at shorter intervals
  • New application icon

At the moment we are going for 3 beta releases with the final 4.0 version shipping on the 22nd of November.

I would love to hear your suggestions and feedback on what we’ve released today. Please feel free to post comments to this blog or to write to me directly at

Best regards,