Saturday, October 03, 2015

Search is broken on for OS X

The developer working on for OS X took an unfortunate shortcut when coding search. That’s kind of a problem, because search is what Simplenote is about.

It’s easy to see the problem.

In Simplenote 1.1 for OS X a note that has three words in it:

blue green yellow

search on blue and you’ll find the note. Search on blue green and you’ll find it. But search on [blue yellow] and you won’t.

That’s because the developer implemented a very simple string match search (sometimes this is called phrase search, but that’s a bit grandiose). Whatever string you enter in search has to directly match a string in the note.

Now repeat the same experiment with the Web version or for iOS You’ll find that [blue yellow] works, as does [blu yell]. The developers who implemented search on iOS and the  web used what I call ‘word-starts-with-search’; it means a separate index is created containing all the lexical tokens and the input tokens are boolean matched against the index tokens (see also).

I’m quite surprised the OS X app passed Automatic acceptance testing — search is feature #1 for this app and it’s very broken in the OS X version.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Rich Text Format (RTF) died between 2006 and 2012. Without a funeral. What does that mean?

Nine years ago, when I was looking for a decent word processor (now that’s an old word, almost as obsolete as typewriter) for OS X I had a list of requirements...

Gordon's Tech: Nisus Writer Express: My Review

… It had to use an open file format. Practically that means RTF, RTFD or OpenOffice. I cannot abide yet another file format that will strand my data. That ruled out Mellel and, sadly, AbiWord. I don't care if it's the second coming of WordPerfect, it has a stupid proprietary file format. That also rules out Pages and AppleWorks...

I wanted a Mac native OpenDocument compatible word processor, but that didn’t happen (remember when the EU was going to make OpendDocument work?). So I settled, for a time, on RTF. In theory. In practice I didn’t do much wordprocessing on my Macs, I did most of my writing in, MarsEdit and Google Docs. On Wintel I used Word.

I’m not using Wintel these days, so I was looking for something other than plain text for my Mac document work. Pages is an act of desperation, and until recently Word for Mac was a lousy product, so I started using TextEdit as a document editor because its default file format is RTF.

That’s how, rather late to the game, I realized that nothing on my iPhone would work with RTF. Google Drive will display RTF contents, and convert RTF to Google Doc, but since none of my iPhone apps supported RTF I couldn’t use an app extension to open those files.

So I started asking what was up with RTF. The short answer is that RTF died - sometime between 2006 and 2012. I’ve been unable to find an obituary — it simply passed from the scene. RTF only lives on in TextEdit because it’s been baked into OS X since time immemorial — but not iOS. (Nisus Writer still uses RTF as a native file format. Might be time to give that up.)

Sheesh. Shouldn’t there at least have been a eulogy?

I guess .docx is our de facto native document file format; the heir to the dreams of RTF and OpenDocument and many before [1]

Meanwhile geeks are using plaintext and markdown.

This is really not what we expected...

- fn -

[1] If you create a new document in TextEdit, then hit cmd-opt-s, you can specify docx and save. TextEdit will then stick with .docx. There doesn’t seem to be a way in Yosemite, secret or public, to make TextEdit use .docx as a the new document format.

See also:

Things to do when selling or retiring an old iPhone

Among other issues, Apple has longstanding problems with their customer identity infrastructure and how it intersects with their device registration, DRM rules, and messaging systems. Under iOS 8, for example, there appear to be 4-5 different authentication channels for Apple products even when a user has only one AppleID.

Which is why, in the course of moving the kid’s iPhones around, I made a list of the steps I take when deactivating an old iPhone (for sale, disposal, or migration to the backup stack):

Note that you can change the iTunes Store Apple ID associated with an iPhone only every 90 days.

Did I miss anything?

By the way, even after doing all this, I found lots of old devices when I use iOS 8 FindPhone...

Update 9/26/2015

While browsing Google Account Security I found this ..

Google device

Google keeps track of devices (unclear how it identifies a device) in addition to credentials. If it gets valid logins from an unknown device it sends out a warning email. 

So if you want to be very careful when you retire an old iPhone, you should review the Google Account Security Device activity & notifications page for every Google account you use and remove the old device.

I haven’t bothered to do this methodically, but it’s a reminder of how hard it is to throughly remove all connections between one’s identity and one’s devices.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Appigo ToDo task management suite: Archiving and Export of completed tasks and projects is non-negotiable requirement

Appigo has deferred work on archive and export of tasks and projects for at least two years and possibly longer. When I paid Toodledo to provide back end services I could live with’s missing features, but when I switched full time to ToDo for iOS and ToDo for Mac with ToDo Cloud support it became a real concern. I gradually realized Appigo wan’t showing any inclination to change.

I’ve tried one last ticket request:

[#85787] Archiving and Export of completed tasks and projects : Appigo Inc.

There are two closed discussions related to archiving of completed tasks and related request to export tasks and project data.

I know about setting sync to 1 year, I know ToDo web version will paginate completed tasks (up to 1 year?) and I know I can access tasks via SQLite (but dates are proprietary format).

I know I can sponge off Toodeldo and use them as an archive format without sending them any money (unethical).

I need more than that. I signed up for ToDo Cloud and I use both the iOS and Mac version intensively, including all Project features. I can't continue using ToDo Cloud if I can't have long term storage of project/task information as well as archive export.

It's just an essential requirement. If you can't tell us you're going to do this I need to find another product."

I have a feeling I know where this goes. So I’m looking again at Things an Omni, and it may be that I’ll reverse my shift and return to Toodledo.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Weirdness with Yosemite Google accounts and email configuration: "This message may not have been sent... Report phishing"

I noticed my daughter was receiving email sent from my iPhone with my email address but the sender name of “Gmail personal”.

It took a while to figure out that this sender name was coming from how I named one of the user accounts for … on OS X.

I really don’t understand this, but a Google search somehow sent me to this seemingly unrelated conversation ...

Fortunately, I know better than to ignore the nsAI of our time (non-sentient AI) - so I started poking around the configuration of my “Internet Accounts” (Yosemite, click Details after choose account name) and my OS Account settings (which are sort of like the “Internet accounts” and sort of not like them).

There I found some oddball settings for Outgoing Mail Server — on a freshly configured machine (I didn’t migrate from prior machine):

Screen Shot 2015 09 06 at 8 57 01 PM

Screen Shot 2015 09 06 at 8 57 29 PM

I deleted the odd outgoing mail server .. .and stopped sending email.

There’s a problem with Yosemite and multiple Google accounts on one OS X user account. i’m still figuring this out. I suspect the keychain is involved...

Update: It seems to be working at the moment. I had to create a unique SMTP server for each account and entering my Google credentials (2F bypass password for one of ‘em). I don’t think it’s supposed to work this way. I think in theory there’s a typical Apple hack whereby one does Google authentication in OS X System Preferences and OS X is supposed to create keychain entries uses. In practice this appears to fail when a user has more than one Google account...

An AskDifferent thread also implications the keychain, and since the keychain is iCloud synced its configuration can poison multiple clients. i suspect Apple (engineer? product?) simply decided to ignore people with multiple Google accounts.

Update 9/26/2015

In much the same thread I ran into a similar configuration problem on a different Yosemite Mac. This time a correspondent reported Google was warning him my email was suspicious:

Screen Shot 2015 09 26 at 3 03 46 PM

I figured that Google was seeing a mismatch between the stated sender domain and the SMTP sending service domain. When I looked in account configuration (not to be confused with OS X account configuration) I found this:

Screen Shot 2015 09 26 at 3 00 02 PM

I have two Google accounts configured, one a Google Apps account (single factor) and another a Gmail account (2FA). The “Home” (2FA) account was using the SMTP server I’d labeled “Gmail Work”. Wrong one.

I switched the the Gmail Home (my definition) SMTP server, which was setup this way by OS X. NOTE the lack of password. Despite the UI displayed here OS X doesn’t actually use the account password. It does some other form of authentication for this 2FA account, possibly via some OAUTH token magic stored in the OS X keychain (which is synchronized between devices, and since Google looks for matches between device and credentials I suspect that causes issues):

Screen Shot 2015 09 26 at 3 05 20 PM

After switching the SMTP service to this one (“Gmail Home”) my next email did not generate a phishing warning.

Friday, September 04, 2015

AT&T Mobile Share - Reviewing our options

Emily and I switched to AT&T’s no-contract shared data plan over a year ago and saved about $25/month. With the iPhone’s (crappy compared to Android) cellular data use controls we were doing pretty well with 2GB a month. Unfortunately over the past year Google Maps started using a lot more data (no idea why). Between Google Maps and adware bloat we started to hit 2.5GB/month — but then an AT&T special (we had to request) gave us 3GB/month for the same rate. There’s no contract to change by the way, so it’s much less worrisome to make changes now.

During this time the kids were on H2O wireless prepaid. H2O wireless worked well for years as a $40/year voice only service, but things got more strained when #1 needed reliable data services (find friends in particular) and #3’s social necessities required high volume SMS. Then we ran into the flip-side of MVNO’s low cost — truly lousy customer service. We’ve since ported two of the kids numbers to the AT&T mobile shared data plan, one remains on H2O (he almost never uses his phone).

So now we have 4 devices on AT&T mobile share. Time to examine plan options.

That’s almost impossible to do except by requesting a plan summary handout from an AT&T store. Almost … except that using phrases from the handout I located the equivalent very well hidden readable online mobile share plan summary (of course it doesn’t include corporate discounts many of us have).

We currently have 4 devices ($25*4=$100) and 3GB — except that AT&T did something weird the other day. Our official plan is “3GB” for $40, (this is what a store account rep sees), but we actually have “3GB and 3GB Bonus” or 6GB for $40. A Reddit poster interrogated an AT&T phone rep about this mystery bonus:

In an effort to recognize our customer’s loyalty [tenure], we want to show you our appreciation and thank you for being our customer by giving you more data for the same monthly MRC. You don't have to do a thing to get more data – we automatically added it to your plan at the start of your current bill cycle! If you decide to change your plan, including a change in your data bucket size, you will be allowed to select any current plans offered at that time; however, this promotion will no longer be available

So our total cost, pre-discount and not including significant hidden fees and taxes, is $140 for 4 devices and more data than we need (6GB plus rollover).

Looking at the current plan summary we could do 3GB for $45 (2GB for $30 plus $15 for extra GB) - but that’s less data for more money and same device cost, $145. Or we could do 20GB (much more than we need) for $140 plus ($15*4=$60) for devices, or $200. That plan includes free Canada calls, but we do that for free using Google Voice. That would be a terrible waste of money.

More interestingly we could drop to 2GB for $30/month, total cost $130 for $10/month reduction (over the past year AT&T has dropped cost of 2GB plan by 25%). I think, with rollover, we’d vary between 1.8 to 2.9 GB/month for an average cost of about $135/month. Slightly less than our current plan, but not a big difference and the data hassle would be much larger.

So we’ll stay where we are. Your numbers will vary; we get a typical corporate discount as well and those are certainly worth pursuing. We will continue to track Ting and its growing GSM use and, of course, T-Mobile.

PS. Incidentally, AT&T has a new SIM Unlock procedure, saw this while reviewing my account:

Apple iPhone 4S
PUK: ##########
Follow these steps to unlock your SIM card:

Enter the eight-digit PUK above, then select OK/Yes. Note: Some Motorola phone users will need to enter **05* if "Enter PUK" isn't displayed. Then enter the eight-digit PUK and select OK/Yes
Choose a new PUK and select OK/Yes
Re-enter the new PUK and select OK/Yes
If the codes were entered correctly, you can now use your phone

Have an iPhone?
If you enter the wrong PUK 10 times in a row, your SIM card will be permanently deactivated. You might see a message like "PUK blocked. Call operator." You'll have to start over. You can:

Buy a new SIM card from an AT&T retail store
Use our technical support chat (full site) or call us at 800.331.0500.
Have a different type of phone?
If you enter the wrong PUK 10 times in a row, the SIM card will be permanently locked. If you see a message like "PUK 2," you'll need to:Buy a new SIM card from an AT&T retail store

Monday, August 31, 2015

Yosemite Mac travel time feature isn't compatible with Google Calendar

Travel Time for Appointments in Apple Calendar (Yosemite) is a nice feature, but it’s not compatible with Google Calendar. I suspect travel time is an attribute of the appointment, not a separate appointment, and it’s not a standard CalDAV feature.

So if you’re using iOS or OS X with a Google Calendar back end don’t bother with this feature. 

Is kind of nifty I admit.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Parental Controls? Home VPN? Turn abandoned PC into Sophos firewall for free home use.

Via I’ve learned that Sophos has a free for non-commercial (max 50 IP) home edition product:

Free Firewall: Home Edition for the Sophos UTM Firewall

Our Free Home Use Firewall is a fully equipped software version of the Sophos UTM firewall, available at no cost for home users – no strings attached. It features full Network, Web, Mail and Web Application Security with VPN functionality and protects up to 50 IP addresses.

The Sophos UTM Free Home Use firewall contains its own operating system and will overwrite all data on the computer during the installation process. Therefore, a separate, dedicated computer is needed, which will change into a fully functional security appliance. Just right for the spare PC you have sitting in the corner!

… Use Web Filtering to stop sites from infecting you with viruses and spyware, keep your kids from surfing to bad sites, and get full reporting on the activity in your home…

… Dial in using Roadwarrior VPN access to securely use Remote Desktop, transfer files, and even print, from anywhere in the world, even from your iPhone...

The usual installation is on an old PC, but it can be used "within a virtual machine … Virtual appliance can be run directly in any VMware vSphere Edition”. From a quick read however an old PC with two network cards is more practical.

One should proceed with caution however - the download page has a bad link to a “Sophos Community” support forum; the real forum is hidden away at an url. I assume this product was acquired from astaro. There is activity on the forum, but you need to be prepared for some pain to make this work.

Other VPN alternatives mentioned in that thread: OpenVPN (easier to setup than OS X Server VPN) and, of course, Synology NAS. I think you’d only want to try this product for the web filtering and monitoring features.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Mac web authoring for non-experts: My choices 2015.

In the beginning we wrote web pages in BBEdit and we FTPd them to a NeXT box.

Things progressed quickly. Almost two decades ago, when Microsoft FrontPage 97 was released and Macromedia created Dreamweaver, there were many powerful Windows applications for creating largely static web pages - with dynamic reflow based on HTML tables [1]. Operating systems, like Windows 95, shipped with a native web server. Netscape added Composer, fulfilling TBL’s original vision of the web as authoring environment. Non-technical users worked with server based systems, ultimately producing millions of web pages on sites like GeoCities [3].

Technology has moved in odd ways. There’s nothing quite like mass market FrontPage today, though Sharepoint Designer/Wiki came close and SeaMonkey survives. Dreamweaver is the strongest survivor of the original era, but it has evolved into a high end tool leased for $20 a month. I don’t think there’s a practical way to move Dreamweaver content to another platform, so adopting Dreamweaver is a deep commitment to the Adobe platform.

At one point I thought the Wiki would fill the vanishing mid-market niche [2], but Wiki solutions seem to have stalled out - much like WebDAV technologies. iWeb/MobileMe came and went quickly - an early sign of Apple’s decade (so far) of dysfunctional application development and fondness for destroying customer data.

Today developers hand code web sites in Coda, a programmer’s tool not so different from the BBEdit we started with. Other experts use Adobe's deep lock-in solutions, from Dreamweaver to Muse ($15/month) or open-source server-based WordPress (Less technical users some might use Blogger in a similar way).

For non-experts Weebly’s small business oriented server side authoring platform is an option, but it’s another deep data lock commitment to one vendor. Google Sites, amazingly, is still around, but focused on intranet solutions.

There are two longlived Mac desktop products both sold for $80 on the Mac App Store: RapidWeaver (presumably inspired by DreamWeaver) and Sandvox. I’ve tried both in the past, Sandvox more frequently than RapidWeaver. Neither product supports wysiwyg table authoring. RapidWeaver was last updated in January of 2014 and has three stars in the Mac App Store; it may be in maintenance mode. SandVox was last updated in April 2015 and has recently added a hosting service (revenue stream!), it has 4-5 star ratings. It’s App Store page still references iPhoto and Aperture however. Of these two I think Sandbox is more likely to make it to 2017.

It’s rarely mentioned anywhere, but TextEdit will export to well formatted HTML, and it even has table support (since 2006 at least). You can embed images and export — but only in single file “webarchive” format. As a simple page editor it’s not too bad, and it’s as standard as anything is these days, but the image limitations are a killer. (I suppose one could similarly author in Pages then view in Pages/web and export the code.)

Similarly one could author in Blogger or WordPress (example: free blog) wysiwyg mode, switch to HTML mode, and paste the HTML into a text editor (Coda?) for FTP upload. Or I could author in MarsEdit (as in this post) and similar export the HTML view as a file. Nisus Express and Pro both include HTML import and export; I don’t know how well their table export works and if embedded images are exported. When I last tried them years ago they weren’t a practical HTML authoring solution.

Google Docs work quite well for sharing and editing online, but they’re not useful for a root (www) web document. Very proprietary of course, but in some ways Google Docs are the closest thing we have today to the original view/edit vision of the www. I haven’t tried sharing iCloud Pages web sharing, but it seems like it would work similarly; it also can’t serve as root page of a web site.

Of the options today, what makes the most sense for me? There aren’t a lot of options on the table, so things should filter quickly with a few constraints:

  • I’d like to avoid dying products.
  • I want to be able to produce a reasonably pretty looking site without a lot of effort (iWeb pretty at least).
  • I’d like a solution that works with Dreamhost and it’s (typical) constraints on www/domain mapping [4]. 
  • I don’t want to sell my soul to Adobe. 
  • I’m not a developer and web authoring isn’t my profession. 
  • I really miss wysiwyg HTML tables and table based layout, but they are clearly gone. Still, I’d love basic table support.
  • I’d prefer to avoid hard data lock.
  • I’d like something that managed a site and updated links when I rearranged web page relationships or renamed pages.
  • I’d like to avoid major malware and security issues. Static sites are very nice that way.
  • Mac (or course) or Safari if server based.

Based on my review of the options, and applying my constraints, it’s easy to see that my best choice is ….  is …. Ok. Nothing survived the constraints. It’s easy to see why I’ve been struggling with this for about 15 years.

If I relax a few constraints I think my least bad options are WordPress (free) and Karelia Sandvox ($80). So I’m going to try both of those — and maybe, if only to close the long loop, Coda too.

Am I missing anything?

See also

- fn -

[1] I think we took the wrong road when we entirely substituted CSS for dynamic tables; no modern tool approaches the table management power of FrontPage 98. Perhaps this happened because it was insanely difficult to manage table authoring by hand, it was really a job computers did better than humans.

[2] Speaking of vanishing mid-market, remember when personal finance software was big? Intuit is trying to find a buyer for Quicken and its future looks quite bleak.

[3] The immolation of GeoCities, echoed on a smaller scale with the 2012 death of MobileMe’s iWeb based web pages, should not be forgotten.

[4] The odd handling of the www domain is, I think, a legacy of early net development. It is a pain in the butt.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

H2O Wireless just redid their prepaid accounts. Might be time to abandon ship.

H2O Wireless has been a rock-bottom ultra-cheap prepaid AT&T MVNO for our kids phones. I’ve used ‘em for years Our #2 son, who never uses his phone, cost us about $40 a year ($10 minimum payment, lasts 3 months). #1 son costs us more, about $150 a year, largely because we use Find Friends to track his cycling. HIs data use on an unlocked iPhone increases costs. #3 (daughter) was costing about $20 a month in texting fees alone; we relented and put her on our AT&T mobile share plan.

Alas, our H2O days may be ending. Today I’m unable to access my H2O account. Sometime in the past 1-3 weeks H2O redid their account system for prepaid users. Each phone must have its own account, and for web access each phone must be registered with a distinct email and password. It’s no longer possible to manage multiple phones from one account. In an extra twist our phones may be orphaned — our account number was my personal AT&T mobile number, and that’s not an H2O number. Their system upgrade didn’t account for that possibility.

Well, I knew that was a risk with a bottom-feeder service. I’ll have to see if I can salvage one of the accounts — it has a fair amount of credit on it (since I had to pay $40 a year to keep #2’s account open, but he rarely used any service). I can setup redirects on one of my domains, so I'll create unique emails of the form, give each account the same password, and see if I can salvage one or two accounts. I think it’s time to try again (ain’t easy, carriers cheat on portability rules all the time) to port #1’s primary number to AT&T.


On further inspection there’s good news and bad news. 

The bad news is that the chat service rep had no idea how H2O wireless accounts work. I actually called a second time and that chat rep was following the same incorrect script — their documentation doesn’t match the site behavior.

The good news is that in reality the system hasn’t changed that dramatically. The contact number on the account doesn’t have to be an H2O number. You add H2O numbers to the account one at a time, entering a passcode (seems to make it rather easy to steal numbers, but there you go). Since I only learned this by experimenting with a new email address I seem to have moved the numbers from my old account to the new one, with balances intake.

The really bad news is even the 800 support number people have no idea how the web site works.

Oh, and one number won’t transfer. I think I just need to port that one to AT&T and live with the other two...

Friday, August 14, 2015

Deleting a sparsebundle: Disk Utility Erase doesn't work either. Or does it?

Years ago OS X Mountain Lion could not delete sparse bundles containing over 262,144 bands (2TB+). I don’t know if that’s still true, but when I had to remove a 1.7TB disk image today I first tried doing an Erase using Disk Utility.

Alas, this didn’t work. When I opened the image it was indeed empty. However First Aid on the volume reported it was corrupt. When I tried deleting it I got the usual OS X hang. 

So this problem is still around…

Update: on the other hand deleting the sparse bundle in Finder took 2-3 minutes rather than 12 hours. So maybe there’s something to this. 

Mac - how do I share images to Facebook?

There should be a word for AmITheLastPersonOnEarthToKnowThis?

It’s a weird feeling. 

For years I’ve been puzzled by a lack of Mac tools for uploading to Facebook. Around 2013 or so Apple’s photo applications got that ability, but both Aperture and iPhoto have been axed (I still use Aperture, though I now avoid its native Facebook integration and iTunes photo sync). So it seems we’re back to where we started from; doesn’t seem to have a native share option.

Except I missed this: Share on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and more — probably because by the time I adopt an Apple OS update my geek sources have moved on to the next one.

From the Finder,, and newer apps there is a context menu share sheet extension similar to iOS, and it includes Facebook sharing. You can select multiple items and you can share to Timeline or a Facebook album. You can’t create a new album, you have to do that from Facebook. There’s no synchronization/album management (was problematic for me in Aperture anyway), it’s just an uploader.

Screen Shot 2015 08 14 at 2 08 58 PM

An appreciated uploader, because I’ve never gotten Facebook’s album uploader to work for me on a Mac.

In you can’t share directly from a Shared photo stream, but you can create an album from the photo stream images an share from that. You edit your share options (Extensions) in Preferences.

Update: BEWARE - i thought I uploaded a test album as “only me” (as above) but on Facebook it was Public. Maybe I clicked the wrong target, but be careful… 


Thursday, August 13, 2015

iTunes 12 and iOS 8.4 photo sync bug with Aperture (and iPhoto?) causes silent sync failure for my Audiobooks

Props to for clueing me into this bug. I’d been seeing iTunes/iPhone sync hangs with my device, but when I returned iTunes seemed to have completed. I forgot, probably because I’m tired of tracking Apple’s issues [1], that iTunes “swallows” fatal errors during device synchronization. In retrospect it wasn’t completing sync.

The clue that I had a real problem was that I couldn’t get new Audiobooks, which must be transferred by old-time iTunes sync because they’re stuck in the 00s, to show up on my iPhone. Clark’s note gave me the idea to turn off photo sync. With photo sync disabled iTunes put the Audiobooks on properly.

There are two Apple issues here. One is an iTunes/iOS bug with Aperture (and probably iPhoto), the other is that iTunes hides serious failures from its users. There’s not much hope for either bug. Aperture/iPhoto have been abandoned (as best I can tell nobody uses and the iTunes error-handling problem is quite old.

I’m going to also disable my Aperture screen saver module to further isolate Aperture for OS problems. Now that I have a workaround for Apple’s ancient network share photo slideshow bug I’ll just export our slideshow images to a thumb drive hanging off our Time Capsule.

[1] Apple’s software engineering issues are impressive. At this point Tim Cook has full responsibility — failure of a major organizational function is always the CEO’s responsibility.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Aperture - I think the Facebook integration may be bad news.

I ran into some Aperture issues lately, and in the process of debugging I created a new instance of my @40,000 image 300GB Library.

After the rebuild one Facebook album was empty, an album that showed with the number ’84’ in its title …

Screen Shot 2015 08 12 at 8 21 12 PM

It’s not the only empty Facebook album, there’ve been a few over the years. There was also this:

Screen Shot 2015 08 12 at 8 20 28 PM

Yeah, that’s weird.

I think I know what happened to the “Kayak” album — I think those were the images that behaved oddly. I exported them, deleted them in Aperture, and reimported. They were never 84 though — that’s weird enough that I’m going to dig through old backups to inspect older versions of Aperture. I suspect the count is a bug of some kind.

I don’t need this kind of risk. I loved being able to export albums to Facebook, but synchronization is hard, I don’t have much faith in Apple’s software engineering at the best of times, and Aperture is a dead product. 

So I went to remove my Facebook credentials from Aperture and I got this…

Screen Shot 2015 08 12 at 8 31 20 PM

3996? 25 maybe. Yeah, this thing is really buggy. Since I was working from a reconstruction of my still existing Library I went ahead and removed. Here are the before and after image counts:

Screen Shot 2015 08 12 at 8 34 13 PM

Yep, no change.

Now to try rsync -avnc $SOURCE $TARGET to see if I can figure out what did or didn’t make it to the reconstructed Library.


Tonight I started using as an adjunct to managing my iCloud shared albums. I noticed it does not have Facebook integration. Pretty strong hint there.

I’ve setup a completely separate Library for interacting with Facebook — if nothing else it can be a convenient uploader and album manager. That way there’s no risk to my core Library. I’ll have to figure out some automation for moving images between the Libraries and up to Facebook.

Update 8/13/2015

I clearly don’t know how to use rsync. My attempt just returned a list of all the files in my original Library. Diff took overnight, but returned a list of files only in the original. I opened up the Library with Finder’s ‘Show Package Contents’, navigated to the Masters (what I really care about) and then drag-dropped the folder into terminal diff -rq to get:

diff -rq /Volumes/Media/Backup/Current.aplibrary/Masters /Users/jgordon/Pictures/Current.aplibrary/Masters

This returned a list of 50 files. Which was kind of worrisome, but on inspection they were all thumbnails that I’d found and purged; under some conditions, perhaps related to buggy/dangerous Facebook synchronization, Aperture misfiles lost thumbnails as Masters.

Audiobooks not showing in iOS 8.4 iBooks? That's because they're still like Movies used to be. Also, The Great Courses.

Decades ago I talked about a personal dementia prevention solution. A dementia test application would be hidden in the OS, but about once a year it would randomly launch. Once it appeared I’d have to complete it — or a lethal shock would be administered. Fail the test — get the shock. The shock would look like an accidental short-circuit, so life insurance would pay out.

I like to think ahead.

I’m pleased to report that today we do have a dementia test, though we’re still working on the electric shock. The test, of course, is Apple’s iTunes and related iOS apps. If you can make them behave then you’re still a potentially viable worker; not yet ready for the Soylent factory.

I gotta admit, things are getting a bit worrisome. For example, today’s audiobooks adventure. It started when Emily decided to pick up some lectures from “The Great Courses” (which we once new as the “Teaching Company”, indeed that’s still the corporate name). We started listening to these about 25 years ago, playing cassette tapes while driving our Mazda 323 cross-country and spritzing ourselves with water spray (no air conditioning).

It’s been a year or so since we bought from them — these days I mostly listen to In Our Time Podcasts [1]. We got one of their 80% off flyers [2] though, and it was hard to resist tormenting the kids with automotive education. So we bought a few. The distribution is a bit complex — DVD or CD (for most lectures you really only want audio, but we did DVD for the $40 photography class) or “Windows” / “Mac” files [3] and (usually) supplemental streaming.

What they don’t mention is that many of their lectures can be purchased from iTunes for less than the CD or audio file download costs in iOS friendly Audiobook format. That’s a lot more convenient than their other options, and cheaper too. So I bought two lectures that way, a short history of London (#3 and I are visiting in October) and Daily Life in the Ancient World [4].

That’s when the dementia test showed up. It’s been years since our last audiobook purchase (viz: In Our Time) and everything has changed [7]. It took a couple of Google searches to figure out that Audiobooks were now tucked away in an obscure corner of Apple’s brutally neglected Some dungeon-chained Apple product manager decided they could be considered a kind of “Collection”. [5]

Okay, but I’d purchased them and they didn’t show up. Why was that? My Movies and Music and book-book purchases show up in iCloud. Why not these audiobooks? Google found me some documentation, the same team that decided an audiobook was a kind of “Collection” introduced an obscure control as an attribute of a particular Collection called “Hide iCloud Books” (even though these aren’t, you know, Books. Do you see a trend here?)

So I turned that Off, so they wouldn’t hide. That’s a double negative I guess.

Except they still didn’t show up.

This began to remind me of the old days, when we’d have one chance to buy music or videos and everything was managed and backed up using iTunes. Yep, it’s just like that, unchanged from 2013. Download to your phone, and it stays on your phone [6]. No iCloud joy, no freedom from iTunes, you need the old beast still.

Just audiobooks mind you. And, of course, it’s not documented.

Apple must be a desperate place to work these days…

- fn -

[1] Still using Apple’s awful and should chasten those who clamor for iTunes to be be divided into separate apps. Be afraid.

[2] Their pricing is a bit nuts — high list prices and large discounts. Do look for discount codes and the like before purchasing, though the iTunes audiobook prices are often quite reasonable

[3] Their audio/video file format recommendations are bit odd, but I didn’t have time to dig into it. Does Windows 10 still prefer wmv?

[4] I’ve chatted on about writing a book that would describe a ‘day in the life’, from pooping to earning money to playing with kids across history and geography. So I’m looking forward to this one.

[5] Collections used to be sort of meaningful in iBooks, but that ended a year ago.

[6] Well, not quite. If you go to your iTunes purchase record, click on problem and say you had trouble downloading, the purchases are added again to the download list. I had my original purchases, but tried that as an experiment.

[7] Very much for the worse. Audiobooks had a large regression with iOS 7. iOS 8.4 is, in some ways, a partial improvement on iOS 7. Which mostly shows how bad iOS 7 was. Tim Cook has failed to rescue Apple’s long ailing software engineering.

[8] It no longer works to manage iPhone content from both iTunes and iOS. It never worked well, but these days it doesn’t work at all. iTunes can’t synchronize device and desktop states. So if you use Audiobooks, and you have any hope of sensible software behavior, you probably need to go all iTunes for media management.

Update 8/13/2015: Audiobooks not being synchronized to iPhone

I thought I was done, but the Audiobooks wouldn’t sync to my iPhone. That turned out to be a side-effect of an iOS/iTunes bug with photo sync from Aperture. The Aperture photo sync bug causes iTunes sync to silently fail (no UI indication) prior to Audiobook transfer. Removing photo sync let the process complete.