Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Progress of sorts - integrating my simplenote memory extensions with gDrive

Nine years ago I wrote What my blogs are for: memory management and the Google-Gordon geek-mind fusion. It’s hard to believe now, but in those days we did not yet fear Google. Back then, we liked Google. Google was good.

That was a long time ago. Google has since transcended mere human morality (Galactus is a much better name than Alphabet btw). Unfortunately I haven’t transcended my need for artificial extensions to my working memory. To the contrary, that need has grown. Now in addition to my old technical expertise a change in employment means I manage more organizational and political knowledge. Oh, yeah, and I’m back to being a practicing doctor. So now I need to know adult male ambulatory internal medicine. Also, I am old and my brain is crud.

So, yeah, I need those memory extensions. I still use Google’s tools, though the Custom Search Engine I rely on to integrate my blogs with my link share stream and my ancient (hidden) web pages is all but forgotten. Since 2008 though I’ve moved away from the Google dominated web back to files and file systems as a memory store. Carrying a connected computer in my pocket made 1980s style files useful again. I rely in particular on plain text Simplenote to carry around fragments of memory. For regulatory/security reasons I have one Simplenote account for work memory and one for non-work memory — with some notes shared between both using Simplenote’s (simple!) sharing mechanism.

Spotlight indexes simplenote files on my iPhone — sadly only for one account. On my Mac nvAlt syncs to my personal simplenote account — so the text files are indexed by Spotlight there too. Today, guided by a @simplenoteapp tweet I installed Simplenote Electron (which Automattic is abandoning for a future fully native Mac upgrade [1]) and tied that one to my work account. Then I used the improved text export to create a local read-only copy of that memory store — which Spotlight Mac now indexes. So the stores are in one search space at last.

The last twist is that Simplenote local text stores are in a Google Drive folder, so synchronized to gDrive with appropriately stored folders such that appropriate text stores are searchable on both devices. Sadly gDrive does not support “Available offline” at the folder level — so when I don’t have data access I also lose some memory access. (I’m hoping Google will fix this.)

The gDrive integration is important because there are limits to plain text - particularly for medical topics. I have PDFs, Word Docs, Google Sheets and other detritus of decades of notes. I can put all of that in gDrive alongside the text notes and let search figure it out. (This is what Evernote is supposed to be good for but they don’t have a clear exit strategy. It’s trivial to walk away from Simplenote. I need that exit strategy [2].)

It’s all one heck of a kludge, but so is my memory. So kind of fits.

See also:

- fn -

[1] It has the same search bug as Simplenote/Mac!

[2] For example - if they don’t fix that damned search bug [1].

 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Selling or retiring an iPhone -- I hope you disconnected Google Authenticator and Google Prompt first.

Wipe that iPhone to give to your child or sell? I’m sure you remembered to launch Google Authenticator and remove the device from your trusted device list before you erased all …

Using a new phone to receive 2-Step Verification codes - Google Account Help

… On your old phone, open the Google Authenticator application…

Oh, you forgot about this step? You are clearly inadequate.

There’s hope though. Assuming you have a computer, there’s another option hidden away …

Add or remove trusted computers - Google Account Help

… Under “Devices you trust,” select Revoke all...

Except that’s not a bit misleading. There are more options once you sign into you Google Account and dig through the “Sign-in & security” section, select Signing in to Google, and Choose 2-step verification.

There you can remove the “Google Prompt” iPhone that manages authentication via Google App. That flips authentication to an Authenticator app (OTP authentication with RFC 6238 and 4226). The Authenticator app might be Google’s, a 3rd party, or 1Password or another password manager. I use Google’s because I started with it and I’m lazy.

You can also “change phone” on Google Authenticator. Authenticator is working for my new device though — which was restored from a 6s backup. So I didn’t do that immediately. 

Instead I removed the Google Prompt device, since that was still going to my (since erased) 6s. Then I added it back to my new iPhone 8. Google had the 8’s name so I authenticated there. 

Then, because I’m a paranoid sort, once I had Google Prompt working, I went into Authenticator on my i8 and removed my Google account then setup authenticator again from the 2-step verification page (scan barcode).

I’m sure everyone knows to do this. Otherwise why would pundits keep telling us to enable 2FA on every service we care about?

PS. I think when you authenticate within Safari for iOS Google can’t identify the host device. So my https://myaccount.google.com/device-activity list shows both “John8” (my current iPhone) and “Apple iPhone” — even though I believe they are the same thing.

PPS. I think if you want to be very careful you really should do the “Revoke all” as I suspect the old device Safari authentication can still be an issue (except I erased it, but if you’re paranoid …)

See also

Saturday, November 04, 2017

The Internet Lied: Apple's 3.5 mm to lightning adapter does support audio in -- for Apple's EarPods.

I was deceived.

Prior to buying my iPhone 8 I read that Apple’s 3.5mm to lightning adapter didn’t support audio in for earphones with a microphone. Not so! It works quite well with Apple’s EarPods.

It probably doesn’t work with other earphone microphones though. Apple’s EarPods have a different arrangement for the audio-in connection from some other earphones. I looked into this years ago and it wasn’t clear to me how much of a standard there really was. I dimly recall that Apple, shockingly, was different from most.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Did iOS 11.1 (partly) fix iTunes photo sync?

I’m back to wired sync for photo transfer after giving up on iCloud Shared Albums. The simplicity is a relief — except with 11.0 it wasn’t working well. Out of 8300 images in Aperture I was lucky to get 6200 to sync. Sometimes repeated sync brought over a few more, other times I was stuck.

With 11.1 I got them all. 

I still can’t get iTunes WiFi sync working though.

PS. I finally found some use for my iPad Air 2. I set it up at work without a network connection and play on device music and randomly display family album images using LiveFrame.app. I use MindNode.app to organize projects. It’s still marginally useful but that’s progress.

Update 11/3/2017: I think WiFi sync is working now.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Repairing Aperture database: 1061 recovered images ...

Aperture is an artifact from an age where Apple made ambitious software to handle big challenges.

Those were the days.

It’s not, however, flawless.

Periodically I rebuild the Aperture database. Sometimes all is well. Today there 1061 “recovered” images.

I’ve been through this before so I didn’t panic. I sorted by size and chose 10 version names from the largest 50. I then searched on each name and all of them were in the proper place at a larger size as well as in the “recovered” project. The recovered images were thumbnails.

When I get 10/10 I assume they are all thumbnails (most are a few hundred K vs. images of 3MB to 30MB). So I delete the Recovered Folder.

It is unsettling how often I have to do this.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Moving the family to 2TB of iCloud shared storage

We have five family members with 7 devices using iCloud storage. Four of us are paying $1/month for 50GB of storage, one is fine on the free 5GB. Mostly this suffices, but my daughter’s photos have been near the edge for a while [1]. Instead of updating her quota I decided to update the family to 2TB ($120 a year) and not have to worry about this for a while. First, of course, I confirmed that there was a way to unwind this decision.

I wondered how it would go since we all use a single iTunes account for purchasing DRMd material (video, movies, etc). We’ve done this long before family sharing was a feature and switching from to the new approach is a bit worrisome. (Family Sharing of DRMd material does have one advantage — whoever buys things gets to keep them when they separate from the family. As the kids tastes have diverged sharing is less useful.).

The iTunes account turned out not to matter. Family iCloud sharing runs off the family owner iCloud account, not the family owner’s iTunes account (Of course for most people these are, at least superficially, the same thing. I suspect they aren’t all that integrated in Apple’s famously messed up back end servers.)

I followed Apple’s support guide to update myself to 2TB. The guides aren’t that well done, they don’t make it obvious how the process works. I couldn’t enable the family sharing of my iCloud quota in Sierra (probably needs High Sierra), but it was easy to do on my iPad. Once that was enabled an iMessage went to family members for them to transition.

The experience for family members was a bit glitchy. For two members I could just tap on the iMessage, enter iCloud credentials and accept the switch. Users get a notice their current plan will end and they’ll receive a prorated reimbursement. The family member who was on the free quota didn’t need to opt in, he just go the expanded quota (an interesting security-convenience tradeoff). For the fifth family member I ran into several failed attempts on an iOS 10 device. I got as far as entering his credentials to access the upgrade but then the process failed. On his iOS 11 device I was able to make the switch from this iCloud manage storage settings. His iOS 10 device then also showed the correct settings.

Two TB is overkill. I might drop back to 200GB in a month or two — especially since I’m using less iCloud storage now. (I’ve gone back to Aperture-iTunes and a lightning cable for getting photos to my devices).

Update: After doing this I realized our family total is now just 67GB. So I downgraded to 200GB. Interestingly this didn’t take effect immediately — I wonder if it will take until the end of the current month. I’m not that concerned about the delay but it is a bit annoying. Note that we currently pay $4 for 200GB for each of four users, but will pay $3 for 200GB shared between 5 users. The 25% cost reduction is nice (I’m cheap) but the real deal is that a shared 200GB is far more efficient. My daughter will end up using 150GB and the rest of us will be fine with the residual 50GB. I’ll move the family to 2TB if/when we need to. Perhaps by summer 2020 Apple will have enhanced Photos.app and iCloud Photo Library enough for me to switch off Aperture. I’ll need the 2TB for that.

Update 11/8/2017: I checked with Apple Support via Twitter. We prepay for storage. When you go up it’s an immediate change and you are billed in a prorated fashion. When you go down the change applies to next billing cycle.

- fn -

[1] On the one hand the 50GB cap does motivate her to edit things. That’s good, but really she has enough stuff to deal with.  She doesn’t need one more painful discipline. Sometimes I gotta walk my Dad mistakes back …

How to do a simple random image picture frame type slideshow in iOS 11 on an iPad.

You know how you look for something on the web and you can’t find it?

That’s because it can’t be done with the base OS and nobody talks about the features that Apple has removed. There’s no ad revenue in that.

But I don’t take ads, so here you go.

This post exists to tell you that as of iOS 11 you can’t create a random picture-frame like slideshow on an iPad without a 3rd party app. Yes, the iPad used to be able to this. Once upon a time you could set a random image display up as a lock screen. Later this was moved to the Photos app.

With iOS 10 it died. In Photo albums on an iPad there’s a slideshow button (top right), but it only plays linearly. Which I loathe.

There are slideshow options by the way. They are insanely obscure. Start a slideshow. When an image appears, tap on it. There are a few options. No “shuffle” though.

There used to be an excellent third party app to do picture frame slideshows called Picmatic. My father loved it. He died before I updated his iPad to IOS 10. Good thing, because iOS 10 broke Picmatic and the developer never updated it (damn thing needed #$!$ subscription pricing).

There’s one “Picture Frame” app left on the App Store — LiveFrame.app. It worked with my Google shared libraries, but even though it could “see” my iCloud Shared Libraries it would hang when I tried to use them.

I’ve been fairly disgusted with iCloud Shared Libraries so I decided to try life without them (to be fair all image sharing except Instagram seems to have died). I turned iCloud Shared Libraries off on all my devices. I’d already given up on iCloud Photo Library. Then I went back to the stone age. I connected iTunes 12.7 to my iPad with a Lightning cable and had it sync 8,300 images from my Aperture “slideshow” smart album.

Of course the sync didn’t go easily. The image transfer aborted 3 times — without any notice. Mercifully the sync restarted where it left off. Unlike iCloud Photo Sharing I think iTunes supports a true 1 way sync; updates are relatively painless.

With the photos on my iPad, and no evil iCloudness, LiveFrame.app works. It’s no Picmatic, but it’s there. The developer should go to subscription pricing so they have an incentive to keep it around. There’s zero competition and this app is a perfect fit for subscription (no data lock, nothing to prevent switching).

Note — this slide show doesn’t need a data connection. The images are on the iPad.

So today one Apple thing worked — albeit an old thing. Sort of. That’s pretty good for Apple in 2017. (I can’t believe people are buying the iPhone X. Are they insane?!?)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

iCloud Family Sharing storage: What happens to Alice's photos when Bob drops her from the Family?

Alice and Bob are a “Family”. Bob, the Family Organizer, pays 2TB of iCloud shared storage. Alice has a 1TB iCloud Photo Library.

Alice and Bob split. Bob drops Alice from the “Family”. What happens to Alice’s photo library?

Apple doesn’t discuss this in their support article on leaving family sharing [1]. So I asked on Apple Discussions. I received several responses that seemed suspiciously knowledgeable [2].

There’s nothing written down, but I think both of these responses are correct …

"Apple is allowing a grace period to transition without issues, but that is an unstated, voluntary policy. AFAIK, Apple makes no promises of any kind that this policy won’t change, or even that it will be applied to all users.”

and

"iCloud keeps all of the information associated with your Apple/iCloud ID for 30 days whenever you have a payment issue or change.

When you joined Family Sharing, your Photo Library did not move or get re-associated with the Apple/iCloud ID that "owns" that data. It is tied to your ID even if you went with the Family Sharing plan. All that does is move the responsibility for paying for the storage from you to the Family Sharing organizer.

All you need to do is leave the Family Sharing plan, and then upgrade your iCloud Storage. Anything that was stored under your Apple/iCloud ID will remain in iCloud for 30 days, so if there is a gap between when you leave (or were removed) from Family Sharing and when you upgrade your iCloud Storage, as long as it doesn’t exceed 30 days, you should be good to go."

My takeaway is:

  1. Apple needs to write this down.
  2. Alice probably has 30 days to up her storage before she loses her photos (or, if Alice is geeky, she can move them locally).
  3. Alice should probably up her storage before she’s dropped from Bob’s account (assuming she has warning).
  4. Alice should always have a local full res Photos.app Library that’s backed up to a local drive (probably not by Time Machine, Apple is shockingly unclear about whether Photos.app can be safely backed up by Time Machine).

- fn -

[1] This is worth reading. I thought that children, on reaching 18, could retain a copy of DRMd material. Either I remembered incorrectly or policy changed. Effectively any FairPlay DRMd item has only one iTunes account owner.

[2] I think some respondents on Apple Discussions have inside information. I don’t know if they are contractors or employees or what.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

My latest attempt to reclaim my wife's stolen email address from Facebook

You cannot reclaim a personal email address used by a stranger’s Facebook account. Facebook’s procedures do nothing. 

Today I tried something different.

To review, a year or so ago my wife started getting Facebook notifications from “Ding”. Her iCloud email address was used by “Ding Ling” (https://www.facebook.com/ding.ling.98031) to create a Facebook account. I don’t know if my wife accidentally validated it or not but we’ve been unable to retrieve her email address.

Since we control the email we can reset the account password, but Facebook’s poorly documented procedures to reclaim the address did nothing.

So this time I again reset the password but then I followed Facebook’s directions to upload a legal ID (a way to take control of the account):

PleaseRemoveMyEmailFromThisPersonsAccount

I used my drivers license as a template to get past Facebook’s image size test then overlayed a text image requesting release of her email address.

I’ll update this post if it works. 

Yeah, there should be a law.

Update 10/29/2017

It worked. It took a few go rounds. Eventually I was directed to the same kind of form I’d submitted a year ago, but this time it got to a human. I had to send a summary response email from Emily’s iCloud account. I think it helped to point out that “Ding Ling” was obviously a fake account. Once the email was retrieved I added it to her account.

I wonder if somehow it mattered that Emily has both an iCloud and a “me” address for the same account (due to Apple’s old mobile.me migration). Her .me address was already associated with her Facebook account.

iCloud invitations to non-iCloud accounts are still broken

It’s been over a year since I first posted that iCloud invitations to a non-iCloud (ex: Google) account have been broken since 2011. Briefly, if someone sends an invitation from iCloud to my gmail address I’ll never see it. Somehow Apple looks up one of the four (that I know of[1]) iCloud accounts that I have, presumably one that references my gmail address, and uses that one instead.

In late 2016 Apple introduced an obscure workaround, an advanced iCloud (only) Calendar setting to receive event invitations by email — “if your primary calendar is not iCloud”.

I was working on a book chapter today so I revisited the old bug to check out the workaround. From my son’s (unused) iCloud Calendar I sent myself an invitation. Despite the setting nothing appeared in any of my (unused) Apple iCloud Calendars.

I waded through my Apple IDs to identify which one was associated with that Gmail address. I had to answer Apple’s “secret” questions [2] several times, but I found an Apple ID of mine associated with an iCloud account that did had the “receive by email” option enabled and had iCloud mail services. I tried from several iCloud accounts; none of the invitations appeared anywhere. They didn’t show as email, they didn’t show up on my iCloud calendar. They went into the ether.

Apple iCloud calendar invitations to non-iCloud addresses are still broken.

[1] Multiple iCloud accounts, some with email services and some without, is a longstanding Apple fiasco. Cook promised to clean it up several years ago and quietly abandoned hope. I periodically read hints from insiders that Apple’s identity management is more screwed up than even the most cynical outsiders can imagine.

[2] Also known as a hacker’s best friend.

 

Photos.app flailing during sync with iCloud Photo Library? Maybe it's a permissions problem.

My daughter uses Photos.app and a 50 GB iCloud Photo Library to manage her videos and images [1]. She edits on an older Air with a small SSD, in that environment Photos.app caches scaled res images and only downloads full res when editing.

In addition I run an instance of Photos.app for her that stores full res images. The Photos.app Library is stored on an external SSD that hangs off an Elgato T2 Hub attached to my beloved Air. The hub has been very reliable under El Cap and Sierra.

I have a user account for her on my drive, and in that account the external library is the Photos.app System Library. My Time Machine [3] and Carbon Copy [4] backups include that Library.

All was well under El Capitan. A few months ago I upgraded to Sierra [2]. Yesterday I decided to update her Photos.app library — only to discover I was a few months behind [5]. Her user account hadn’t been updated to Sierra; when I opened Photos.app her Library had to be updated.

Things did not go well. Photos.app said it was uploading @8,000 images (really it shouldn’t have uploaded anything, but Photos.app sucks), then @2,000, then @11, then … You get the idea. It did that when I went to bed, and it was doing it in the morning.

After a bit of playing around I discovered that a Sierra bug meant that she no longer had write permissions to the external SSD, even though macOS said she did. I switched to an admin account and there she had no permissions, so I added her. After that she could write to the SSD. Photos.app “stuck upload” was because it had no write permissions at all.

I decided to create a fresh Photos.app Library for her. To do that I turned off WiFi and did option-Photos.app startup to create a new Library. I copied the old Library to an external drive and deleted it. I then opened the new Library, made it the System Library (interestingly it showed images from a cache!), turned on WiFi and enabled iCloud Photo Library. The images then downloaded from iCloud (source of truth) and restored my local backup copy.

- fn -

[1] She is chronically running against the limit — which isn’t all bad. It enforces some editing. I might switch to sharing a 200GB plan, but I’m not sure how that will work with our current family use of a single iTunes password. Future experiment needed.

[2] I like to wait at least 8 months before accepting Apple’s dangerously buggy macOS updates.

[3] Our two Airs do Time Machine backups up to a Synology NAS. After some initial issues that has been utterly trouble-free. The NAS has two RAID 1 drives, if one fails the other survives. This is another reason I wait for macOS bugs to get fixed; I also need things like VMs and NAS to be updated.

[4] CCC backups to a 4TB low heat drive in a Voyager cradle with Firewire 800 connection to the Elgato hub. I rotate 4 drives. Rotation is every 2-3 weeks, 1 drive is across town, the other in my Van. A Yellowstone eruption would take them all out unless the van outran the pyroclastic flow. It is a shame that offsite internet backup has failed.

[5] Only automated backup ever works — and no form of backup is reliable.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Mobile device management and Apple Classroom for home

Contrary to Ziff-Davis (ok, it was 2013) there are several vendors who provide MDM solutions for home use. MMGuardian and Qustudio are two of them.

I wonder though if it’s possible to cobble something together at home that would work with Apple Classroom. OS X server ($20) includes Profile Manager, Apple’s MDM manager (support). Joshua Jung has written a nice tutorial on getting Profile Manger working. In theory Apple Classroom should be able to work with this …

Anyone try it?

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Quicken for Mac moved our financial data to their servers and we can't remove it

From Quicken.com support:

What is the Quicken Cloud?

 …The Quicken Cloud data cannot be deleted, although there may be an option to delete it in the near future.

Quicken Cloud is used to sync data for mobile devices. We don’t use Quicken mobile, we only use Quicken for Mac. We did not enable Quicken Cloud sync, we were careful not to enable it.

It appears an update turned it on. Our financial data is now on Quicken’s servers. The servers of a company that clearly has its head deeply buried in an orifice. I’m sure they’re just great at net security.

Anyone know of any good lawsuits against Quicken.com we can support?

Update 10/29/2017

Via Twitter: FAQ: How to remove cloud data in Quicken Mac 2017 4.6.x. I followed the directions. As best I can tell data can flow from most of our transaction partners either directly or via the Quicken cloud. When this procedure is applied transactions revert to Direct where possible. Some don’t work Direct, they stay in the Cloud.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Life with Apple: Podcasts move to streaming only

In a move that feels as inevitable as death and taxes, Apple has made podcasts effectively streaming only. The same thing is likely to happen to all media, Podcasts just went first.

Until recently macOS iTunes and iOS Podcasts.app supported both file based sync, including Playlists, and streaming based distribution with an unreliable sync of podcast metadata.

With iOS 11 iTunes playlists are no longer represented in Podcasts.app. You can still create Playlists in iTunes made up of local files and/or cloud references, but they stay in iTunes. The Playlists were the main way I organized listening to my large collection of file-based In Our Time podcasts and my medical education podcasts. No more. I’m now dependent on the very limited (ok, crap) organization abilities of Podcasts.app.

Apple has long had problems with video that moved to an iPhone from both iCloud and iTunes. iBooks synchronization is a mess too if you mix non-Apple store ePub with streamed iBook.

This is ugly and going to get worse. We’re moving fast into the DRMd hard data-lock rental-only future.

Update: Many good threads on this in Apple Communities. They reminded me to leave feedback. Stations are not a substitute for playlist sync, but even on their own they are missing a key filter — limit to on-device items.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Photos.app is as stupid about JPEG Export as iPhoto and Aperture.

Try this experiment.

1. Import a camera produced JPEG into Photos.app. Check the size. Let’s say it’s 6.8MB.

2. Don’t edit the image. Export it as maximum quality JPEG. Check the size. It will be something like 17.2MB.

Even though the image was native JPEG, and it wasn’t edited, Photos.app decompressed and then recompressed it. Adding 11MB of non-value.

Unchanged from iPhoto and, for that matter, Aperture.

There should be a better way. (No, unmodified original is not a better way — because if editing were done, or the original were not JPEG, then you would want the transformation.)