Sunday, October 16, 2016

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

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

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

Detailed steps:

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

iCloud sorrow: the two ways to be in iCloud Drive

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

 Screen Shot 2016 10 16 at 8 28 56 PM

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

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

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


Friday, October 14, 2016

AT&T has an iPhone network configuration problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Scrivener can output multiple books from one Binder - if you use keywords rather than labels for the conditional compile.

Scrivener doesn’t do everything I want, but it is able to compile two books from one binder. It’s just not obvious.

The key is creating a conditional (filtered) compile.

I thought I could do this with labels, but they don’t work. Each binder item (text block) can have one label, and the compile condition only supports one label. So there’s no way to create a many:one relationship (ex: two books, 1 chapter).

Text blocks can have only one label, but they can have multiple keywords (tags). So keywords seem like they should work, but there’s no way to do a filtered compile off a keyword.

The trick is to create a named collection from a keyword search. Then use the collection name in the compile. That works. Keywords can be applied to both text blocks and to “folders”; you need the latter for chapter headings for example.

For my book I have two keywords, iPhone and Android, and two saved search collections of the same name. The compile uses one or the other. Common chapters get both keywords, platform specific chapters get one.

- fn -

[1] The keywords UI is an Aperture user element — which is very powerful but amusingly jarring. I assume it’s coming from an OS X API, though I wonder if it’s deprecated. The story of Apple’s abandoned Aperture app would make an interesting book.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Aperture on Sierra: cautious optimism.

Aperture has been sunset, but the Apple Discussion group is still active. I’m encouraged by a discussion thread on Aperture 3.6 in Sierra. Brian O’Reilly in particular has done a great job testing an Aperture Library across multiple Macs (I think he’s a serious photographer, but who has 4 MacBook Pros lying around?) with good results. In his testing many of the El Capitan bugs have been fixed - leaving only the amusing bug of inverted thumbnails in list mode.

Other users are having the kind of problems I’d expect — hard crashes on full screen toggle, uncaught exceptions, etc. There are probably multiple issues, but some of them sound like video driver issues with older Macs. Apple often fixes these bugs 3-5 months after initial release.

I like to wait 6-8 months to do a major Mac update, so there’s lots of time for things to improve. When the time comes I’ll do some testing with an external drive before making the conversion. Still, this is better than I expected. I was pretty sure I’d stay on El Capitan through mid-2018 before switching to then. (Surprisingly there’s still nothing in I really want.)

I can’t figure out how to link to a specific post in Apple’s new Discussion forums (which I dislike, but they are getting better), but here’s the text from Brian’s summary post with some edits and emphases, followed by my response …


…  [Known El Capitan bugs evaluated]

Thumbnails upside down in List view
Curves Adjustment and Straighten - not visible in export
Brush Adjustment - off by one pixel
Link to Plug-In menu not working
Keyboard shortcut ‘f’ (for fullscreen) causes crash
Keyboard shortcut ‘w’ (Inspector - Next Tab) causes crash

Test procedure

External Drive - Firewire 800
Clean install of MacOS 10.12 - customer release
Clean install of Aperture 3.6
Import of JPEG and Nikon Raw Images to a new Library - Images are Managed

Test machines:

The above Hard Disk was used a start-up drive on the following machines - with a Thunderbolt to Firewire adaptor as needed

MacPro 2012 - 64 Gb RAM
MacPro 2012 - 48 Gb RAM
MacPro 2010 -20 Gb RAM
MacPro 2010 -16 Gb RAM
Mac Mini Server Mid 2011 - 8Gb RAM
Mac Mini Late 2014 - 8 Gb RAM
MacBook Pro 17” Early 2011 - 16 Gb RAM
MacBook Pro 15” Early 2011 - 8 Gb RAM
MacBook Air Mid 2013 - 4 Gb RAM
MacBook Pro 15” Late 2014 - 8 Gb RAM

My test results are as follows - and were identical in all of the above tests

Thumbnails upside down in List view - Issue found
Curves Adjustment and Straighten - not visible in export - Issue not found
Brush Adjustment - off by one pixel - Issue not found
Link to Plug-In menu not working - Issue not found
Keyboard shortcut ‘f’ (for fullscreen) causes crash - Issue not found
Keyboard shortcut ‘w’ (Inspector - Next Tab) causes crash - Issue not found


… If machines after 2010 work better than before 2010 that would make me think of a video driver problem with Sierra. The good news is that those kinds of bugs are not app specific and they tend to get fixed in later versions of a major OS update.

If I had updated to Sierra and was having problems I’d try one or more of running Apple’s hardware test on my Mac, rebuilding the Aperture Library, rebuild JPEG previews and thumbnails, create a new empty Library, test that, them import the old Library into it, backup to a fresh Vault and then create a new Library from that Vault, run Aperture as a new user (so eliminate existing prefs), and perhaps try “Reprocess Original” to change to most current RAW processing.

Also, create an external (clean install) Sierra boot drive, install Aperture, and copy Library over to that for testing.

I don't plan to update to Sierra until spring 2017 at the earliest. If I do upgrade I'll do something like this:

1. Do multiple backups of Aperture.
2. Experiment first with a near-empty Library.
3. Be ready to try all the things listed above.

Monday, October 03, 2016

How to backup your iCloud data on a Mac

Apple has a support doc on backing up iCloud data with a less than ideal recommendation for macOS backup …

Archive or make copies of your iCloud data - Apple Support

To copy notes, open the Notes app at Copy the text of each note and paste it into a document on your computer, such as a Pages or TextEdit document. Save the document to your computer. To export your notes as PDF, open the Notes app in OS X Mountain Lion or later. Select the note, then click File > Export as PDF and choose a location.

Maybe Automator could make this scale, but I’ve never had much luck with Automator.

There’s a better approach that, oddly, Apple used to recommend …

How do you backup Notes? | Official Apple Support Communities

Open Notes.
Select View > Show Folders.
Create a new folder called Notes Backup in the On My Mac section of your folders list.
Select one or more notes from your All iCloud folder. Holding the Option key down, drag the notes into the Notes Backup folder. A green plus icon should appear as you're dragging the Notes to the new folder. This creates a copy of your iCloud Notes on your computer.
If you have an iCloud section in your folders list, but not an On My Mac section, you will need to create one.
Quit Notes.
In System Preferences, select iCloud. Deselect Notes.
Open Notes. Select File > New Folder. Name your folder Notes Backup. Create a new note in that folder as a placeholder. Quit Notes.
In System Preferences, select iCloud. Select Notes.
Open Notes. You should now see a section for iCloud and a section for On My Mac. Follow the instructions above for making a local backup of your iCloud Notes.

For this to work you need to enable the “On my Mac Account”. That may be disabled on most Macs and I suspect Apple would like to get rid of it. Which is perhaps why it’s no longer part of the backup support doc. In any case this does work on El Capitan, it does scale, and it enables restore.

If you ask Google how to backup, the AI presents this as a “pre-answer” above all web page results. Google’s AI does better than Apple’s support documentation team.

Apple needs a better backup/restore solutions for all of its iCloud data, especially, but for now this helps.

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.