Saturday, November 28, 2015

iPhone 6 screen pop problem

A day ago, as I slid my finger along the right side of my 9 month old iPhone 6 screen, I heard and felt a sharp pop.

It is the sort of thing Emily would ignore, but of course it bugs me. The screen worked properly, but every time I passed over the SIM card area I felt a little, distracting, pop.

I’m not the only one. As of Nov 28, 2015 Apple Support Communities has a mega-thread on the problem that started in Sept 2014.

Here’s my contribution:

I've scanned this thread. My impression is that there's more than one theme in the thread. Some people have a relatively simple defect -- a screen that's clearly loose. That may be related to dropping the phone or "bad luck" and it sounds straightforward. In some cases there may be loose screws at the base of the phone (these are very tiny screws, few people have the right tools to tighten them -- I'd let the Apple store do it).

More people, especially more recently, have a distinct "pop" sound with light pressure over a part of the display. It can be any part of the display. This sounds like either a design or manufacturing flaw or both. We'd need an expert in iPhone assembly to contribute. I can imagine a small structural deformity related to dropping the phone or imperceptible "pocket-bend" or a problem with screen glue chemistry.

If you squeeze firmly (but not TOO hard) over the pop area the problem will often clear for a few days to a week (which sounds like a bonding issue). I suspect Apple techs are "fixing" some phones this way.

When an iPhone is replaced under warranty Apple typically distributes a refurbished phone, and it sounds like they often have the same issue. It may be that Apple still doesn't understand the problem and that they haven't tested refurbs for the defect. As of Nov 2015 I don't think Apple has distributed a fix to service centers.

The fix may be expensive. It may require replacement of the screen/touch sensor, or frame replacement or even both. From my experience with similar defects on iMacs once Apple understands the problem they will fix it under warranty but if the repair is costly they may or may not do a post-warranty repair program. (Long discussion threads seem to help, contrary to what's often said here I think Apple does monitor long threads).

I'm going to take my phone to a local Apple store for review. If they don't know the cause (or are not authorized to discuss it) I'll hold onto my phone -- but I'll keep a record of the visit so I have proof the problem occurred under warranty.

Squeezing the pop area “fixed” it for me, but I expect the problem to return. I have almost 3 months of 1 year warranty coverage left, so I have time to wait and see if a fix emerges. (If the pop doesn’t return before my Genius appointment I’ll reschedule.)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Old pet peeve: Blogger uses <BR> tags instead of <P> tags to demarcate paragraphs

I wrote about Blogger’s mad formatting 4 years ago and five years ago. I guess it’s time again. This time I’ll include some screenshots.

My recent ebook DRM post as it appears in MarsEdit:

Screen Shot 2015 11 26 at 11 51 12 AM

The MarsEdit HTML view, each paragraph wrapped in <p>:

Screen Shot 2015 11 26 at 11 52 08 AM

How it looks when viewed as Blogger page:

Screen Shot 2015 11 26 at 11 53 37 AM

Now view source (amazing how much cruft there is in the source):

Screen Shot 2015 11 26 at 11 54 44 AM

Yes, still wrapped in <p>. Now let’s try to edit it using Blogger’s rich text editor. Suddenly the paragraphs are gone

Screen Shot 2015 11 26 at 11 56 14 AM

Blogger HTML view shows all the <p> tags have been replaced by a single <br /> tag:

Screen Shot 2015 11 26 at 11 57 30 AM

This is a very old problem. I think this was configurable in pre-2010 blogger, but it doesn’t seem to be now. I doubt Blogger will ever fix this, I wonder they do this to be consistent with languages that don’t use paragraphs [1].

 There are two things MarsEdit could do to help since Blogger is never going to change:

  1. Provide an option to follow Blogger’s convention and use two <BR> tags instead of one <P> tag when publishing. Do same conversion when bringing back an old post to edit.
  2. Make it easier to edit an old post in MarsEdit — which is probably only possible if there’s some way to send Blogger a current URL and get back a post identifier that the API can work with. Otherwise I assume MarsEdit would need a post identifier like … blogID=5710205 … postID=1945754734324659424

[1] Update: I’m being too kind to Blogger, this really is a bug. If Blogger is replacing <p> tags on an English language blog they should be writing two <br> tags, not one.

The curse of DRM - can't read new book because Adobe E_ACT_NOT_READY

This is why we should all loathe Digital Rights Management in books. I download the EPUB version of a Google Play book I bought and I got this when I launched the .acsm file

Screen Shot 2015 11 26 at 9 49 49 AM

The E_ACT_NOT_READY error message is a longstanding Adobe Digital Reader problem. It can have many causes, from a server outage to authorization problems. In this case I attempted to deauthorize my account and I got an error message that deauthorization failed.

The next step is to quite Adobe Digital Editions and “Navigate to /Users//Library/Application Support/Adobe/Digital Editions and drag the activation.dat file to the trash.” You then have to attempt to download again — by launching the .ascm file. This worked for me.

In my case I think the bug is related to restoring to a new machine from backup. The Adobe authorization is machine specific. Adobe forgot the use case of doing a restore from backup, so their code hangs and produces a default error message. The app should simply request authorization for the new machine. I suspect I deauthorization failed because, of course, I wasn’t using the original machine. So I suspect I have a ghost machine authorization in my Adobe account — another ubiquitous but subtle DRM problem (most often seen with iTunes authorizations) that occurs in iOS as well as OS X and Windows. It’s a fundamental problem with DRM tied to a specific device that is not immortal.

I checked my Adobe ID Profile, and there is no way to view authorized devices or deactivate them. I bet some users run into an activation limit.

I still think the slow/stalled adoption of eBooks is because of Apple/Adobe/Amazon DRM. In Emily’s words “English majors buy books. English majors don’t tolerate stupid software.”

We should be doing watermarking DRM instead and it should be a part of the EPUB specification.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Sledging the drives

Obsolete and dead hard drives have been piling up for 7 years in a wardrobe I want to empty. Here they are ready for execution; one had to be dug out of a Time Capsule:

IMG 9055

The ones that I know held sensitive data (unencrypted backups mostly) I wiped via cradle mount.

Then it was sledgehammer time. The lawn was a bad idea — even by my neglectful standards it made a mess.

The best results came from angling drives on concrete, and using short strikes to fold the drive:

IMG 9056

A one pass wipe and a sledgehammer might not stop the NSA, but it should suffice for Best Buy recycling.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Thunderbolt Dock: Eject all disks prior to undock

My new Elgato TB2 dock comes with an installer for an undock utility, but it also installs a kernel extension for some other function. I need a kernel extension like I need a meth habit.

So I was looking at 3rd party Mac App Store solutions like when @clackgoble on said to just do AppleScript. Google found one then I added Clark’s eject line. I saved it as “” and I launch by Spotlight (Cmd-spacebar “und”).




tell application "Finder"

-- Original: eject the disks

-- Clark Goble version:

eject (every disk whose ejectable is true and local volume is true and free space is not equal to 0)

display dialog "Successfully ejected disks." buttons {"Close"} default button "Close"

end tell

on error

display dialog "Unable to eject all disks." buttons {"Close"} default button "Close"

end try

Update 7/23/2016

The above version may not be reliable in El Capitan (presumably an OS bug). I’m told this works:

tell application "Finder" to eject (every disk whose ejectable is true and local volume is true)

Comcast's xfinity wifi and XFINITY.mobileconfig

The coffee shop’s WiFi was flailing. Periodically my MacBook popped up an xfinity wifi option. I vaguely remembered reading of this when I signed up with Comcast (the Devil we know), so in a fit of recklessness I connected. 

It required my comcast credentials, which I don’t use for anything else. I balked when the install asked for admin privileges but it turned out I didn’t need the install — my connection worked anyway.

So what the heck was going on? And what was a I recklessly installing? Why did I get a connection anyway? (Note I had no proof I was truly dealing with a Comcast site. The less crazy thing to do is to go to Comcast’s web site from a secure network and do any installs from there.)

The install, it turns out, creates a configuration file for Mac OS X Profiles called XFINITY.mobileconfig. It’s a binary file that contains your Comcast credentials in plaintext. (Yep. Delete after use.) The admin privilege escalation is needed to update OS X preferences. (If you run as admin you won’t see this; you really shouldn’t run OS X as an admin user IMHO.)

Oh, you’ve never heard of OS X Profiles? You’ve only heard of iOS Profiles? Profiles is a hidden Preference Pane introduced with Lion and only visible when you install a Profile (rather like iOS actually). "Configuration profiles can be created with the Profile Manager feature of Lion Server. They can configure accounts, policies and restrictions on iOS and Lion clients. The APN settings are iOS only.”

System Preferences will display the profile information (note it’s “verified”, this is via Yosemite):

Screen Shot 2015 11 05 at 12 26 00 PM

After installation my Preferences have a new Apple pane, i can delete from there.

Screen Shot 2015 11 05 at 12 27 56 PM

So what does this profile do? I was hoping it might enable VPN support, but of course it’s not that useful.  It’s actually configuring my machine to auto-join XFINITY WIFI even if it’s not even WPA encrypted. I hope I’m wrong about that, but this is Comcast we’re talking about.

Their FAQ doesn’t explain what’s happening, but this page suggests that the profile is needed to connect to the “XFINITY” SSID networks. (I was able to connect without using the profile because I was using a “xfinitywifi" SSD.). That makes sense because the profile contains an Enterprise Profile ID. (See iOS directions here.)

Which leaves the question of what’s evil about XFINITY WiFi, because, you know, Comcast. I mean, besides the auto join non-encrypted networks.

Don’t worry, it’s evil. Comcast turns customer’s routers into WiFi hotspots by enabling a kind of “guest network” (my Comcast modem doesn’t have WiFi. Smart I am.) Comcast assures customers Homeland Security will knock politely when visiting for tea to chat about your network use by local ISIS affiliates.

Comcast also enables XFINITY WiFi for business customers, who might be well informed and fine with this. I don’t think there’s any way to tell what you’re connecting to though. Can a provider tap the data stream? This is Comcast, so I would assume so. I also assume Comcast monitors the data stream and sells whatever it learns to various businesses and criminals. Lastly, with auto-join unencrypted networks seemingly enabled, I figure Comcast is getting kickbacks from the honeypot industry.

Caveat emptor.