Note, this technique should work on any desktop operating system and this technique quite easy to set up. I also realize that Windows offers a Blank screen saver that kind of negates this technique, but here it is anyway. Let’s explore.
I’m starting with the Mac because it seems so much less obvious considering how ‘easy’ it should be for a Mac. One of the things you’ll notice in the screensaver area is that there is no blank or black screen saver. What people have suggested instead of a black screensaver is to enable energy saver. While this works to turn off the backlight and save it, power savings does other unfortunate things to the computer at the same time.
Energy Saver Problems
What problems do you ask? Well, Apple has taken it upon themselves to also shut down a number of other critical components when the power saver is activated. Windows may be doing this as well. Yes, it does turn off the backlight. Unfortunately, with that it also turns the WiFi and networking off. This means that if you have a VPN running, your VPN will disconnect. If your company invests in VPN software which does not self-connect on WiFi reactivation, you’re stuck reentering your passwords and setting up your terminals all over again. Unfortunately, I have no control over the software that’s used by my company and I have to live with it. So, I avoid the energy saver system like the plague to avoid random VPN disconnection.
A Screen Saver?
A little history, a screen saver was used primarily to prevent burn-in on CRT tubes. It’s also distinctly different from power saver mode. Since the days of CRT tubes have long since passed, we are now using LCD screens with LED back or side lights. Some screens are made of OLED technology, which means that each pixel is a self-illuminated RGB LED light. With either of the LCD or OLED technologies, the chance for burn-in is almost non-existent. However, some LCD screens can show latent imagery under certain specific conditions if left sitting with the same image for too long. So, a screen saver is still useful. However, a screen saver is most useful as a screen lock indicator.
Black Screen Saver on Mac
The problem is, the Mac doesn’t offer a black screensaver. It expects to to use images to cycle through or other screen savers like a bouncing clock or a bouncing apple or similar.
However, I just want a simple black screen with no movement at all. You’re not going to burn-in your screen with a simple black surface, even though LCDs don’t really do that. To wit, you’ll notice no settings for that ..
There is no screen saver above that provides a blank or black only screen. So, how do you do it?
Here are the steps:
- Find your current Mac’s screen resolution in Finder using => About This Mac. Then click on Display and look for your resolution. In the below example, you see 1440 x 900. It’ll be whatever your Mac offers.
- Make note of the resolution above and jump to Creating a blank image using The Gimp section.
Blank Screensaver on other operating systems
If you find that your Windows system doesn’t offer a blank screen saver, you can follow these instructions:
- Windows Button => Control Panel => Display
- In Display, click Adjust Resolution
- Make note of screen resolution
- Windows Button => Control Panel => Appearance and Personalization => Display
- In Display, click Change display settings
- When the Settings window opens, make sure it’s still on Display. Then, scroll to the bottom of the right side panel and click Advanced display settings
- Make note of the screen resolution
- Refer to your Preferences and Display settings to find the current screen resolution
Create a blank image using The Gimp
From here, what you’re going to do next is create a blank image in the resolution of your screen. It’s best to cover the entire screen’s pixels with black rather than, say some lower res image like 1024 x 768. This is the reason for discovering the resolution above. Using the full screen resolution prevents unexpected issues with the screen saver’s stretching (or not stretching) the pixels properly. This process can be used on all operating systems that have The Gimp installed.
To create a blank image in The Gimp, use the following:
- Open the Gimp (download it here — it’s free)
- Make sure your foreground and background colors look like so, with black on left top and white on right bottom:
- In the Gimp, File => New…
- Then, type in the resolution you found from from your operating system into the Width and Height fields (making sure to put the correct values in each field).
- Click Advanced Options and change Fill with: to Background Color
- Click, OK
- You should now see an image filled with black.
- Save the image using File => Export As… and type in a filename and change the file type from .png to .jpg to make the image smaller. Be sure to remember the folder where you are about to save your file.
- Click the Export button
- In the Export image as JPEG window, click the Export button
- You now have a new black image in the resolution of your screen.
- From the GIMP menu => Quit GIMP
Now that you have a saved blank image, you need to add it to a list of images where your screen saver looks.
Adding this image to the Mac screen saver
This is a fairly simple concept. You will now use this newly created black image as your only screen saver image. So, no matter what the cycle rate is, it will always cycle back to this same blank image all of the time.
Here’s what I did on the Mac. I created a folder called black-image under my Pictures directory. I’ve placed my newly created image into /Users/myuser/Pictures/black-image/black-image.jpg. I’ve put it in a separate folder because that’s how Mac finds images… by folder. Now, select the folder in the screen saver settings like so:
Where the arrow points, click that selection area, it will open a file requester and then choose the folder where your new black-image.jpg file is. Once you set it here, your screen will turn black when the screen saver activates (as in my case, in 30 minutes).
Windows or Linux
While I know that Windows has a Blank screen saver built-in, you can also use this technique by choosing the screen saver as Photos, then choose the folder where your blank-image is located. For Linux, simply perform the same setup using your preferences to select the photo folder where your save black-image.jpg exists. Once you do this, the screen saver will only show that single black image once the screen saver has activated.
This is actually the safest technique rather than relying on plugins or programs to provide a black screen. It will also continue to work should Microsoft decide, in their infinite wisdom, to be like Mac and remove the Blank screen saver in the next version of Windows.
I prefer this technique to using the power saver because of the issues mentioned above. This allows me to set up a black screen with the backlight still on which also keeps my VPN active. Of course, if you don’t deal with VPNs, then by all means use the power saver.
If this tutorial was helpful to you, please leave a comment below and let me know.
With this article, I’ll start by saying.. please purchase your copy of Mac OS X desktop software from Apple. It’s $29 and you get the original media (which is always good to have on hand).
To start, here are the softwares you will need:
- VMWare Player 3 (need to create login to download)
- Empire EFI 1.3.2 for VMWare
- Snow Leopard Install Media (Disk or ISO)
- 7zip (for opening Empire EFI archive)
- ImageBurn (for making ISO images from CD Media)
Installing Mac OS X on VMWare Player is a pretty simple install, but note that there are some important issues that aren’t yet resolved. I’ll explain the issues, however, after the install steps.
Inside the Empire EFI 1.3.2 archive, you will see the following files:
You will see that the extracted ‘Snowy_VM’ folder contains several files besides just the EFI media. Inside the Mac OS X Server*.vmwarevm directory, you’ll see it contains two .vmx templates for VMWare. Use the .vmx file without the underscore at the beginning. Note, you’ll need to use this template to get the install going. It’s far simpler to use their existing template than trying to figure out all the proper VMWare Player settings. So, use what’s given rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. If you absolutely feel you want to reinvent, then I’ll leave that for you to determine what’s necessary.
To begin, inside VMWare Player, select File->Open a Virtual Machine. Find the .vmx file mentioned just above and open it. Once opened, it will appear as ‘Mac OS X Server 10.6 (experimental)’ in the VMWare Player selection panel. From here, you will need to modify the settings for the CDROM device under this machine. Choose the ‘Mac OS X Server 10.6 (experimental)’ imported machine and choose ‘Edit virtual machine settings’ on the bottom right of the window. Now click the on the CDROM device and under ‘Connection’ change it to ‘Use ISO image’ and browse to and select the darwin_snow.iso image inside the Snowy_VM directory’. Click ‘OK’.
You’re now ready to boot. So, click ‘Play Virtual Machine’. Once the machine has started and the system begins searching for a CDROM (read the text on the screen), you will need to change the CDROM to the Mac OS X Snow Leopard media. I recommend using an ISO media to install. So, I will assume you are using an ISO image here. At the bottom of the active VM Window, right click the CDROM icon which may now be greyed out (disconnected) and choose ‘Settings’. Locate the Snow Leopard media on your hard drive and click ‘OK’ to accept it. Check the box next to ‘Connected’ at the top of the window and click ‘OK’ at the bottom.
The system should recognize the disk change and begin to boot the media in about 10 seconds. Once the install begins, you are now installing Mac OS X. Follow the steps to install Mac OS X. Once Mac OS X is installed, reboot. Note the hard drive given in this Snowy_VM archive is ‘ready to go’. So you don’t need to format it.
Booting issues with VMWare Player and Mac OS X
Let’s pause and explain this. When you reboot the first time, the system may or may not boot up. There are two behaviors you should watch for. The first behavior is that you get to the Apple Logo screen with the spinning lines. If it never progresses beyond this grey screen, then you will need to reboot and try again.
The second behavior is that it may get past the grey screen, but then Finder never appears and you see a forever spinning cursor. If you see this, you will need to reboot and try again.
These issues are annoying, but that’s why this is ‘experimental’. So, we live with these issues.
The third issue is that you will need to continually leave the darwin_snow.iso image in the drive all of the time to boot up Mac OS X. Hey, at least it works. Leaving it in the drive is really not a problem as it boots up so quickly. Perhaps they can create a standalone booter later, but for now this works.
Note, I recommend setting up a second CDROM drive inside your Mac OS X virtual machine’s settings. This way, you leave one CDROM always set up with darwin_snow.iso and you use the second one to load/unload other ISO images. If you like, you can set the second one up to your physical drive also so you can pop real CDs in the drives as you need. Note that if you change the darwin_snow.iso image to something else, you have to remember to set it back when you’re done. If you don’t do this, Mac OS X won’t boot. So, this is why I recommend setting up a second drive for loading ISO images.
Booting up successfully
After getting through any unsuccessful boot attempts (or not), you should get to the registration screen. After going through all of the registration screens you will be at the standard Finder desktop. At this point, you might want to change things like Sound and Display. Note that the sound and display drivers are just about as good as what’s in Virtual Box. In fact, Virtual Box’s resolution setup is a bit more complete than this. So, don’t expect a whole lot here.
Suffice it to say that you will need to follow editing of the apple.com.Boot.plist file as in the ‘Installing Mac OS X on VirtualBox‘ article on Randosity. Add in the lines related to the graphics. Once you have done this, edit the virtual machine in VMWare player and choose the Display setup. Under ‘Monitors’ change it to ‘Specify Monitor Settings’ and manually change the maximum resolution to ‘1366×768’. When you reboot, Mac OS X should go into this mode. If it doesn’t work, then you may have to fiddle with the apple.com.Boot.plist file until it works. Note that the resolutions here are limited, so don’t try to set up some odd resolution as it won’t work.
Note, this is the best resolution I could find. Note that in the above directory, you’ll see the file ‘EnsoniqAudioPCI.mpkg.tar’. This is a Mac OS X driver for audio. I have tried installing this without success. But, your mileage may go farther. The trick is in getting this into the Mac. So, you’ll need to start a browser and download the EFI file again on the Mac. Then extract it, find this file and install it.
At this point, you should be all set. You may run into the booting issues from time to time, just reboot until it boots up. Hopefully this booting issue will be fixed at some point. Good luck and happy installing.
If you’re looking for something that boots consistently for Mac OS X, has better video mode support and working sound, then I would suggest setting up Mac OS X on VirtualBox. The setup for VirtualBox is a little more complex, but it boots consistently every time, has its own standalone boot loader and offers a few more features.
If you have questions, please leave a comment below.
Ok, I’m stumped. I’ve tried to understand this manufacturing trend, but I simply can’t. We have to be heading towards the fourth or maybe fifth generation of tablet PCs, yet each time they bring tablets back to the the market, this technology fails miserably. Perhaps it’s the timing, but I don’t think so. I think the market has spoken time and time again. So, what is it about this technology that make manufacturers try and try again to foist these lead balloons onto us about every 6 years?
It was in the early 90’s that Grid Computers arguably released the first tablet (or at least, one of the very first tablets). Granted, it used a monochrome plasma screen and I believe that it ran DOS and Windows 3.1 (that I recall), but these things flopped badly for many different reasons. Ultimately, the market spoke and no one wanted them. It’s no wonder why, too. The lack of keyboard combined with the size and weight of the unit, the need for a pen and the lack of a truly viable input method doomed this device to the halls of flopdom. Into obscurity this device went along with Grid Computers (the company).
In the early 2000s, Microsoft+Manufacturers tried again to resurrect this computer format with XP Tablet edition. This time they tried making the devices more like notebooks where the screen could detach from a keyboard and become a tablet. So, when it was attached, it looked and felt like a notebook. When detached, it was a tablet. Again, there was no viable input method without keyboard even though they were touch screen. The handwriting recognition was poor at best and if it had voice input, it failed to work. XP Tablet edition was not enough to make the tablet succeed. Yet again, the tablet rolled into obscurity… mostly. You can still buy tablets, but they aren’t that easy to find and few manufacturers make them. They also ship with hefty price tags.
Then, later in the mid 2000’s came Microsoft with Origami. At this time, Origami was supposed to be a compact OS, like Windows CE (although CE would have worked just fine for this, don’t know why Origami really came about). A few tablets came out using Origami, but most computers that loaded this version of Windows used it in the microPC format. Since the Origami version of Windows was a full version (unlike CE), it was a lot more powerful than computers of that size really needed and the price tag showed that. Sony and a few other manufacturers made these microPCs, but they sold at expensive prices (like $1999 or more) for a computer the size of a PDA. Again, no viable input method could suffice on the microPC tablets and so these died yet another death… although, the microPC hung around a bit longer than the tablet. You might even still be able to buy one in 2010, if you look hard enough.
Then came the Netbook. The $199-299 priced scaled down notebook using the Atom processor. This format took off dramatically and has been a resounding success. The reason, price. Who wouldn’t want a full fledged portable computer for $199-299? You can barely buy an iPod or even a cell phone… let alone a desktop PC for that price. The Netbook price point is the perfect price point for a low end notebook computer. But, what does a Netbook have to do with a tablet? It doesn’t, but it is here to illustrate why tablets will continue to fail.
Once again, we are in the middle of yet another possible tablet resurrection attempt. Rumor has it that Apple will release a tablet. HP is now also pushing yet another tablet loaded with Windows. Yet, from past failures, we already know this format is dead on arrival. What can Apple possibly bring to the tablet format that Microsoft and PCs haven’t? Nothing. That’s the problem. The only possible selling point for a tablet has to be in price alone. Tablets have to get down to the $199-299 price tag to have any hope of gaining any popularity. Yet, Apple is not known to make budget computers, so we know that that price point is out. Assuming Apple does release a tablet, it will likely price it somewhere between $899 and $1599. Likely, they will offer 3 different versions with the lowest version starting at $899. Worse, at the lowest price point it will be hobbled lacking most bells and whistles.
Even if Apple loads up the tablet with all of the bells and whistles (i.e., Bluetooth, 3G, GSM, OLED Display, iTunes app capable, handwriting recognition, voice recognition, WiFi, wireless USB, a sleek case design, etc etc) the only thing those bells and whistles will do is raise the cost to produce the unit. The basic problems with a tablet are portability (too big), lack of a viable input device, weight and fragility (not to mention, battery life). Adding on a hefty price tag ensures that people won’t buy it. Of course, the Apple fan boys will buy anything branded with a half bitten Apple logo. But, for the general masses, no. This device cannot hope to succeed on Apple fan boy income alone.
Apple has to provide some kind of paradigm shifting technology that makes such a failure of a device like the tablet become successful (or whatever Apple cleverly names its tablet device). If the tablet is over 7 inches in size, it will be too large to be portable. Utilizing OLED technology ensures the cost is extremely high. Putting a thin case on it like the MacBook Air ensures that it’s overly fragile. We’ve yet to find out the battery life expectancy. So far, this is not yet a winning combination.
So, what kind of technology would make such a paradigm shift? The only such technology I can think of would have to be a new input device technology. A way to get commands into the notebook and a way to drive the interface easily. Clearly, a multi-touch screen will help. The iPod is good in that regard (except that you can’t use it with gloves). But, if you want to write email, how do you do that on a tablet? Do you hand peck the letters on that silly on-screen thing that Apple calls a keyboard? No. That’s not enough. Apple needs a fully phonetic speech input technology that’s 100% flawless without any training. That means, you speak the email in and it converts it perfectly to text. Also, you speak in any conversational command and the computer figures out what you mean flawlessly. This is the only technology that makes any sense on a tablet. Of course, it will need to support multiple languages (a tall order) and it needs to be flawless and perfect (an extremely tall order). It will also need to work in a noisy room (not likely).
Can Apple make such a shift? I don’t know. The hardware technology is there to support such a system. The issue, is the software ready? Well, let’s hope Apple thinks so. Otherwise, if Apple does release its rumored tablet without such a paradigm shift, it could be the worst stumble that Apple has made since the Lisa.