Saturday, May 28, 2016

Nursing home personal videoconferencing and iPad photo slideshow - a successful project

My 94yo father lives in a veterans long term care facility located in Ste Anne de Bellevue, a small community at the west end of the island of Montreal. It has been a good home for him despite some difficult organizational transitions. Canada’s last major war ended over 70 years ago, their veterans system is fading away.

It’s a costly 6 hour flight (fly+security+etc) to see him, so I only get out there every 3-4 months. I send a weekly email that staff print for him, and every other week I send him a PhotoCard featuring one of the kids or a family thing. Phone calls really don’t work though — he didn’t do well with them even when his cognition and hearing were better.

The facility was keen for me to try videoconferencing with him using a Skype workstation. I was a bit skeptical, but they were right. He does much better with videoconferencing than with a phone call. The audio quality is much better than a modern phone call, and it’s a lot easier for me to see how he’s doing with the conversation. I can tell, for example, that he’s enjoying just hearing me talk. He really doesn’t need, or want, to say much himself.

The Skype workstation had problems though. Most of the time scheduled calls failed. Technical and organizational issues made it too unreliable. 

I didn’t want to give up on the videoconferencing, so I researched LTE videoconferencing for a longterm care facility resident. I considered WiFi but the costs at his facility are higher than LTE and in my experience institutional WiFi is often unreliable. He was already using an LTE Rogers Wireless device to connect an old school landline phone to a cellular network [1] so I was reasonably sure the LTE solution would work from his room.

At the end of the day we deployed a new LTE iPad Air 2 in a minimally modified “CTA digital” anti-theft stand. Here are some images of the stand the Vets built for him; during this first conference he spoke with a younger brother he’d not seen in over 10 years:

IPadVets  1 

IPadVets  5

IPadVets  3

IPadVets  4

IPadVets  5

The wall stand was build by “Jean-Paul”, a staff and facilities person at the Vets. It’s a work of art and an unexpected key to this successful deployment. He built it around the iPad locking stand and incorporated a simple turntable. My father can do the videoconferences from his wheelchair or he can view the 3,000 image family photo slideshow from his lift chair. 

Dad hasn’t tried to operate the iPad. I think he could learn some things if I were there to work with him, but he’s a passive user at this time. A private aide visits him weekly and I schedule the videoconferences with her. I initiate the call, she taps the green button to answer. We use FaceTime because it’s very reliable, has great sound and video quality, and very efficient compression. A typical 15 minute call uses about 25-40MB of data, he has no trouble staying within his monthly Rogers data cap.

I often do the calls from my iPhone and I usually incorporate some kind of walking video tour. The last tour was of a CrossFit gym I’d just finished working out at. The walking tours are very popular, he reports on them to friends and family.

When the iPad is not being used for videoconferencing it’s displaying images using I was irritated when Apple dropped its original iPad slideshow functionality, but I figured there would be many fine replacements. I was wrong. There is exactly one - Picmatic. Miraculously it’s well done. It’s also ridiculously cheap at $2. It’s configured to randomly display full screen images from an iCloud photostream; I put images on there from Aperture and my iPhone. Images display full screen with an integrated clock and cycle every 30 seconds or so. He, or an aide, taps the bottom right icon to start the show. It automatically turns off at night. I wish it were more automatic but Apple is not terribly helpful in this regard. There is only so much developers can do when using iOS.

IPadVets  6 

I’d put some other apps up there I thought might be useful: Notes for memory aide, Mail to show old emails I’d sent him, Podcasts for entertainment, Great to play his history audiobooks, Contacts as an address book, Facebook to see our family activity, Weather, (of course), (for non-Apple videoconferencing) and Only and FaceTime are being used. As Dad’s moderate dementia progresses he is less able to follow things like an audiobook history talk. He might do better with a brief Ted Talk video.

I’ll conclude (out of time :-) with some quick notes for anyone considering a similar project:

  • Theft is a problem in longterm care facilities. Lots of visitors and impossible to screen them all, not to mention residents with impaired judgment. When the staff heard he was getting an iPad they expected it to disappear. This device would not be terribly hard to steal — the cable is only attached to a wall screw and the stand could be unscrewed from the turntable. It’s been enough so far though — just awkward enough to take that it hasn’t been stolen so far. There are two keys for the cradle lock; one in a lockbox in his room, the other in the nurse manager’s desk. The iPad stays in the cradle.
  • I like the cradle but with the cable lock installed it’s hard (almost impossible) to rotate orientation. It stays landscape and that works well.
  • For security I set a passcode and assigned Dad and his aide’s prints to the device. If stolen it’s iPad locked so wouldn’t be useable anyway.
  • My brother has power of attorney. He had to send a copy of that to Rogers so he could get added to the Rogers account. Then he could add me to the account. This was the hardest part of the project. When I arrived in Montreal I took the documents to the Rogers wireless office. They had a hard time setting things up because Roger’s standard software couldn’t handle my US address, they did it using old paper forms. Once that was done the SIM worked fine.
  • I bought the device and did all the setup in the US, wasn’t time to do something like that in Canada. I tweaked setup for weeks. I should have put more things in the hidden folder. I wanted everything on one screen to minimize confusing.

See also: 

- fn - 

[1] I wrote about that project in Wanted - a way to make an old style landline work over a cellular connection. Service was a bit flaky at first, but quality improved substantially and it’s fine now. It turned out to be quite economical to pay for a family member’s iPhone on Rogers then add the “wireless home phone” for $10/month and subsequently add the LTE iPad for $10/month, all sharing data. With this device he can change rooms without a service disruption, and his entire monthly service bill is less than the institutional landline charge.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Yosemite, Fusion 7, Windows 10, Office 365: experience

I am a bit freaked out about how painless this was. The experience was surreal to someone of my vintage.

My primary machine is a 10 month old MacBook Air with 8GB of RAM, 1.6GHz i5 and a 256GB internal SSD running Yosemite. A Thunderbolt 2 Hub connects an USB 3 external 1TB SSD and an old Firewire 800 3TB external drive and separate 3TB backup cradle. All pretty generic stuff.

For work reasons I bought Office 365 Mac. I thought I might be able to avoid Windows entirely, but a new contract meant I couldn’t escape.

So I installed my Fusion VM 7.x and an old XP image with Office 2007. The image is stored on my external SSD. That went disturbingly well, so I downloaded the Windows 10 ISO (64 bit) and asked Fusion to create a new image from the ISO. That also went disturbingly well. The only glitch was it hung during VMWare Tools installation. I had to restart the VM and I reinstalled the tools.

Then, hey, what the hell, I installed Office 365 too. The usual 365 license covers several machines, both Windows and Mac. Yeah, same thing. No problem.

The image on the external SSD took 12.6GB with just Windows 10 Pro, 14.45 after Office 365 installed. Heck, I’ll probably move it back to my primary SSD.

The performance of my very generic low end MacBook Air is excellent. Modern SSDs are a miracle.

Very. Strange.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Android restriction (parental control) solutions: Screen Time and MMGuardian advance to next step

For my book project I searched my moto E test phone (Android 5.1) user guide for “child” and “restriction” and “parental”.  I found “products are not toys and may be hazardous to small children”.

Ooookaaay. That’s not too encouraging. My iPhone User Guide has an extensive discussion of restriction options.

Next I tried “restricted profiles” (Android 4.3 and later). Oops. They’re only for tablets, not phones. So it was time to look for 3rd party options [1].

Google found me some lousy references and two useful ones: Five parental control apps for Android devices - Pocket-lint and 10 Android Parental Control Apps - Yoursphere for Parents [2].

From these I picked up MMGuardian, Funamo, AppLock, Kids Place, Screen Time, Net Nanny, Norton Family and a few others. Between the set of these Android, for a technically sophisticated user, can have advantages over built-in iOS restrictions (iOS security models limit the value vendors can add). 

I’m most interested in products that work for teens and/or adults with atypical minds, so that eliminated a few options. Next I looked for good quality companion web sites with clear pricing — that criterial took out both Norton Family and the (not-really-free) AppLock.

I ended up with four options:

  • MMGuardian: app usage, time use, texts including driving. $35/year. iOS solution from same vendor.
  • Screen Time: $48/year
  • Net Nanny: browser restrictions, remote access. $60/year - primary focus on browser control.
  • Funamo: $20 one time purchase.

Funamo is the value option, with a more limited and geekier web site than the competition. For my target users I think more support is needed. Net Nanny has the highest pricing, which may reflect longer tenure. MMGuardian and ScreenTime seem (hey, information is limited!) to have a good balance of price and value.

ScreenTime and MMGuardian both have well done blogs with working RSS feeds. ScreenTime is Android only, MMGuardian has an iOS product too. Both have a 14 day free trial. ScreenTime has 7,600 Play Store reviews, MMGuardian has 1,200. Both have well documented uninstall procedures[3]. They are well balanced competitors.

I’m going to have to test both of them — since MMGuardian also has an iOS product I’ll start there.

- fn -

[1] Android reminds me so much of Windows; only geeks can truly use it. Why hasn’t Google bundled even minimal functionality into their OS? The sort-of-free AppLock has 3.3 million reviews. There is a need.

[2] There’s something broken in the info-sphere. Exactly two useful reviews?!

See also:

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Brother HL6180DW laser printer: manufacturing defect in foam roller in @ 2003 printers?

This post is based on my two star Amazon review of our 3yo paper-jamming Brother HL6180DW:

We've had this printer for 3 years.

Early on this printer had sleep/wake issues with our Mac. Sometime in the first year or so of use software updates fixed those.

After almost 3 years of regular home printing use it began jamming. The Drum was also due to be replaced. We replaced both the drum and the toner cartridge, but the jamming worsened until it became unusable.

Since this happened I’ve been in contact with Brother support. They requested photos of a key foam roller and they wanted the printer serial number. Even though the printer is 3 years out of warranty they said they'd mail me a refurb. Problem is -- they don't have any refurb devices, they've all been shipped out.

I think my year of this product had a manufacturing problem with a foam roller. It's visible when you open the rear port and flip out a plastic guide. It should be crinkled at the margins and smooth in the center. Ours has linear striations. There are blog posts about this problem. I think Brother offered the out-of-warranty refurb because they know printers in my model year are failing. They're unwilling to announce this however. This probably also explains the lack of refurb machines.

I'm actually ordering a new one. If they send me a refurb in the next 30 days I'll return it (so Brother will have another refurb to distribute!). If they send me a refurb 4 months from now I guess I'll have two. I'm ordering a new one because I have toner and drum components already.

If you have an older HL6180DW do these things before you order a new Drum for an old printer.

1. Check the foam roller and make sure it looks like it should (When you get a new one, photograph the roller.)
2. Check the Fuser lifespan remaining. After 3y we had 71% left. (it's in the manual).

I’ll add photos of the current foam roller condition and the new one once it arrives.

The last really good printer I owned was an Apple LaserWriter Select 360. Printers have not really improved since the early 90s, scanners stopped improving around 2000, dSLRs stopped around 2014, smartphones around 2016.

Update 5/6/2016: Very much to my surprise Brother phoned to say they were unlikely to get any more 6180DW, but they’d overnight ship me a HLL6200DW along with a toner cartridge. That’s the 6180 replacement.

Update 5/10/2016: I received my replacement HL-L6200DW. I can’t tell if it’s new or a refurb. The test print is vastly better than my aged 6180DW, there was more wrong than the paper jams. Installation was straightforward, save that one Mac gave me an annoying “unable to communicate with the printer art this time” over the WiFi interface. I reset the OS X print system then restarted the Mac and the printer and it worked.

I didn’t bother with the directions, I used the USB cable and OS X printer page to get  it on the WiFi network.

Some of the things I’ve learned:

  1. Think very carefully about replacing the Drum Unit on a 3yo printer. The Drum Unit was half the price of a new (toner-free) printer. If I hadn’t bought the Drum Unit I wouldn’t have bothered contacting Brother on an out-of-warranty device, I’d have just bought a new printer. Faster and less trouble.
  2. Brother is pretty serious about service. It took a few days of back and forth tech questions, but their responses were never unreasonable. Probably best to say you use paper they recommend when asked (in fact I did, but only by chance).
  3. I was a bit annoyed when Brother said to wait for a refurb — I pointed out I’d have to buy a printer while I waited. So that wasn’t stellar, but they then phoned and said they would send a newer model. So there’s that.
  4. It’s really dumb to think that a Drum Unit will help with paper jams if the paper isn’t jamming in the Drum Unit. Duh. I wasn’t thinking very clearly there. In my defense the Drum Unit was end-of-life, so I figured it was problem. It wasn’t.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Apple Touch ID is dangerous.

Many iOS apps, including Apple secure Notes and banking apps and and Apple Pay provide an option to use Touch ID for authentication. Apple makes much of the security advantages of Touch ID.

Sometimes Touch ID fails to recognize your finger. That’s no problem, you can repeat that finger recording, or you can add another one. All you need to know is your iPhone’s unlock code.

All anyone needs to know is your iPhone’s unlock code. With it can add their own finger, and unlock anything that was Touch ID enabled. In my testing on Apple’s secure Notes a fingerprint added after a Note was created opens the Note.

So Touch ID is only as secure as your iPhone’s unlock code. Which, even with Touch ID enabled, you have to enter too often. So you probably make it short and tappable so you can do that.

Yeah, once you enable Touch ID on your bank account, you’ve basically changed its password to your iPhone’s conveniently short and tappable unlock code.

Touch ID is dangerous.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Force Mac Chrome to open for a specific user profile - as of April 2016

I’ve been trying to get Chrome to open in one of my 15 user profiles since at least 2012. I have visited an open SuperUser question on this topic for four years. Today I added a method that work — for this moment:

As of April 2016 on Yosemite I was able to locate Google Apps for all of my 15 Google Profiles (yes, 15). Some were in ~/Applications/Chrome Apps, though we have been told these are going away [1].

To find all of them however I had to do this:

Go to ~/Library/Application Support/Google/Chrome.
In Spotlight search on kind:app
Find 300kb "Applications" with names like Gmail (username).
Copy the ones you want and rename them, then put in your Applications folder of choice.

All victory is transient, but Sisyphus is ahead most of the time.

Scrivener - the book compiler. Review.

I'm using Scrivener to write Smartphones for All - Using iPhone and Android to build independence for atypical minds.

It’s brilliant software. On my Mac it uses the same text editing engine as TextEdit, including the same RTF format. So, like the Nisus Writer I once used, my writing is indexable by Spotlight and almost as future-proof as plaintext. (I thought RTF was dead. Guess not.)

Apple’s text engine has its share of bugs and limitations, but for basic text work it’s good enough. The primary weakness is table layout, but so far I’ve worked around that.  Scrivener manages the tasks TextEdit can’t do, like page references, footnotes, internal links, document structure and the like.

The real brilliance though is how Scrivener merges concepts of software code management with the traditional word processor. It treats text blocks as though they were blocks of code, including simple version management and “compiling” to multiple output formats (PDF, EPUB, etc). Rather than use some horrid database store, Scrivener leverages native Mac file structures to manage its data. Extra brilliance points for that.

On this compile framework Scrivener layers a rich set of power user features. The latter, I admit, can be overwhelming. I recommend learning the basics from the initial tutorial, then start writing and learn additional features over time.

All software dies. One day Scrivener will die too. But with the ability to complete to multiple formats, and the use of native file system semantics and RTF data, Scrivener is as future proof as any power tool can be [1].

[1] Scrivener’s design is a guide to how photo management software should be built. Please, someone do this.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The new and old and obsolete and confusing ways Mac OS X starts code running.

Windows added uninstallers at least 15 years ago. MacClassic OS didn’t need them, but Mac OS X sadly does. Indeed, it needs them more as MacOS gets more complex and less well documented:

… The difference between an agent and a daemon is that an agent can display GUI if it wants to, while a daemon can’t. The difference between an agent and a regular application is that an agent typically displays no GUI (or a very limited GUI).

… Agents run in a user context; daemons are userless and purely background, without any access to a window server or other user state. That’s why the daemon vs agent distinction in the Library folder names …

… once comprehensive daemon/agent doc was last updated in 10.5 after initial authoring for 10.4

Without an uninstaller we end up doing a hunting expedition when weird things happen. Code that starts automatically is particularly hard to track down. I wrote this post as a reference for me, drawing from a few Super User and other posts:

 This list of places to look comes from the above, some of these are extremely obscure and some may not longer be used.

  • User Login Items (~/Library/Preferences/
  • ~/Library/LaunchDaemons
  • ~/Library/LaunchAgents
  • ~/.bash_profile
  • /Library/LaunchDaemons
  • /Library/LaunchAgents
  • /Library/StartupItems
  • /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/
  • /System/Library/LaunchAgents
  • /System/Library/StartupItems
  • /Library/Preferences/loginwindow.plist can have Login Items that apply to all users
  • /etc/profile
  • /etc/mach_init.d/
  • /etc/rc/ and /etc/rc.local - totally unsupported, and not created by default (but probably still work)
  • Network/Library/LaunchDaemons, but I don’t know)?
  • /etc/mach_init_per_login_session.d/ and /etc/mach_init_per_user.d/
  • cron launched @reboot items (yes, cron is still there), this might even work for everyone’s crontabs
  • /Library/Security/SecurityAgentPlugins that have been loaded by being listed in the proper spots in /etc/authorization
  • /private/var/root/Library/Preferences/, in the LoginHook key (runs as root, passed the username)MCX (WorkgroupManager) login hooks (runs as root, but passed the username) note: below this network home directories are more reliably available, as is a connection to the WindowsServer
  • MenuBar items from ~/Library/Preferences/ and /Library/Preferences/ (+MXC added items)
  • /Library/Preferences/loginwindow.plist, in the key (array of paths) AutoLaunchedApplicationDictionary (everyone gets this launched at login, runs as user) (+MXC added items)
  • LoginItems (generally GUI items) ~/Library/Preferences/ and possibly /Library/Preferences/ (have not tried) (+MXC added items)

Some terminal commands can help figure out what’s running:

launchctl list

When I edited my ~/Library/Preferences/ I found references to 4 3 apps and a server, including one I removed 7-8 years and 3 machines ago:

  • /Volumes/Molly_Internal
  • /Applications/

I doubt they did anything, but I edited them out anyway.

Software ages like people, with increasing mutations and unhelpful complexity. OS X is late middle age, it’s been through many handoffs, each taking its toll …

See also

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Mac thunderbolt 2 drive dropping -- remember ScanSnap AOUMonitor and don't touch Amazon Cloud Drive.

After months of reliable use my Elgato Thunderbolt 2 hub is dropping my USB3 external SSD; just like the OWC T2 hub did in my initial testing.

We know Yosemite (and El Capitan) have issues with Thunderbolt hubs; there’s something frail in Apple’s infrastructure [1]. But it had been working… So after power cycling everything [3] it’s time to look for things that have changed recently.

The first place to look is my Login items. I find something called “Mountain”. It’s missing though. Weird. Part of something I’d tried then removed. Deleted that.

I also find AOUMonitor. That would be related to my recent ScanSnap update. Sounds familiar, so I use my Google Custom Search for everything I’ve published. I find Managing unwanted Mac startup apps: ScanSnap’s AOUMonitor and Citrix Receiver. Bang. AOUMonitor is a known bad actor. Delete it.

Next is Google Drive. It’s known to cause problems, but I’m still hooked on it and it’s an old-timer. Despite Google’s decreasing interest in iOS and OS X [2] I have to leave it.

But where’s Amazon Cloud Drive? It’s a newbie that’s also launching automatically. The fact that it’s absent from Login Items tells me it’s poorly written. Over to LaunchDaemons.

System Library\LaunchDaemons looks all Apple — as it should be.

Users\Library\LaunchDaemons has CCC (ok), Office (licensing and update, ugh), Skype (huh? - deleted!), Google keystone (old, part of their update infrastructure I think), TripMode (? delete for now), Barebones (trustworthy).

Users\me\Library is a bit odd.  Instead of LaunchDaemons we have LaunchAgents (really Apple?) [4] and no Startup Items. In LaunchAgents I find simple plists for Synology CloudStation (yeah, I’m suspicious of that one, but need it for now), 1Password (need it), Safari (ok I guess) and com.imobiesilentcleanserver.plist. The last was probably left over from testing imobie’s iOS cache cleaner (didn’t work), so I deleted it.

Alas, I still can’t figure out how Amazon Cloud Drive is starting up. Now I really want to kill it. Google is no help (which is another bad sign). Looking at Log files it looks like ACD is using some .NET infrastructure and it’s generated about 15 Console crash logs. 

Amazon Cloud Drive is a bugger to purge. EasyFind finds a folder in .local/share — yeah, a hidden directory. There’s in friggin’ /private/var/db/BootCaches/2B1FD298-BBE8-4207-B1B0-ED420A2DAD74. There’s crap in Application Scripts, Application Support, and too many to mention. Try searching on “Amazon Cloud Drive”, “amazon.clouddrive” and so on. Take your time. 

Really, don’t touch Amazon Cloud Drive. Now I’m getting DOS TSR flashbacks in addition to my SCSI flashbacks.

Lastly, a safe boot to clear caches and then a restart. Now we’ll see what happens. I never did find what was launching Amazon Cloud Drive, but my Console isn’t showing any “Amazon” messages.

- fn -

[1] I’m getting PTSD flashbacks to MacOS Classic and SCSI chains.
[2] Apple is not doing well. 
[3] I’m going to start routinely power cycling my peripherals — they can go weeks without cycling whereas my Air gets cycled every week or two. 
[4] Update: jws explained -  "The difference between an agent and a daemon is that an agent can display GUI if it wants to, while a daemon can't. The difference between an agent and a regular application is that an agent typically displays no GUI (or a very limited GUI)… Agents run in a user context; daemons are userless and purely background, without any access to a window server or other user state. That’s why the daemon vs agent distinction in the Library folder names…

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

iOS 9.x spotlight bug explained: It's the RAM.

Spotlight has been failing for me since I updated to iOS 9 - no results appear. It got much worse with 9.3. Force-quitting background apps, especially,  helps. It acts like a limited RAM bug, but I think there are ways Spotlight may fail.

From Apple Discussions it doesn’t hit devices with 2GB of RAM, it’s a problem for 1GB devices with lots of indexed content and/or memory hogging apps.

Jason Heiser has figured out what’s wrong (emphases mine). It’s a capacity/RAM problem:

Apple discussions April 5, 2016

My iPhone 6 updated to iOS 9.3.1 an hour ago and Spotlight Search is still broken for me.

I downloaded iOS Console and looked at the console output when trying to perform a Spotlight Search. Here is what I saw:

Apr 5 15:42:18 jPhone searchd[286] : (Error) IndexGeneral in si_playBackMobileRecords:2343: played back 0 records
Apr 5 15:42:19 jPhone searchd[286] : (Error) IndexGeneral in si_playBackMobileRecords:2343: played back 0 records
Apr 5 15:42:19 jPhone diagnosticd[83] : unable to find offset 0x81448aac in shared cache for arch 'arm64'
Apr 5 15:42:19 jPhone diagnosticd[83] : unable to find offset 0x814467cc in shared cache for arch 'arm64'
Apr 5 15:42:19 jPhone diagnosticd[83] : unable to find offset 0x81649da8 in shared cache for arch 'arm64'
Apr 5 15:42:19 jPhone diagnosticd[83] : Invalid offset 2170854824 into shared cache for arch 'arm64'
Apr 5 15:42:19 jPhone ReportCrash[288] : platform_task_update_threads failed 1
Apr 5 15:42:19 jPhone ReportCrash[288] : Formulating report for process[286] searchd
Apr 5 15:42:19 jPhone ReportCrash[288] : report not saved because it is non-actionable
Apr 5 15:42:21 jPhone UserEventAgent[26] : jetsam: kernel termination snapshot being created
Apr 5 15:42:21 jPhone ReportCrash[289] : Saved type '298(298)' report (2 of max 25) at /var/mobile/Library/Logs/CrashReporter/JetsamEvent-2016-04-05-154221.ips

According to this, the searchd crash log is not being saved because it is "non-actionable." However, a log for "JetsamEvent" is being created at roughly the same time. I looked at this file on my iPhone and JetsamEvents appear to be a low-memory (RAM) issue. Here is the top portion of the crash report.

{"timestamp":"2016-04-05 15:42:21.21 -0500","bug_type":"298","os_version":"iPhone OS 9.3.1 (13E238)"}
"crashReporterKey" : "88540025a9600afa364c269a2c5bc8a91370b1ca",
"kernel" : "Darwin Kernel Version 15.4.0: Fri Feb 19 13:54:49 PST 2016; root:xnu-3248.41.4~28\/RELEASE_ARM64_T7000",
"product" : "iPhone7,2",
"incident" : "D0ED493F-7687-49D9-AFB9-BEE80BD93082",
"date" : "2016-04-05 15:42:21.21 -0500",
"build" : "iPhone OS 9.3.1 (13E238)",
"timeDelta" : 95,
"memoryStatus" : {
"compressorSize" : 50489,
"pageSize" : 4096,
"compressions" : 824422,
"memoryPages" : {
"active" : 101577,
"throttled" : 0,
"fileBacked" : 37711,
"wired" : 49311,
"anonymous" : 114469,
"purgeable" : 0,
"inactive" : 48272,
"free" : 2459,
"speculative" : 2331
"uncompressed" : 172172,
"decompressions" : 362924
"largestProcess" : "searchd",

According to this, the "largestProcess" was searchd when the crash report was generated. Further down in the crash report is searchd's information:

"rpages" : 129777,
"states" : [
"name" : "searchd",
"pid" : 286,
"reason" : "highwater",
"fds" : 100,
"uuid" : "7b301993-286d-3da5-a497-b729984d3229",
"purgeable" : 0,
"cpuTime" : 2.481274,
"lifetimeMax" : 84765

Apparently the maximum for searchd is "84,765" but it reached "129,777." The reason is "highwater" which I assume means searchd exceeded its RAM allotment. So maybe my Spotlight index is too large. Too many iMessages, too many songs, too many emails... Who knows.

The "report not saved because it is non-actionable" for searchd's crash report is worrisome. I fear this bug is nowhere on Apple's radar. We might be marginal outliers without recourse for a long time.

There are two workarounds for the bug:

  1. Force-quit background apps — may help free RAM. Try again.
  2. Siri works for launching apps even when spotlight fails.

I think setting all Spotlight indexing option to On helps — I have a feeling there’s a bug with rendering results that is worse if the rendering process has to manage exclusions. Restarting your phone daily probably helps too.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

iOS 9 secure notes with Touch ID are no more secure than your device passcode

If you enable Touch ID access to an iOS 9.3 Secure Note, the password on the note doesn’t matter. The note is no more secure than your device passcode.

Because if you know the device passcode, you can just add a new fingerprint to Touch ID. That will unlock the secure note.

So if you want to truly secure a Note with a strong password you can’t enable Touch ID access. Otherwise you might as well leave the note unsecured. You are better off using a strong password for your phone and using Touch ID for fast phone access.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Bandwidth use over 5 min video call: FaceTime << Facebook Messenger < Skype

As part of my Father longterm care iPad videoconferencing project I compared cellular data use during an approximately 5 minute videoconferencing call made from my iPhone (LTE) to an iPad Air 2 (WiFi). To measure data use I “reset statistics” for Cellular data before, then refreshed the view after concluding the call. I turned microphones off.

The results were:

FaceTime: 7.5MB (repeated, this is correct)s

Messenger: 32MB

Skype: 46MB

FaceTime gave the best image quality. The data use with FaceTime was so low I repeated the measurement with a similar results. Data use can vary with image activity by up to 25%.

I was very surprised by my results. FaceTime had excellent image quality despite exceptional compression. Skype is a real data hog.

The user interfaces were quite similar; names on the left, a details pane on the right. I liked Messengers easy messaging integration, but FaceTime was a 1 touch call from the left side.

My sister and I can do FaceTime, but my brother has an Android phone. I’ll suggest he try Facebook Messenger as he uses Facebook and the data usage was less than Skype.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Can I send an iTunes gift card to someone in another country? How about buy an app through iTunes?


At least not as far as I can tell between the US and Canada. Unless you have both an Apple ID and a credit card and a billing address in the other country.

In my case I’m trying to buy, a $2 app, for my father’s (Canadian Apple Store) iPad. I think the only way to do this from the US is to have someone in Canada buy an iTunes gift card (contrary to Apple’s weirdly dated online documentation this works for apps too) and send me the card number. Then I can enter the information.

I don’t think I can buy an iTunes Gift Card in the US and use that; cards are country store specific and Apple IDs are country specific (changing countries is a royal pain — yeah, DRM sucks).

Anyone know differently?

Father longterm care iPad videoconferencing project: Securing the iPad

My father has been doing well in a Quebec long term care facility for veterans (in Canada that has historically meant WW II, he’s in his 90s). Things are getting tougher though — the facility is shifting from federal to provincial control. Great staff are leaving and programs will be stressed.

I see him every 3-4 months, but in between I was surprised how well Skype worked with him. He does much better speaking when he can see me than he does on the phone. It seems to be related to knowing when to try speaking and when to listen. He also seems to hear Skype sound better than mobile phone sound. (It’s likely much higher quality.)

Even with the old regime though the Skype conferences often failed. Tech complexity and organizational issues forced us to discontinue them.

So now I’m going to try bringing him an LTE iPad Air 2. I’ll get a Rogers SIM card when I visit in a few weeks and we’ll see if it works from his room. If all goes well it will cost him an extra $10-$15/month — and the iPad cost [1].

Dad’s lost a few wallets from his room. I think most longterm care facilities see this kind of problem. Visitors can have issues. So we need to secure his iPad. Other than photo display I think he’ll only be using it for conferencing. So it needs to be secure [2], continuously powered up, stored somewhere he can sit, and not take up much room. The secure device needs to leave speakers and camera clear.

After some thought I ordered the $33 CTA Digital Universal Anti-Theft Security Grip with POS Stand for Tablets - iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4, Galaxy Tab, Note 10.1, 7-10-inch Tablets (PAD-UATGS) (grip and stand). It seems solid enough, it will keep the iPad off his desk, and there are screw holes (but no screws included). It may screw into his (antique) desk, but, even though it’s not shown in the picture, the lock comes with a cable. So I might be able to secure it to his desk in a less damaging and harder to remove way.

Of course the iPad Air 2 is way too thin for this device. It flops around. There’s supposed to be an included adapter strip, but mine was missing. I don’t think it would have worked — this home made setup seems a lot better. I had some TrueValue gripping pads (549104, TV23148) lying around…


I put those inside the corner retainers:


and it works pretty well:


So the first step is complete. Next step will be to test some of the conferencing options for data use and usability with various iPad accessibility features enabled: Skype vs. FaceTime vs. Facebook Messenger (Hangout is not very useable.)

I don’t expect Dad will use it by himself, we’re hoping a friend who helps with him will get things set up. I want it to be useable for them though.

- fn -

[1] (Rant) Incidentally, the iPad Air reminds me what a mixed bag Apple is these days. Nice device in many ways, but when I brought my mother an iPad six years ago one of the features she loved most was it could be used as a high quality digital photo frame. It was easy to launch from the lock screen. She loved that.

So, of course, Apple pulled it from the lock screen around iOS 7 and then ditched the replacement with iOS 9. There’s exactly one half-decent alternative, an app called Picmatic. Not to be confused with spammy copycat apps of the same name in the kinda broken App Store.

I don’t know if Apple is merely senile, or if the app had to be reworked for iOS 9 and it got ditched in a last minute panic to get that half-baked release out the door. Either way, the good news is that now that Ive has retired there’s only Cook to launch.

[2] Would it have killed Apple to incorporate some sort of secure lock feature in the iPad? Ok, yes, it would have.

Synology Time Machine backups: How to increase a user quota

After my Synology NAS updated itself to version 6 one of my Time Machine backups stopped working. It might have been coincidental. Time Machine claimed I only had 350GB free and it needed 1TB, but Synology claimed I had enough free space.


The fix was to increase the quota size for the user who owned the Time Machine disk image belonging to my MacBook Air.

Except I couldn’t do it. I could edit the user easily, but the quota information couldn’t be edited. Clicking on the row did nothing. 


Google helped. It’s a UI issue. There’s nothing in Synology’s UI to tell you to click specifically on the quota number. If you do that you can edit it.

It’s probably a good idea to turn Time Machine backup off while you’re doing this. In any case it’s fixed my problem.