Make it easier to type music accidentals

For as long as I have been writing about music. I’ve been frustrated with the choices for typing accidentals. I’ve been using music fonts, which weren’t designed for text editors, or the clunky looking pound sign, lower case ‘b’, and natural written out (as in, the chord Ab, C, D-natural, F#).

Music fonts (designed for notation programs) usually compromise the spacing of a line, forcing you to use “exact” spacing. In addition, they are buried deep in the character set (with key combinations that only make sense when creating scores), and require extra dialogs such as Popchar or Special Characters.

Thanks to the Apple forums, I discovered most fonts do include the sharp, flat, and natural signs. But they too are not a key stroke away — you have to use a character finding dialog. Likewise (and musicians are picky), the accidentals in most fonts (e.g., Times) look like an afterthought: cartoonish, and poorly spaced.

I’m now tickled with this solution: Use…

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The Mimo 710-S Mini USB Monitor Review


Have you ever thought “I need 384,000 extra pixels, and I need them in a tiny 7” portable USB-powered monitor”? If that sounds like you, keep reading. Otherwise, you may want to take a nap.

The Mimo 710-S, where S stands for Slider, is a tiny 7” portable monitor which connects to your Mac (or PC) over a USB cable—no power brick or display port required. With that you get an 800×480 resolution display to do with as you will.

Installation Woes

The Mimo is a sturdy, well-designed, and fairly attractive display. It earns the ‘S’ by being easily folded into a relatively flat formation for traveling, as well as sliding into both normal horizontal and less normal vertical positions so that it can be used either way.

MIMO_folded_smallThe MIMO 710-S folds up for easy transportation.

MIMO_horizontal_smallIt works in the standard horizontal configuration…

MIMO_vertical_small…as well as the more unusual vertical configuration.

The only real issue I have with the design is that the mini-USB port it uses for video and power is strangely hidden behind the MIMO branding circle on the back of the monitor. Perhaps I’m slower than the average bear, but it took me a full minute to find that port because I didn’t realise that the MIMO logo was a rubber port cover, rather than part of the monitor case.

MIMO_back_smallThe USB-mini port is on the back of the monitor, behind the MIMO branding circle.

The MIMO 710-S plugs into your computer via one or two USB ports, depending—as far as I can tell—on whether they’re USB 1.x or 2.0. If you’ve got USB 2.0 ports, you need only one to both power and send picture to the monitor.

MIMO_w_Macbook_smallThe MIMO 710-S with a 13” MacBook.

Once plugged in, PC users simply run the driver on the accompanying CD, and away you go. Mac users are less fortunate, and need to download a driver that’s only available from the MIMO website. 1 There’s no apparent reason this should be the case, as it’s not a particularly large driver and would fit on the CD without a problem. If you’re especially unlucky, your Mac may even complain when it tries to load the driver before the installation is complete.

MIMO_installer_smallThe installer completes, but OS X complains until you restart your Mac.

A mandatory restart—what is this, Windows?—should give you access to your tiny new 800×480 external monitor. The MIMO 710-S provides a crisp, clear picture, with all the features you’d expect from any relatively low-cost monitor.


The thing is… what do you use an 800×480 monitor for? The MIMO website suggests running your Mail or Calendar app all the time, putting palettes from PowerPoint or Photoshop on it, and monitoring online auctions. Some people may find that convenient; for me, trying to read my mail or manipulate Photoshop on a 7” screen was an experiment in masochism. I need more space than that to do anything worthwhile.

While the MIMO isn’t big on graphics-intensive apps (see the next section for more info), it can play movies just fine. I found myself using it sometimes to watch movies while I did other work. This happened most often when the audio was more important than the actual video, since the MIMO is—as previously mentioned—tiny.

Dual_Screen_smallA productive evening with the MIMO.

I talked to a few friends about how they would use the MIMO, and the most convincing answer I heard was “as a portable monitor for otherwise headless computers”. That’s a pretty geeky and specialized purpose; most people will never need to do that. With that said, I’m sure there are some people reading this who always like to have a video playing, or who already have some other specialized use in mind.

The Tech Stuff

For those interested in the technical aspects, MIMO monitors are less simple than they seem. I mentioned earlier that they don’t require a graphics port (i.e., a direct connection to your computer’s graphics card) to use. That’s because all MIMO monitors have their own internal “Hardware Rendering Engine”, which receives both power and data over the USB connection. The data in this case comes from a “Virtual Graphics Card”, software that communicates with the computer’s internal graphics hardware (more info here).

This is an elegant solution to the problem of laptops and other computers that lack the internal graphics ports to run multiple monitors. Unfortunately, the downside is that any software using 3D hardware acceleration—any game newer than Minesweeper, for example, as well as Keynote and other graphics intensive applications—simply won’t work on a MIMO. This is most likely why the MIMO website suggests putting Adobe application palettes on a MIMO, but not the main Adobe windows.

Also, while Grab and LittleSnapper usually capture additional monitors in screenshots, they don’t capture the MIMO. In order to get a screenshot of both monitors, I had to do some tricky maneuvering with LittleSnapper’s “Snap Area” feature.

Final Words

At $150, the MIMO 710-S USB monitor is sleek, sexy, and clever, but most people just don’t need it. Unless you’re planning to build a miniature copy of the Nebuchadnezzar’s bridge from The Matrix or you have some other desperate need for tiny external USB monitors, the MIMO strikes me as a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. It’s worth mentioning, though, that the 710’s big brother and sister, the 720 and 740 models, are touchscreens, and might be perfect for building into a Mac-based home automation system or carputer.

For those without a specialized need for a tiny, portable USB monitor, your money is probably better spent saving up for an Apple cinema display that’s bigger, better integrated, and far easier to set up.

  1. MIMO 720 and 740 owners have it worse; in order to use the touchscreen features of those devices, they need to pay $30 to download a touch-capable driver. Mind you, Linux users have it worst of all.

If professional screen recording is your need of the hour, check out Camtasia for Mac.

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Maybe AT&T should be paying people to use their microcells?

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Little Johnny…

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