Saturday, March 18, 2017

pnut.io - an app.net heir

There are several heirs to app.net — I know of 10Centuries.org, pnut.io and Manton Reece’s micro.blog kickstarter.

Each of these efforts is a largely one person project. All good people. pnut.io’s creator is  33mhz/Robert. I believe the API is based on the app.net API, which means the many apps created for app.net can have a second life. I’m using ChimPnut.app for iOS and the https://noodle.s3rv.com web client to access pnut.io. I’ve been told the app.net client Riposte.app may reappear.

pnut.io has an interesting approach to social networking …

Our community network is a small, sustainable hobby. We are tied closely to our users and developers through their Patreon pledges and small opt-in features. When you invite someone, they are associated with you in the user tree and you may be responsible for them if they abuse the network.

 I made a Patreon pledge at the $5/month level but anyone can use it for free. The spam protection is the user tree. It will be interesting to see how well that works.

If you know me from app.net days or elsewhere and need an invitation send a note to me at jgordon@kateva.org. Best to mention how you know me.

 

 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Escape from Outlook Notes - export as text files, import into NvAlt or other

Back in 2010 I wrote Gordon’s Tech: Escape from Outlook Notes - ResophNotes, Simplenote for iPhone and Notational Velocity.

Seven years later ResophNotes, Notation Velocity (I now use nvAlt), and Simplenote are still around — despite lack of a revenue stream for any of ‘em. Not only are they still around, but it’s still possible to keep notes in plain text or RTF — which is as future proof as computing gets.

They are still around — but not in great health. ResophNotes was last updated in 2012 or so and it is donation ware (always was). Simplenote was purchased by Automattic (WordPress) and is now open source and apparently run as some kind of charity operation [1]. nvAlt is ancient but Brett Terpstra recently updated it to run on Sierra (a notoriously buggy version of macOS).

These apps are old and kind of worn — but so am I. So we’re a good fit. 

Recently I had another set of Microsoft Outlook Notes files to move to Simplenote. Talk about old and kind of worn! Outlook Notes is old, odd, and useful. It’s a winner in a category of one. Functionally it’s a lot like Simplenote — though you can’t print from Outlook [2].

The problem with Notes isn’t that it’s old and odd, it’s that everyone has given up on it. Microsoft tries to make it invisible. Apple dropped support for Notes sync via iTunes/iCloud — though I think Exchange sync may still work. Google ignores them too.

Which is why I needed to again move a data set of out Outlook Notes. I think export to Outlook CSV them import to ResophNotes is still the best bet. From there to Simplenote and from Simplenote to nvAlt, etc.

There’s another way to go though. You can use VB to script export from Outlook to c:\notes:

Sub NotesToText()
    
Set myNote = Application.GetNamespace("MAPI").PickFolder
  
For cnt = 1 To myNote.Items.Count
        
noteName = Replace(Replace(Replace(myNote.Items(cnt).Subject, "/", "-"), "\", "-"), ":", "-")
        
myNote.Items(cnt).SaveAs "c:\notes\" & noteName & ".txt", OlSaveAsType.olTXT
   Next
End Sub

The key thing is this script creates file names with the note title. It’s not a perfect result because the top of each file looks like this:

Modified: Thu 1/12/2017 2:36 PM

accidents and injuries

In this case ‘accidents and injuries’ becomes both the file name and the third line of the note. The “Modified: …” bit is just annoying. I suppose it could be removed using regex and a text editor that can iterate over a set of files … or script the removal.

I imported the plain text notes into nvAlt where they got the title from the file name so it looks something like this:

accidents and injuries

Modified: Thu 1/12/2017 2:36 PM

accidents and injuries

A bit of redundancy in there, and, of course, the Modified string is still around.

Overall this doesn’t work quite as well as the ResophNotes method, but it’s helpful to have options.

- fn -

[1] Automattic recently released a redo of the macOS Simplenote client. I haven’t tried it, but I hope it fixes the perennially broken search of the current client. In any case, Simplenote is not dead yet.

[2] Outlook 2013 broke Notes by essentially removing the list view — I think this might have been fixed in Office 365.

Update 3/13/2017

Speaking of ResophNotes, the current version has an impressive set of import options. Outlook CSV, Toodledo Notes CSV, text files, single file with note separator …

ResophNotesImport

I donated years ago, time to send another donation.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Things I learned connecting my upgraded Comcast modem (Arris TG1682G)

Comcast sent me an email offering a modem upgrade that would enable higher speeds. I figured I’d have to do it sooner or later so I accepted the offer. Higher speeds would fit with Comcast’s “pay to play” network non-neutrality strategy [1].

I got things working, but it was a bit of a cluster. Comcast tried to make this self-serve, but they didn’t quite hit the mark.

I’ll skip the boring details of things that didn’t work and chat advice that was misguided and just list the useful bits I wish I’d known:

  1. I replaced a simple, compact wall mounted ARRIS CM820A/CT (no wifi, coax in, ethernet out) with a much larger standing ARRIS TG1682G (download manual from link. Has 4 ethernet, VOIP phone, wifi, xfinity hotspot).
  2. You can disable the WiFi and the xfinity hot spot and you can run it as bridge or router. See below.
  3. XFINITY support can remotely configure changes, but they can take hours to be implemented. I’m guessing there’s some sort of slow queue.
  4. The TG1682G ships with two high quality coax connector cables. My original Comcast installer had trouble with excessive signal strength on the original device and installed an inline damper (resistor?). I reused that cable.
  5. You have to activate it before you use it. Even after all lights are green and it seems to be on the Net it’s really not. It’s locked out by Comcast until you connect to the device (wifi or ethernet) and navigate to xfinity.com (if that fails, try http://register.xfinitiy.com). You should see an activation prompt. The ’text code’ method didn’t work (message arrived much later) and the login method failed too. I entered my account number and address. You have to accept a new web services agreement. I don’t want to know what I agreed to. 
  6. Once it’s activated go to http://10.0.0.1/ to configure the device using credentials of un=admin and pw=password (yes, “password”). You will be prompted to change your password. I suspect 99% of users don’t because the standard setup skips this step.
  7. From the web interface you can disable wifi (I do wifi via Airport Extreme), adjust firewall, and go to bridge mode. For now I let it in router mode (so I have two firewalls - Airport Extreme and Arris). I don’t use P2P so I upped the firewall to standard security
  8. To disable the XFINITY “hotspot” service (used to provide roaming wifi services to their customers) you can use the xfinity app on your iPhone or go to https://customer.xfinity.com/#/settings/internet.
I pay $80/month for Performance 25 Internet with Blast Pro; allegedly 200 down and 10 up. To test I connected by Gb ethernet directly to the router and  http://speedtestbeta.xfinity.com gave me 238 down and 12 up. Which is what I pay for, but not faster. Maybe the higher speeds are coming?
 
- fn -
 
[1] Shortly after the start of Crisis-T Comcast capped our network capacity at 1TB/month. The timing might have been coincidence, but maybe they were waiting for the end of net neutrality.  Carriers do bandwidth caps so they can extort funds from media partners (ex: Netflix) who pay to be excluded from the cap. Higher speeds make economics sense then, because they enable more media consumption.
 
Update 3/12/2017
 
A few weeks after I’d installed the Arris a comcast technician came by my home with a new inline filter. According to this gentleman the new Arris modems chat with each other and this was somehow unwanted.
 
Knowing Comcast this all sounds ominous. On the other hand, I don’t see how a dumb filter would block a typical digital signal even over analog cable wiring.
 
After installing this additional filter I had no net service. I had to power cycle the modem and wait about twenty minutes to restore service.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Samsung sells a security cam DVR, but not a TV DVR.

I’m old enough to remember when it was inexpensive and convenient to time shift football games. In the US and Canada that died with the analog to digital conversion. In some other countries there’s push-button record to USB from every TV, but not in the US. (I blame a VW-diesel class conspiracy, we now know those can happen.)

Periodically I look to see what’s sold without a monthly fee. Today Amazon pointed me to a $140 Samsung security cam DVR. There’s no tuner of course, so it can’t be used to record OTA TV.

The time-shifting story seems a small thing, but it convinced me markets don’t work the way people imagine they work. And the world doesn’t work the way I once thought it worked.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

My cheap Roku TV records up to 90 minutes of OTA TV

My new $160 32” 2015 720p Roku TCL TV records up to 90 minutes of OTA TV. This “Live TV Pause” was added to Roku OS in Nov 2016 — just 3 months ago.

With a 16GB+ USB storage device you can pause OTA TV for up to 90 minutes. I used a USB thumb drive I wasn’t making much use of — easy setup and it works well.

Of course what I really want is the lost ability to time-shift OTA TV without paying a monthly fee. Like we used to do routinely in the 1980s [1]. If Roku added that in a future OS update they’d make me a crazed fan boy.

For now they recommend Tablo (requires $5/m guide?) along with the Roku Tablo Channel.

A few other notes on this ultra-cheap TV:

  • Given its size and viewing distance the 720p resolution seems to satisfy my undiscriminating family. (I rarely watch TV myself.)
  • When Roku dies it will probably die too. It needs Roku and a Roku account for initial configuration. It claims a credit card number is required (#$$%!) but it lies, you can skip entry. Which I did.
  • Until it’s configured, which requires Wifi and a computing device of some kind, it’s useless.
  • The channels include Spotify. I have an analog jack from the headphone out to my 32y+ stereo and my playlist sounds great. Really unexpected benefit.
  • It has RCA inputs so I can use my old DVD player (otherwise I suppose I’d use the XBOX and HDMI input).
  • It’s surprisingly easy to configure and the menus are well designed
  • It has the simplest remote in the industry
  • There’s an iPhone app that you can use instead of the remote.
  • Wirecutter liked it (why I bought it really) even before they added the Live TV Pause.
Like the WSJ review said, it’s an interesting combination of software elegance and ultra-cheap Chinese consumer goods.

[1] The lack of consumer resistance to the end of convenient low cost OTA TV time-shifting now seems an early warning of Trump susceptibility.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Upgrading Office 365 from Personal to Home - it could be easier

I like Office 365 Personal. The Mac version has bugs of course, but it seems to improve with each incremental release. For $70 a year I have a version running on my Mac and a version running in a Windows 10 VM (in theory it only installs one either 1 Mac or 1 Windows machine, but in practice it seems to allow both at once). The cost seems entirely reasonable to me. There’s little data lock because so many apps read and write (more or less) Office files. It’s the kind of subscription software I love.

So I didn’t mind when I had to get another license to cover my son. I figured I’d just upgrade to Home. 

Except it’s quite unclear how you do that. This 2015 article suggests there’s a bit of an underhanded trick to it: How I upgraded Office 365 Personal to Office 365 Home for $10. That’s sort of how it works except it’s as designed, it’s not a bug or trick.

I had a month left on my Personal (1 machine) subscription. I bought Home (5 machine) for $10/month (renewable). MSFT switched my remaining month from Personal to Home. Then a month from now, it was to start charging me $10 a month. In MSFT parlance the subscriptions “stack”.

I suppose the trick deal is to buy a year of Personal, then immediately get a $10/month subscription to Home. Then you’d get a year of Home at the Personal price.

In my case it took a call to support for me to understand what had happened. Microsoft could improve this process. Once I figured it out I switched from $10/month to $99 a year. That switch was easy — and MSFT threw in a free month (standard behavior). 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Delete all images from iPhone: there is no efficient method if you have iCloud Photos enabled.

There is a lot of incorrect web advice on iPhone image deletion. Some of it is dated, some of is recent regurgitation of old methods that no longer work. None of the articles I found differentiate between the behavior with iCloud Photos enabled or disabled.

If you have iCloud Photos enabled there is no efficient delete method from the iPhone. That’s because Apple doesn’t want us to think about photos being on a device. Devices are only temporary stores; the true home of a Photos is in iCloud. 

You can't use Aperture to delete after import. You also can’t use Image Capture (at least not from El Capitan). Aperture will offer the delete dialog but they will remain. In El Cap Image Capture does not show the delete option. I don’t believe Photos.app on Mac or iCloud will allow one to delete images that are ‘temporarily’ stored on a specific device — that really doesn’t fit Apple’s photo model. Again, the true home of a Photo is iCloud - device residence is a form of transient cache.

From the iPhone you can view the all photos album, scroll to bottom, select an image then slide up until all are selected, then delete. Apple doesn’t offer a delete all option because it knows iCloud Photos is confusing and, given half a chance, people will delete their entire photo library. Note this is only a first stage delete, you do this you have to go to recently deleted and empty that as well (“trash” equivalent).

With iCloud Photos disabled delete works from both Aperture and Image Capture.

I have experimented with using photo stream sharing from Aperture and iCloud Photos from Photos.app. It’s awkward and I periodically need to reenable photo streams in Aperture, but it has worked. I’ve decided it’s not worth the delete complexity though. For now I’ve turned off iCloud Photos and I’m back to old school wired transfer form phone to Aperture. I continue do iCloud photo stream sharing from Aperture and I subscribe to those on my iPhone and Aperture.

PS. With iOS 10.1.1 I saw some quite odd behavior after I disabled iCloud Photos on the iPhone. Even though Photos.app showed no images Image Capture showed many. I had to do a forced restart of the iPhone (deletes some caches) to clear out those ghost images.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

iOS 10 bluetooth problems: repairing with Pioneer DEH-X6800BT

After the iOS 10 update I lost bluetooth connectivity to my Pioneer DEC-X6800BT car stereo. I tried the usual remedies.

I think the real fix was initiating connectivity from the iPhone side rather than the Pioneer side. The DEH-X6800BT was never able to find my i6, but the fine print in the manual said the phone might see if it if “Visible” was enabled. I confirmed “Visible” was “On” for the Pioneer, the iPhone saw it, the confirmation number appeared on the Pioneer, I accepted that … pairing resumed. Now I’ll see how well iOS 10 car park detection works (requires bluetooth connection between phone and stereo).

Other things I tried (maybe they helped?):

  • Usual wipe/delete connections on both sides.
  • Reset Pioneer back to factory mode (not in manual, had to Google, trick is to power off, then push the menu button and look for reset).
  • Reset network settings on iPhone
There are firmware updates for some Pioneer phones but not for the X6800BT. The stereo has an odd feature — if you cable connect an iPhone (any cable, don’t need their cable!) it will also Bluetooth pair transiently. Handy for phone of another family member.

Incidentally, I really dislike my DEH-X6800BT. Overloaded controls, too many poorly managed and weirdly distributed menus, processing pauses that make Siri unusable when car manages interaction, awful ideas like color shifting panel and “MixTrax” etc. The manual is seriously incomplete. Get something else.

Reset network on my iPhone also reset network on my El Capitan box

The joys of enabling keychain sync: “Reset network" on my iPhone also reset network on my El Capitan box.

Had to reenter the WiFi pw on my Macbook. Which reentered it on my iPhone.

It is possible to be too clever Apple.

Reusing old phones -- reset all before you put them in the storage.

We've accumulated several old iPhones - 4 and 4s. We find a use for them periodically -- as alarm clocks, media players and so on. 

Today I ran into a problem with this that I'd not considered. I went to reuse an old device with a restriction code -- and I couldn't because it was an old code we no longer use. It wasn't in my password store because it was obsolete.

Miraculously I remembered it. Two lessons learned:

  1. I can’t delete old passwords. I should know this. I ran into a similar problem years ago when Apple effectively made “mac.com” free again — and I no longer had the password I’d used when I stopped paying for it.
  2. You need to wipe phones before putting them in the bin. I was leaving them unwired as an extra backup during device transitions.

PS. Another reason to reset. If you restart an old phone it may register with iTunes and iCloud — and mess up iMessage addressing and iTunes device limits.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Congratulations Apple, Music.app is now incomprehensible.

[I figured out what Apple was doing in the latest iOS Music.app mess. I’m leaving my original confusion in place, check for the last update.]

We don’t subscribe to Apple Music. That may be the problem. Anyway…

There used to be a way to tell Music.app to only show music physically present on an iOS device. That dialog moved around a few times. In iOS 9.3 it was very hard to find.

I can’t find it in iOS 10.1.

Google is no help. I see many people asking this question more or less clearly, but the answers are incorrect or missing.

As best I can tell “Downloaded Music” should show all iCloud music (so it’s a terrible misnomer), but on his phone it displays a gray banner saying “Showing only music on this iPhone”.

I think this is a bug, perhaps related to migrating from iOS 9.x with the old setting to show only local music enabled.

What an awful mess Apple is today.

Update 11/29/2016

Somewhere in the 10.1 beta some users Music Settings screen had a toggle for iCloud music. The released version of 10.1 doesn’t have this option…

Missing toggle

Update 11/29/2016

I have a theory as to what’s going on. In 10.x Apple removed the option to hide iCloud content. In the betas they played with putting a sensible toggle in a sensible place, but some evil marketing type overruled this.

Now when you start Music.app and tap on Library you get a fairly ugly looking UI that looks like this (I used the Edit option to add Genres, etc and to move Downloaded Music to the top):

IMG 5250

It should have everything that’s in iTunes and anything new should show up as Recently Added. From this screen you can find tunes and play them or transfer them locally (download). EXCEPT it can take an hour from purchase on another device until a tune shows up as Recently Added.

What if you want to see just music on your device? You tap Downloaded Music at the top of the above list. Then you get a screen with an ugly gray banner that says “Showing only music on this iPhone) — because obviously nobody knew what Apple was doing here…

IMG 5251

This is the locally stored music. The layout here matches whatever you did on the first screen. So if you only want to see local music you go here. There’s no way to eliminate the ugly gray barrier, it’s clearly a last desperate addition put here to try to make sense of a major UI shift.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Enhanced Google Security: Security Key and Password Alert

Google is tracking a curious uptick in government-backed (Russia, China, ?) attacks on journalist gmail accounts.

They are suggesting two security measures that are new to me - a security key and password alert.

Security Key is a USB dongle (FIDO Universal 2nd Factor) Instead of running Authenticator.app on your phone. It’s less vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks, but “Security Key does not work on browsers other than Chrome.” You can buy one from your favorite Chinese manufacturer on Amazon.

Password Alert is a Chrome app that tries to monitor for man-in-the-middle and phishing attacks. I’ve installed it in Chrome on my Mac. You have to trust Google to use it but if you’re using Chrome you’ve already made that commitment.

The Password Alert extension was part of a series of 2015 security enhancements. I’m surprised I didn’t hear anything about it.

Security Key may be newer, I couldn’t find much about it. I think Google is going to have to start selling these. Why would I trust a Chinese vendor?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

How to buy an iPhone for someone else (in Canada)

I recently had to purchase an iPhone for someone living in Canada who does not have a credit card. They had an iPhone 4s. It was hard to figure out how to do this, but easy when you know the trick.

The key is that Apple’s standard ordering procedure allows an iPhone to be picked up from a store by a 3rd party. They appear with government ID and the order number and Apple does the phone setup for them.

Detailed steps:

  1. Go to Rogers Wireless to get a new format SIM card put in 4s. This SIM can be physically split to produce an iPhone 6s sized SIM. (For annoying reasons having to do with account access I had to active the new SIM for her remotely.)
  2. I ordered the phone from the US using the Canadian Apple store and my American AMEX card with my US billing address.
  3. In ordering I specified the name, email address and phone number of the person picking up the phone. Don’t make any mistakes here. The email address and number you provide here will get pickup information.
  4. At the Apple store the recipient does an iCloud backup from the 4s. Then the store does the SIM swap and activates the new phone. Then recipient does an iCloud restore.

iCloud sorrow: the two ways to be in iCloud Drive

Within MindNode I can move a file into iCloud Drive. It shows up in the MindNode iCloud folder as in test.mindnode below. Note it has no size.

 Screen Shot 2016 10 16 at 8 28 56 PM

Within the Finder I can move a file into iCloud Drive. It shows up as in test2.mindnode above. It has a file size.

Both behave the same way on double click. Both show up similarly in MindNode.app on my iPhone.

test2 behaves like a document. I can create an alias of it. test IS an alias, it points to a document at the root of iCloud Drive.

Argh.

Friday, October 14, 2016

AT&T has an iPhone network configuration problem.

This is a good news / bad news AT&T post.

The good news is that the support service I received on an iPhone connection issue was excellent.

The bad news is that after the support call I received an email telling me I’d signed up for paperless billing. (No, I didn’t. What’s with the Wells Fargo ploy?)

The badder news is that AT&T has some kind of network activation bug. I think it has to do with updating the relationship between an ICCID (SIM card identifier, this is in term mapped to a phone number) and an IMEI, and then provisioning the services a customer should receive.

I first saw this a year ago with Emily’s iPhone 5s to a new 6s upgrade. I swapped the SIM card; it seemed to work but she couldn’t forward calls. The fix was a new SIM card and a visit to att.com/simguide (link there to phone activation).

I ran into a slightly different version of this problem with #3’s transition from an iPhone 5 to a pre-owned 6. I moved the SIM card over, but she had no data services and iMessage wouldn’t activate. Her phone claimed a 4G connection, but in reality no data was moving. Only voice and SMS worked.

The good service came from an AT&T support chat. The tech told me this was a common issue (worsening?), but we still had to walk through the usual steps (I’d already executed Apple’s troubleshooting steps). I didn’t have time though, so I asked for a fresh SIM card instead. The rep said it would appear in a week or so. In fact it showed up 20 hours later via FedEx overnight express.

That’s pretty cool. Shame about the paperless billing thing though.

Why did I want a new SIM card? I figured AT&T’s problem is a database bug, and a new SIM card rewrites AT&T’s database records. As I’d hoped it worked instantly. I think AT&T’s 2nd tier support might be able to fix the database records by hand, but the SIM card fix is faster. (It didn’t enable WiFi calling though — when I tested that I got a message to call AT&T to enable it.)