Sunday, September 25, 2016

Facebook: what to do when you receive a Friend request from someone who is already a friend (impersonation scam).

There are a lot of scams on Facebook. Heck, at one time their revenue came largely from shady games and the covert sale of personal information. It’s kind of in their blood. With time Facebook has become respectable, but the scams continue.

Some scams have no fix. If someone uses a personal email address you haven’t yourself associated with a Facebook account you are out of luck. At best you can lock the scammer out of Facebook by doing a password reset.

Other scams do have a fix, but the fix is usually anti-documented. What’s anti-documentation? It’s to documentation as antimatter is to matter. The opposite of useful; it gives the wrong answer to every question.

The fake-friend scam is anti-documented. When I searched recently for a good explanation I found lots of chaff and nonsense. So here’s a stab at what you do — at least until Facebook changes things again.

The fake-friend scam leverages Facebook’s default behavior of sharing your image, your name, and your friend list. A software program creates a new profile based on your image and name, then sends an invite to everyone it can find on your friend list. Friends accept, and it does the same thing to them. The resulting information can be sold. Eventually someone monetizes the network, usually by sending a link that loads malware with a payoff.

The fix is to report the fake profile. This is what I did when I received a request from someone who was already a friend (I’ve removed her identifying information). If all goes well after the report is done a confirmation request is sent to the friend who is being impersonated (though sometimes Facebook seems to remove the fake profile immediately):

1. Click the mystery drop down icon on right side and choose report.


2. Choose report.


3. They’re pretending to be … someone I know


4. Submit for review


5. Facebook will lookup the name from your friend list.


A few minutes later you should receive a Facebook notification that the case has been “closed”:

Screen Shot 2016 09 25 at 9 53 38 AM

I’ve done this a few times. So far Facebook has removed the fake profile fairly quickly, but that may depend on your friend managing their followup. So let your friend no what to expect.

Friday, September 23, 2016

What Scrivener does poorly (or not at all)

There’s a lot I like about Scrivener, a writer’s integrated development environment with compilation to platform specific documents. I’m not the only person who wants to like it, there are many enthusiasts online.

It’s easy to find tips and advice online, it’s harder to find a list of what doesn’t work. That’s important to know up front, before you commit to Scrivener.

This is my working list. I’ll expand it over time…

  1. PDF export has no page footnotes. The footnotes become chapter endnotes instead.
  2. Table creation within Scrivener is quite limited (Scrivener uses macOS text editing services).
  3. Table creation in compiled output is poor or unusable. Formatting in PDF and RTF loses font information, formatting in Word .docx defaults table to Word “auto fit to contents” instead of “auto fit to window”.
  4. It’s easy to get formatting drift between chapters, there’s no ready style enforcement (there is a process for redoing all formatting to a default)

Some of Scriveners’s limitations seem inherited from macOS text handling, others may be limitations of third party libraries. Scrivener could be more forthright about what works and doesn’t work, but that’s asking a lot of a small business.

Scrivener works best for writing fiction, though even there style support is a big issue (see also, below). It works less well for non-fiction — we need things like tables. If I do continue with Scrivener for my own book I’ll have to treat Word output as a forked version — with late stage editing being manually replicated in two locations. That’s not ideal, but it might be doable. The alternative, of course, is to use Word from the start [1].

- fn -

[1] At least in light use Word for Mac is now useable and the bugs are manageable. With the rental model Office 365 is also quite reasonably priced.

See also:

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Set alert sound to Constellation and you can't miss them.

I had one job. I had to put my daughter’s laundry in the dryer. Since I know I’m demented I set a Reminder. Which I never saw because I didn’t look at my phone and the tiny ding went unheard (and perhaps because Reminders sync to El Cap is unreliable).

It’s not the first time I’ve missed a Reminder. When I set one I really want to be reminded.

An alarm option for Reminders would be great but for now there’s a workaround. In Settings:Sounds:Reminder Alerts [1] choose “Constellation” ring tone. It goes on endlessly.

- fn -

[1] Same option can be found in Notifications. iOS changed settings model from a hierarchy to an acyclic graph; settings now appear in multiple places. I think this is a good thing, especially with search. Search is still odd though; if you search on Sounds you find individual Sound settings, but the Sound menu item appears with the description “Lock Sounds”. (I think this is a bug.)

Monday, September 05, 2016

Tweak to my, Aperture workflow.

WARNING: There are at least two issues with this workflow.

1. Not all images that appear in iOS UI for “All Photos” are actually available for import into Aperture. I suspect images that have synchronized from iCloud Photo Library are stored in a different physical location from the images Aperture sees.

2. Neither Aperture nor Image Capture can delete photos from iPhone if iCloud Photo Library is active. Aperture doesn’t show an error message but fails. Image Capture doesn’t show the delete control. Turn off iCloud Photo Library to reenable delete.

———- ORIGINAL POST ——————-

With El Capitan it is possible to have and iPhone share photos via iCloud, while Aperture owns posting to iCloud photo sharing streams. You have to fight a bit, but it works great.

So my workflow has been to use on OS X and iOS to cull images, then periodically export from to Aperture. Except original image export is broken, and has been broken since 1.0. (Exports all images, even those that are “deleted”), so this is a pain.

Finally realized there’s a much better solution. Whenever I want to move images from to Aperture I import them from the iPhone into Aperture (iPhone set to keep full res images). Then I use Aperture post-import delete. Then they delete from Much neater.

See also:

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Apple's peculiar relationship to RSS (and blogs)

Apple “Newsroom” smells like a blog, but there’s no RSS feed. I assume it uses Apple’s RSS variant and works with Apple’s, but it also renders in a browser. (Historically a dull PR site, Apple is starting to use Newsroom to promote Siri.)

On the other hand, Apple has RSS Feeds. They even have an iTunes Store query tool that generates custom RSS. They don’t have them for newsroom though. and Apple News is supposed to be able to work with RSS feeds, but I can’t get it to work with Wordpress or Blogger feeds.

Apple’s half-baked approach to subscription and notification is sadly typical for them.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

OS X and iOS wifi defect with iCloud keychain sharing: rejoining zombie networks.

With iCloud keychain sharing enabled both iOS and OS X seem unable to truly “forget” networks I’ve joined. I remove them using the WiFi menu or advanced preferences but they seem to keep returning. With large numbers of networks the U for locating specific networks is quite frustrating.

These unforgotten networks mean I’m constantly having to adjust what networks I join, or I join the wrong ones.

The best workaround I’ve found is to use Keychain Access from OS X to delete the wifi password for unwanted networks. That seems to propagate correctly and the UI includes search.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Modern bugs: server, client, and DRM. Also transient.

Another reason why we can’t have nice things.

My son's iPhone had access to some of our cloud media (TV) library, but not all of it. The UI looked like a mixture of age restricted on-device media, downloadable off-device media, on-device media missing normal display icons, and off-device media that wasn’t shown at all.

iTunes sync displayed odd alignments; it saw on-device media that did not show in iOS manage storage. His device requested App Store credentials multiple times, usually displaying the iOS 1 style dialogs seen when things are broken in iOS 9’s hacked together authentication frameworks.

An hour or so later things were more or less back to normal. Signing out of the App Store completely then re-authenticating might have helped. Or perhaps an old school iTunes sync or two. Or maybe an asteroid fly-by.

iOS flash style corruption? (There’s probably a reason Apple wants to retire HFS+ for something that’s Flash friendlier.) Problems with Apple’s DRM servers? Bugs in iOS? Bugs in iTunes?

Most likely all of the above. Sooner or later I’ll have to wipe and restore this phone, the iPhone equivalent of a visit to the dental hygienist. Reminds of me of Windows 95 really.

Modern bugs: emergent, complex, transient, common, and disruptive.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Beware: iPhones with mixed FairPlay app ownership may no longer backup/restore as expected

Ran into this with a friend’s devices. He was syncing his and his wife’s iPhones to iTunes under Lion. Not sure how old iTunes library was.

When his wife’s iPhone 6s had to be replaced he found he couldn’t restore from iCloud backup or from his old iTunes backup (Lion OS, I didn’t check his iTunes version). He tried to create a new iCloud backup but that removed  the old one and created a 0kb backup. I couldn’t get iCloud backup working either.

Probably relevant: they had mixed app ownership, some purchased under his Apple store ID, some under her Apple store ID.

I created a backup to a fresh user account iTunes instance on my El Cap machine (but, significantly, my machine is authorized on my App Store ID). Restore seemed to proceed — but app restore didn’t complete from the iTunes backup. Instead it slowly proceeded via iCloud then left apps in dim icon status.

I believe I got things working by signing them up to Family Sharing. Then apps downloaded from iCloud, but not from iTunes.

At the time I write this I’m still investigating media rights and have yet to attempt another iCloud backup.

I wonder if Apple quietly updated its backend DRM rules.

DRM is nasty stuff.


  1. The iCloud backup problem was an unrelated bug. “The Last Backup Could Not Be Completed” bug has many causes, but sometimes it’s just the wrong error message. Instead of saying “buy more storage” (which is what I usually see) iCloud Backup gave a useless error message and quit. I excluded her 5.1GB of images and it resumed.
  2. Her new phone has no media. I think I know what happened. She gets her media from a non-DRMd old school iTunes music library. If you backup, as we did, from her phone to a Library on my computer there’s a DRM conflict. Apple’s iTunes DRM is device based, not (AFAIK) user account based. So my Mac wasn’t authenticated to hold her music (maybe I could authenticate, but that’s scary). I think the music got backed up, but iTunes could’t display/handle it, so it wasn’t part of the restore. The bug here is absence of an error message, simply media free restore.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

OS X Version support - doesn't use a lot of storage (for me)

A warning that my network share doesn’t support versions reminded me that OS X added version support in Lion (in addition to Time Machine backup).

It’s a feature I’d long forgotten about and have never used. MSFT Word has no support for OS X versions, and of course Google Docs are just pointers to Google’s database. So OS X Versions aren’t that useful for me.

I wondered how much space the versions take. They are in /.DocumentRevisions-V100. Easy to find since I have Finder set to show invisibles. I had no access to view, so I added Read only access for my non-admin account to the root and child drives. I found Data organized by UID, my total version collection was about 1GB. 

So not too bad. I found a few references discussing managing space taken up by versions. I assume the OS has some rules but two references I found didn’t mention any.

If Michael Tsai can’t find an answer I won’t even try. Michael referenced Siracusa’s 2011 Lion article, the main reason Versions storage doesn’t use up so many space is that OS X is clever about what pieces of a file it saves as a version component.

I also see .MobileBackups, but despite what permissions says I can’t open that folder. Some deep wizardry there. About this Mac will show how much storage this takes, about 3GB on my 256GB SSD. There’s a clean terminal method to purge this data, but it seems to be working as designed for me.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Uninstalling Synology Cloud Station Mac -- and why you would never have installed it in the first place.

Synology Cloud Station aka Cloud Station Drive stopped working reliably for me in El Capitan.

That’s when I discovered there’s no uninstaller.


I have a rule of not installing Mac apps that can’t be easily uninstalled [1]. Clearly I screwed up. In my experience if a Mac apps doesn’t have a clean uninstall it’s not going to work out well.

Uninstall directions for Ubuntu mention a buried uninstall script in ./Cloudstation; I have Finder set to show invisible files (I like running this way) so I found the Mac version of this in /Users/jfaughnan/.CloudStation (you might be able to open this using Finder Go). I couldn’t find an uninstall script in the Mac package though. I didn’t find anything useful on Synology forums; a site that markets a (worthless) Mac uninstaller app gave generic directions.

This is what I did. I think EasyFind will do most of the work for you - just search on Synology.

  1. Exited Synology Cloud Station from the blue cloud icon Finder bar thing.
  2. Searched Activity Monitor for Synology and Cloud. Found two processes called “synology cloud station drive finder integration” and killed both.
  3. Deleted /Applications/Synology Cloud
  4. Deleted /Users/jfaughnan/.CloudStation
  5. Used (love it) to search for all files and folders containing “synology” including Invisible Files and Folders and Package Contents. It found a ton of crap. For example: /private/var/folders/5c/gx565vx110gcdhxn10mbddfh0000gp/T/com.synology.CloudStation.FinderSync [2][3]. I deleted that and several more. I’ve included below a set of partial screenshots form Easy Find (shame I don’t know enough unix to do this in shells and dump results). It’s a mess, but in practice I only had to delete 3-4 things to clear them all out. (If you have other Synology tools installed you’ll probably damage them too, but really you shouldn’t let Synology touch your Mac.)
  6. Log out and then in again to confirm Finder iteration is gone.
Ugh. What a mistake that was.
Examples from EasyFind (many of these are package contents, so only need to find Package or Folder and delete the lots)

- fn -

[1] Lack of OS uninstall support is one of the historic defects of macOS / OS X.

[2] cmd-opt-c to copy file path is the best feature of El Capitan. Almost as good as old cmd-opt-shift-v for paste as plain text.

[3] There are lots of weird files in ‘5c’, looks like some kind of cache/dumping ground. I just deleted the Synology one. There’s also a in there. Turns out Finder Sync is a newish OS X API that does a lot of interesting things (probably with bugs and Finder screw-ups, knowing Apple):

… The Finder Sync extension point lets you cleanly and safely modify the Finder’s user interface to express file synchronization status and control. Unlike most extension points, Finder Sync does not add features to a host app. Instead, it lets you modify the behavior of the Finder itself….

… With a Finder Sync extension you register one or more folders for the system to monitor. Your Finder Sync extension then sets badges, labels, and contextual menus for any items in the monitored folders. You can also use the extension point’s API to add a toolbar button to the Finder window or a sidebar icon for the monitored folder…

… Finder Sync supports apps that synchronize the contents of a local folder with a remote data source. It improves user experience by providing immediate visual feedback directly in the Finder. Badges display the sync state of each item, and contextual menus let users manage folder contents. Custom toolbar buttons can invoke global actions, such as opening a monitored folder or forcing a sync operation…

…  the user may have multiple copies of your extension running at once, and some may be very short lived…

Update 8/23/2016: I can’t kill the Finder integration on Emily’s Mac. Keeps returning. This thing must have malware in its code base.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Stop bike tracking app from auto-sharing all rides to Facebook

I think this is new. It’s certainly causing lots of confusion.

All of my Strava rides were getting auto-posted to Facebook. This was unwanted.

The problem is Strava has a cryptic poorly implemented auto-share toggle setting that’s not part of Strava settings. A deluge of customer complaints forced Strava to break it’s no-documentation rule:

Directly after uploading an activity, you will see the activity edit page before clicking "Save & View." You can share activities to Facebook by flipping ON the Facebook toggle for any activities you wish to share (button turns blue). Keep in mind that this toggle will turn on automatic sharing. In other words, all future activities will be shared as long as this button is left on.  

Take a look at the screenshot on that web site. It took me a while to find the Facebook icon. If it’s blue then auto-share is on and will stay on. To turn it off create a fake ride (walk around the house) then click the “Flag” icon to save it then hunt for a blue Facebook icon at bottom right of the “save” screen. Toggle it off. It will keep that state.

When auto-share is off you can still post to Facebook, you have to open the saved activity then click on it again and then click share.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

SMS messaging to small groups: Apple's App Store comes up empty. Again.

It may require federal legislation, but someday text messaging services will interoperate.

Today, however, we have cruddy old SMS, held in the fierce claws of Verizon and AT&T. SMS, which has a maximum of ten recipients. SMS, which carriers have kept alive by bundling unlimited SMS with data services. SMS, which is definitely not free (in the US) for sending services. SMS, which RCS  (aka “joyn”) has failed to replace for about five years — because there’s money on the table.

SMS, which has a decent notification framework even on Android phones [1]. SMS, which is the only thing that is guaranteed to work with every member of a sports team. SMS, which is a key feature of TeamSnap ($8/month — compare to $50/month for many commercial SMS services).

Bottom line - SMS is lousy, but we need to work with it. Our Minnesota NICA mountain biking team is probably going to sign up for TeamSnap for the SMS service alone. The only real alternatives I know of are free GroupMe and iOS or Android apps that turn a list of numbers into a series of sub-10 member SMS texts that are covered by the standard US Carrier SMS bundle and sent as my personal text. That seems easy to do, and unsurprisingly there are a zillion of these apps. How can one pick a decent one?

I started by thinking about what’s important:

  • A clear business model. I avoid apps that hide how they make money. Ideally a simple cash payment.
  • Easy entry of numbers - copy/paste into a text field would be fine.
  • Error handling - notify which texts don’t make it.
  • Last update within past 12 months.
  • A web site with product documentation
  • Decent App Store review numbers in past year (allowing for the usual fake reviews)
  • Android version nice to have
  • US centric - our mobile market is weird. An international solution is unlikely to meet our needs.
From the App Store I started with
  • AtomPark SMS: no reviews
  • Group SMS!: $1, 110 reviews
  • Group Text!: $3, 2,139 reviews. Last updated 9/2014.
  • EasyGroup: $5, 427 reviews, not clear what it does
  • Text 2 Group: $3, 1,885 reviews. Last updated 5/2016
My initial screen left me with Group Text! and Text 2 Group. So I read some reviews. 
Text 2 Group requires iMessage be disabled prior to use and has no support or web site. Disabling and reenabling iMessage is a pain in the ass on iOS (turning off data/wifi is easy though and probably has same effect). It’s also rather hard to know what this app actually does.
Group Text! has not been updated for 2 years but it has a web site: Which says that the manual for version 3 “is coming soon”; version 3.4 was released 9/2014. I reviewed the site and support documents — it’s pretty much unreadable. This is a dead app.
At the end of the day Apple’s vast app store yielded … nothing. Even basic quality screens eliminated every product sold.
This is probably a good place to mention that Apple’s App Store business model has been broken for years — and that’s a sign of how poorly Tim Cook is doing.

See also 

[1] I had to get an Android phone for my special needs smartphone book project. I was amazed what a mess the carriers have made of Android messaging. Google’s deal with the Verizon devil has a price.

Update 8/20/2016: On @jws points out that SMS messaging to groups can be done by using carrier email to SMS gateways. The form varies by carrier, AT&T processes email of the form This scales to a large number of users. 

I think some people block these email to SMS services; I think I do.

TeamSnap uses true SMS for the US and Canada.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Simplenote is not dead -- and the joy of nvAlt backup, an Automattic product I use a zillion times a day, is less dead than I thought. They just released a version for Android, I installed on my ultra-cheap Moto e and in the blink of an eye my notes are there.

Before I did that experiment though, I made a backup.

I launched nvAlt and my local Mac folder of Simplenote RTF files was instantly updated. I then zipped up that folder — maybe 2MB. Stuck the zip in a folder of things like that. A record of the state of my extended memory on this day.

Only a geek can understand the warm glow I get from that special level of backup. The age old problem of Cloud backup (how do you recover a single mis-edited note from a month ago?) solved. (But will nvAlt work on Sierra? Brett Terpstra’s long delayed nvAlt replacement drops Simplenote support.)

Now if only Automatic would fix the #$!%%! broken search on (only) the Mac version. I confirmed search works on the new Android version.

See also

Monday, August 01, 2016

Comcast - after the promo rolloff

Our Comcast promo rolloff happened today. Our 1st year rate with taxes, modem rental and hidden fees was $56/month. The post-promo rate was $93. I called to see what they’d deal — not much as it turned out. I have a bit of a speed boost and a few dollars off (how much is hard to tell, because the phone quotes don’t include the hidden fees).

They reset my service after the call conclusion — too bad I had an online transaction pending :-(.

I few tips ….

  • when get voice mail prompt requesting purpose of call say: “lower my bill”
  • you want to speak to “customer retention". I think I only got as far as “customer solutions”
  • You can hit 1 instead of saying ‘yes’. Works better.
  • I think you want to have an alternative service quote in hand before calling.
  • Be ready to call more than once. The first analyst I spoke with passed me on to customer solutions and then my line went dead. Well, this is Comcast we’re talking about.

See also

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Trello teams explained: it's worse than you can imagine (in free version)

I went through all of Trello’s (weak) online documentation trying to figure out how to manage my (free) Trello teams. Where in the UI is the a list of teams? I could see how to create a team. I could see how to add someone to a team. But where’s the team list?!?!

Turns out in free Trello “Teams” are not teams (of people). That’s why I couldn’t find them anywhere:


A “Team” is a collection of boards and people are part of boards and teams and people are related by … I think a Team is basically part of the natural key for a join table between boards and people and “teams”. (But a board can belong to only one Team (or NULL team) … so maybe Team is a foreign key in Board)

You see teams in the Boards screen; in this (hidden) UI they group boards. To add a board to a team you work from the board menu. But Trello has (inadvertently?) made it hard to find the full Boards screen. I don’t think there’s any link to it in the UI, you have to click on “Trello” or just go to URL

So you’ve found the list of Boards. They are grouped by Starred Boards, My Boards and by “Team Names”. The Team Names have Boards, Members, Settings. All 3 of these buttons go to the same tabbed screen.

(Tip: The Team-Member collection shows in the URL. So if you know team name, just do]

Click on any and you see the the UI equivalent of a join table made up of members, boards, and the “Grouping” (team). BoardGrouping:settings:settings lets you delete a team.

From this tabbed screen you edit the Members:Board relationships. You can delete a Team (remove all rows with same Team name). You can add Members (add rows to join table) by clicking on “Add by Email” which doesn’t actually add by Email, it just lets you search the global Trello user domain by email or Trello ID (should be called “Add Members”).  HOWEVER, to add a board to a team you go to the Board’s settings and use Change Team (this doesn’t remove members, just divides them into Team and Non-Team members). My head hurts. You figure out the rest.

Let me repeat that. In (free) Trello, the “Team” page is the SETTINGS for the grouped boards and it can only be found by going to the semi-hidden “” home page or the secret URL shortcut.

Teams may make more sense in the paid version but they’re a hot mess in the free version.

I think Trello is one of those great ideas that’s been broken. It’s rare for software to recover from a state like this.