Tuesday, July 26, 2016

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sensible way to subscribe to a calendar feed in Apple's screwed up calendar ecosystem.

I think I know how Apple screwed this up. It’s one of those evolutionary path-dependency things. Their iCloud calendar is the child of their old OS X Server calendar (via MobileMe). They bolted a web service atop a server side model. In the old model the client was where different calendar sources were assembled, not the server. iCloud/web is stuck with that model.

So when it comes to Calendar feed subscription assembly happens on the Mac, or it happens on the iPhone. It doesn’t happen in iCloud/web. There’s no UI for adding a feed to iCloud/web because there’s no application model for that.

Which explains Apple’s bizarre instructions for getting a feed to iCloud to iPhone via the Mac. Whoever wrote that up was probably sobbing with despair. I suspect the resulting iCloud/web calendar only gets updated when the Mac updates itself. Let me know if I’m wrong.

I think there are really only two ways to do calendar feeds in the Apple world. One is to add the feed to the iOS device(s) (calendar.app) and the Mac (calendar.app) separately. Forget about seeing it in iCloud/web - that really doesn’t work.

The other is to do the subscription in a Google Calendar and subscribe to that on Mac or iPhone (and give up on iCloud/web). But then you’re going to have to deal with iOS failure to support Google’s CalDAV sync select. So this is a geek-only solution (It’s what my family does).

Here’s how to do it the simple way (iPhone and Mac only, not iCloud/web):

  • iPhone: Calendars:Add Account:Other:Add Subscribed.
  • Mac: I think you should ignore the iCloud option, but let me know if it updates without the Mac driving the update.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

FileVault 2's Undying Guest User bug - the El Capitan edition.

Today’s post-El Capitan update bug is a ghostly Guest User account that appears only on restarting a El Capitan Mac with FileVault 2 enabled and Guest User disabled in System Preferences:Users and Find My Mac enabled. The configuration for this pre-decryption login is running out of the UEFI EFI system partition. The one thing this Guest User can do is run Safari; the primary partition remains encrypted. There are no Parental Control options (that’s a problem).

I’ve read claims that this a feature. Some misguided Apple engineer thought it would be a good idea — a kind of Honey Pot that would tempt a thief to go online and thus trigger Find My Mac.[1] It becomes a problem with kids who have issues with internet abuse; they get an open browser.

My own suspicion is that this is a partly-implemented undocumented “feature” that is buggy because it was never tested. Maybe it was partly pulled from the release. Not only does it appear unpredictably it has other associated problems. If you enable the Guest account in System Preferences there’s sometimes an option to  enable Parental Controls and sometimes not. Even when there is an option to enable Parental Controls it doesn’t actually work. I’m also unable to get a true Guest account to work — even when I don’t see the “safari only” warning in system preferences the Guest Account never decrypts the primary partition.

There may be more than one bug involved — perhaps something related to failure of new computer / upgrade to notify EFI infrastructure of a preference change. I suspect it’s the worst kind of bug — an undocumented feature that was partly pulled from a release and lurks in code.

It’s not new to El Capitan, it’s been happening intermittently since Lion. It may be more frequent in El Capitan.  I updated two FileVault 2 machines from Yosemite to El Capitan and only one has the ghost account. 

I reviewed 3 options on apple.stackexchange.com [2] dating as far back as Lion with updates for 10.11.

The fix that worked for me was edited as recently as 6/2016. Basically you turn off Guest Account and Find My Mac in System Preferences. Then you disable System Integrity Protection so you can “touch” a System EFI resource, that forces and EFI update, then reenable SIP. When I did that System Preferences had Guest Account enabled again, even though it wasn’t showing up. I disabled Guest Account and enabled Find My Mac and the ghost seems to have been exorcised.
I think reinstalling El Capitan from Combo Update would have worked too — it also forces an EFI refresh [3]. I wonder if one could even have used the reinstall operating system feature in the Recovery mode.
- fn -

[1] This has been seen as far back as Lion and there’s a good description in this Yosemite article in FileVault 2.

Ten Things You Might Not Know About FileVault 2 | Der Flounder - Dec 2014 ( - Yosemite)

One unusual feature of FileVault 2 is that sometimes a Guest User icon will appear at the pre-boot login screen.


When you log in as that guest user, you don’t get access to your hard drive. The only thing you get access to is Safari and a network connection. Quitting out of Safari will return you to the FileVault 2 pre-boot login screen.



To my knowledge, Apple has never commented specifically about this guest user but it appears the guest user is an anti-theft measure. The guest user’s appearance at the pre-boot login screen is a feature tied to signing into iCloud and enabling the Find My Mac option.


One consequence of logging into the guest user is that, as soon as the Mac gets a network connection, it will immediately connect back to Apple and report its location information.


If you don’t sign in with iCloud and then enable Find My Mac from that machine, the Guest User icon will not appear on the FileVault pre-boot login screen. That said, mobile device management solutions that track a machine’s location may also trigger the Guest User icon to appear.

[2] Apple has killed Apple Discussions with their latest update.

[3] Despite waiting a long time to do my El Capitan upgrade I ran into an unexpected behavior with an updated installer that wasn’t actually updated. So my main machine went to 10.11.2. I wonder if I’d actually gone to 10.11.5 if this problem would have shown up. It seems to be related to a bug with EFI partition updates.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Aperture in El Capitan: Not showing the workspace? (and other known issues)

Here’s a partial list of known issues for Aperture in El Capitan from this an old discussion forum link [1]

  • The thumbnails in list view are upside down. (Apple has been intermittently screwing up EXIF orientation tags since iPhoto 5.)
  • If you add a Curves adjustment the straighten adjustment will not be visible in the exported images. The exported images won’t show straightening. (This is unpredictable behavior.)
  • When brushing adjustments, the position can be slightly off, one pixel or so.
  • The link to the plug-in page no longer works in the Aperture menu (this is Yosemite too)
  • You can no longer order print products from Aperture (Yosemite too)
  • Soft proofing is broken
  • When exiting app the progress window that’s displayed has no content

The levels/straighten export bug is the worst I’ve read about.

Except for what happened today. Aperture opened, but the workspace was somewhere else in space. It acted like it was off-monitor somewhere. Aperture worked normally in a different user account, so I figured it was something about my account. Removing preferences didn’t help.

I changed Mission Control so that Dashboard was no longer a space — and Aperture’s workspace returned. But reenabling Dashboard space didn’t affect Aperture.

Someone noticed in El Capitan beta that the workspace might vanish. In which case clicking on the Aperture icon in the Dock would restore it. If it happens again I’ll try that, and also the Aperture context menu Windows item.

[1] Apple’s new Discussion Forum software is amazingly broken. They really can’t do anything right any more. Fortunately I’d Pinboarded that link.

PS. Aperture has more trouble with El Capitan than most older software. Perhaps it’s more dependent on undocumented features than other software, or perhaps the code base is unusually problematic.

Update 7/24/2016: I’ve just seen iTunes lose its workspace. El Capitan really doesn’t want Dashboard to be a space. At least not the way I have Mission Control setup. I made it an overlay.

Update 9/22/2016: Apparently if you apply AutoEnhance first you can avoid the levels/straighten bug. 

Update 9/28/2016: Aperture is being tested in Sierra. It works well for relatively modern hardware, so there’s cautious optimism for good support by the .2 release (Feb 2017?). It crashes badly with older Sierra-supported Macs. freediverx01 reported on the status of known El Cap bugs in Sierra

  1. Thumbnail are upside-down in list view
  2. With a Curve adjustment and then a straighten adjustment - the exported image is OK
  3. Brush adjustments - seem OK - no offset
  4. Link to Plug-in menu is OK - I used BorderFX as a test
  5. Soft Proofing does not work
  6. Full Screen (f) is OK - does not freeze Aperture

Friday, July 22, 2016

Life with Satan's Own Backup: Synology Time Machine Backup goes bad

A few days after my carefully delayed update from Yosemite to El Capitan, Emily’s MacBook Air complained it couldn’t run its Time Machine backups to our Synology DS215j NAS. I can’t say if this was related to El Capitan or not, but I do wonder about El Cap’s relative deprecation of APF (which Synology/Time Capsule needs).

The usual approach to this problem is to use the Synology web interface to run “File Station” and delete the .sparsebundle from there (don’t even think of trying to do this through the Mac Finder) then start over.

Instead I ran through a checkup of the NAS. I didn’t find anything — but did update my notes on the confusing configuration (every machine has a dedicated Synology username and quota). I tried various things to mount the old sparse bundle including disabling SMB, etc. Nothing worked, I couldn’t make use of the existing backup.

So then I installed a (long!) physical ethernet cable and tried Finder (AF) copying the .sparsebundle to a local drive so I could browse it efficiently. Every time I tried it quit at about 54GB with a message like “The operation can’t be completed because you don’t have permission to access some of the items.” A different 60GB file copied normally.

I figured that was a bogus error message from a corrupt file, so I used Synology to copy the 200GB directory internally. It copied well, no sign of a file system problem. I deleted the original and I was able to Finder copy the Synology copy to my local machine. BackupLoupe could even browse it, because, you know. you can’t use Time Machine to access a backup unless you’re on the original machine (which is why it’s Satan’s own backup).

All very occult.  It’s probably something to do with extended attributes, AFP, and some kind of El Capitan bug.

Oh. And I started over. Of course.

See also: