Wednesday, November 30, 2011

iOS 5 on a 3GS - not bad

I wiped a 3GS, installed iOS 5, and restored my son's apps and data.

I did it primarily to get iMessage - part of our assault on AT&T.

It's better than I thought. I expected more UI problems. I'm sure there are problems, but I expect those will improve with later versions of iOS 5.

If you have a 3GS I think it's worthwhile, but I'd wait until 5.1.

iMessage use on an AT&T iPhone without a SIM card (iPod Touch mode)

iMessage is a very intriguing product. It's available as part of iOS 5 for iPod Touch, iPad and iPhone 3Gs, 4 or 4S.

On non-phone iOS devices iMessage provides non-SMS (iMessage) texting services to other iMessage users over either WiFi or, if supported, 3G services. That's like, but WhatsApp only works on a iPhone with an active voice service!

On iPhones iMessage has two modes.

In standard mode it supports SMS/MMS messaging as well as iMessage texting. iMessaging is the default when it's supported by the receiving device; you can see what will be used before you compose a message.

In an optional mode you can disable SMS/MMS messaging and go purely iMessage. You may want to do this, for example, if you choose not to pay for AT&T's extortionary "unlimited" plans. You will still receive SMS messages (20 cents each, including spam text), but at least you won't send any. (You can tell AT&T to turn off all but 'administrative texting' if you want to avoid spam SMS and spam SMS fees.)

In a world where SMS fees exceed AT&T's mandatory minimal $15/month 200MB/mo data plans, iMessage is subversive [1]. For our family, discontinuing our $30 month texting plan and using a combination of iMessage, Facebook Messenger and Google Voice/Text more than pays for my son's data plan and old 3GS.

Siri is nice (more on that in Gordon's Notes, soon), but iMessage is the biggest thing in iOS 5. I would love to know what AT&T thinks of it, and whether those thoughts are printable in a family blog.

Alas, not everything is quite perfect in iMessage and iOS 5.01. Apple's Discussion groups have many complaints about "waiting for activation". For example:

iMessage waiting for activation: Apple Support Communities

... To update on my iPhone-off contract, even though it says iMessage is waiting for activation, I can still iMessage my friend in Australia (and I am in the USA) So I don't know how it's working, but it's working great!   Also, another one of my USA friends has an iPod touch with iMessage. It is working flawlessly..

We had no trouble at all with 3 iPhones with functional SIMs. In an SIM-free iPhone 4 in use as an iPod Touch, however, we got stuck at "waiting for activation".

The first time I used the device I think it sent messages, despite the notice. The next day, however, it could not send. I tried various tricks to no avail, including:

  • reboot phone
  • remove and restore my son's iCloud credentials and account.
  • play with location and time zone settings
  • create a contact card in iCloud with his migrated iCloud ID ( and specify that in iMessage

Nothing worked. A day later, however, his phone could again send and receive messages -- despite showing "waiting for activation".

I don't know how long it will keep working. Apple doesn't truly support use of a SIM-less iPhone as an iPod Touch, which further reduces the (suprisingly) low value of a used iPhone. I'm somewhat optimistic, however, that the current flaky behavior is a bug or a reflection of overloaded systems. I'll update this post as I learn more.

[1] If Apple integrates it with iChat on OS X, and provides a Windows 7 client ... hmm.

See also:

Martin's WordPress plugins

I think my microblogging experiments will likely end with WordPress. It's a complex world to learn however. For one thing, there are hundreds of "plugins" available for WordPress, and no obvious way to tell the useful from the disastrous.

So I'm grateful to Martin Steiger for sharing the ones he uses on different sites ...


- Chunk Urls for WordPress
- Germanix URL (probably not necessary for you)
- WordPress Database Backup
- WP Super Cache

Essential for sites with comments on:

- Akismet (default WordPress plugin)
- Antispam Bee (in addition to Akismet)
- Subscribe To 'Double-Opt-In' Comments (if you provide comment subscriptions)

Useful / additional features:

- Better Delete Revision
- Better WordPress Recent Comments
- Comment Form Quicktags
- Comment Whitelist
- Contact Form 7
- Country Filter
- Exclude Pages from Navigation
- Get Recent Comments (depreciated)
- Google XML Sitemaps
- Intypo
- Limit Login Attempts
- No Self Pings (maybe no longer necessary)
- Optimize DB
- Posts By Tag
- WP Minify
- WordPress Popular Posts
- Yet Another Related Post Plugin

On the way out:

- AbsoluteRSS (no longer necessary)
- AntiVirus (too many false positives)
- Flattr
- Google Analyticator
- Google News Sitemap
- PubSubHubbub
- Really simple Facebook Twitter share buttons (sharing buttons slow down any site)
- Save Post. Check Links.
- RSS Cloud

On my latest WordPress-based site,, I use as few plugins as possible. Some are essential and some are needed if you wish certain features. In any case, I carefully read the reviews on and I try to use only plugins in active development. I have trust in some reputable developers such as Sergej Müller. I cannot review each plugin from A to Z but I never get plugins from dubious sources. Up to now, I have never had a security problem with any of my WordPress-based sites (although being careful cannot rule such problems out but it's a start).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

iPhone cables and like things - Monoprice

I advertised AT&T's $6.50 iPhone cables on a corporate social site, and a colleague responded with an even better deal from Monoprice: only $3.55 each when QTY 50 purchased. They're a big $4 for less than 10. Monoprice sells a $7 wall charger too.

These aren't no-name or counterfeit cables, Monoprice specializes in this sort of product:

Monoprice, (DBA. Inc. is an eCommerce leader specializing in high quality cables, components and accessories for computer and consumer electronics. Established in 2002, we have built our reputation by the word of mouth of our customers. The Monoprice brand's greatest claim to fame is our consistent ability to deliver premium quality products on par with the best known national brands at prices far below the retail average along with unmatched speed and service...

I'd be willing to try them. I'm told Monoprice's thunderbolt cables are less reliable, but those seem hard for everyone to make. I'll be looking at them for future purchases.

iOS 5 updates and lost game data: wait for iOS 5.1

I don't know how widespread this is, but it happened to us despite having a robust backup ...

Lost game data: Apple Support Communities
I just migrated my son from a 3GS to an iPhone 4 running iOS 5.01. I wiped the iPhone 4, reactivated it, then restored from a complete backup of his 3GS. His Harry Potter Lego saved game setttings were not preserved. He was, understandably, disappointed. I haven't evaluated his other games. In general iOS 5 migrations have been difficult, with more than expected work to reinstall apps, delete crashing apps and resume them, and restore accounts.

I suspect the problem is some combination of ...

  • a bug (of course), perhaps related to Apple's confused identity management infrastructure (Cloud ID, AppleID, StoreID)
  • a change in how applications are allowed to store data. If an app is not updated prior to updating, and the app stored data in a fashion that's no longer supported, then data will be lost.

I've moved three users from iOS 3 or iOS 4 to iOS 5, and it's been painful each time. Most credentials have to be recreated. ActiveSync account migration doesn't work at all; accounts have to deleted and recreated. Migrating Google Authenticator was particularly difficult (that's Google's fault though). Worst of all, for my son, is this data loss.

I don't know if Apple will fix this, but I recommend waiting for iOS 5.1 if there's no driving necessity to upgrade to iOS 5.

iOS 5 -- What Apple didn't fix

My personal list of things that are still broken in iOS 5 (to be expanded):
  • Migration problems: 
    • ActiveSync accounts must be removed completely, then restored when updating from iOS 4 to iOS 5 (this may be a new bug)
    • My son's Harry Potter Lego game data was not saved when I migrated him a 3GS to iOS 5
  • Alerts: Now there is a birthday alert, but it's a 1 week alarm. We need 2 week alarms for all events.
  • Colors on Calendars: Still can't control color assignment, still get colliding colors with ActiveSync calendars, color assignment algorithm still doesn't look across multiple calendars

Migrating MobileMe family accounts to iCloud

I've started migrating family accounts to iCloud. This explanation from Apple Discussions is helpful ...

With a Family Pack, the master account holder and the sub-account holders can each migrate to an individual iCloud account by going to and entering their email address and password (not The order they do this in is immaterial; if the master account moves first it can no longer administrate the sub-accounts. If a sub-account moves first the master account cannot create a new sub-account to replace it. Once migrated each account becomes a full iCloud account entirely separate from the others. The master account holder will get the 20GB storage upgrade free until June 30th 2012; the sub account holders will not, and will have only the basic 5GB.

I began with #2, currently using a SIM-less iPhone 4. He's got almost no data to lose.

I want him to continue to use my Apple ID however ...

... iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch must have iOS 5 or later. Note: When you are asked to provide your Apple ID during iOS setup, use your MobileMe email address and password. To use a different Apple ID for iTunes and iCloud, just go to Settings > Store on your iOS device after you've finished the iOS setup assistant...

... Inactive and expired MobileMe accounts do not need to move to iCloud. Simply use your inactive or expired account to sign up for an iCloud account and follow the onscreen instructions. See this article for more information...


When you first set up your iOS 5 device, enter the Apple ID you want to use with iCloud. If you skipped the setup assistant, sign in to Settings > iCloud and enter the Apple ID you’d like to use with iCloud.In Settings > Store, sign in with the Apple ID you want to use for store purchases (including iTunes in the Cloud and iTunes Match). You may need to sign out first to change the Apple ID.

Following this path I learned that #2 will still have MobileMe Gallery, iDisk and iWeb Publishing through 6/30/2012 -- even after moving to iCloud. Better than I'd expected. No keychain sync though. I hope that comes back in some form.

I had to enter his iCloud (same as MobileMe) credentials to setup Facetime and iMessage on his SIM-less device. Although the phone doesn't need a SIM for this, it can't be in Airplane mode.

So far, it has gone better than expected.

Update: Thinking this over, I realize I need to update my machines to Lion before I move Emily and I. So this will take a while ...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Turning an iPhone into an iPod touch - keep the original SIM!

The kids had used old iPhones as IPod touches without trouble, but apparently I'd never done a factory reset.

If you do that, the phone can't be used -- until it's activated.

You need a SIM card that was either originally used to activate the phone, or that works with a currently active phone:

Using an iPhone without a wireless service plan

Follow these steps to use your iPhone without a wireless service plan:

Insert the SIM card from your new, activated iPhone or one that was previously used to activate the original iPhone.

Connect the iPhone to iTunes on a computer connected to the Internet.Once iTunes activates the device, you're free to use the iPhone as if it were an iPod touch.

... It may be necessary to repeat this process after updating or restoring the device.

Yikes. If I'd known that then, when I got my 4S, I'd have asked to keep the old SIM card and had them give me a new SIM. Instead we just swapped the old SIM. (Not sure if AT&T will do this, it's an advantage of ordering you iPhone from Apple for home delivery.)

Lesson: When you upgrade your iPhone, keep the SIM card that was previously used to activate the device.

Update: On the brighter side, iOS 5 allows use of FaceTime and iMessage without a SIM card. You can't use them in airplane mode however.

Update 11/30/2011: iMessage behavior is flaky in a SIM-Less iPhone. More on that later. In a separate experiment on another phone I found a SIM card that had previously been used in a different iPhone worked to get pasts the iTunes check even though the number no longer existed and the SIM card was no longer valid.

Update 3/5/2012: iMessage was much better by mid-December and has worked well since.

Google's 2-step verification is (almost) the spawn of Satan - iPhone upgrade edition

Two months ago I decided Google's 2-step verification was an incomplete mess unsuitable for use by non-geeks.

Today I decided it's the spawn of Satan.

This is what happens if you refresh an iPhone running Authenticator - either a new phone or restore from backup

  1. Restore iPhone from backup
  2. Authenticator settings gone
  3. Per directions to account page for 2-step verification settings.
  4. Discover, despite 30 day authorization, my computer wants authenticator token today.
  5. Fortunately, I have my old phone. That works.
  6. Realize that there's no support for authenticating a new phone. Ok, I'll just turn off the iPhone ...
  7. Get the QR code. That works ... but
  8. All the friggin' application specific passwords are gone -- all revoked.

Do you know how friggin' long it takes to enter all those application specific passwords across multiple machines and operating systems?! Can I scream now?!

Friends don't let friends use 2-step verification.

Update: A few minutes later and, for now. I see my (not) application-specific passwords and they still seem to work. So only almost the spawn of Satan. Google needs a workflow to support migrating from one iPhone to another.

See also:


Good habit: review sites with access to google services

Through your Google Accounts page you can edit "connected sites" and "application-specific" passwords (they aren't btw).

I did this tonight. I was surprised at how long my list was. How did Facebook ever get access to my Google Contacts? They are diabolical.

I deleted most of  the items on the list. This is one practice I want to make a habit.

AT&T sells iPhone cables for $10 with 3 for 2

I've never come across an AT&T store bargain - until today.

Turns out AT&T sells their own iPhone/iPod/iPad charge/sync cable - for $10. As of today they also have a "buy two get one free promotion", so I bought 3 for $20.

Excluding obviously counterfeit $2-$3 cables (caveat emptor), I've not seen these cables on Amazon for less than $20. Griffin's powerblock/cable combo for $23 or so has been the best deal.

Since Apple's last two years of cables have been absolute garbage (separation at iPod end), my family needs some extra cables. Now we're flush.

ifttt, Google Reader Share, and Wordpress

ifttt has a WordPress channel, including a post action.

Google Reader's share RSS feed is still active, and can be exposed with the Keakon extension.

So using iftt could I blog to Wordpress by clicking the Keakon-Share link in Google Reader?

Be a fun experiment anyway.

Google Chrome sync does not work with 2-step verification

As best I can tell Google's two-factor ("2-step") verification is incompatible with Chrome sync. There are two ways it fails:

1. During initial authentication you are required to enter a full access password, the Authenticator token won't work. (Laughably, Google calls these 'application-specific' passwords. That's a lie. I wish they'd stop repeating it.) This defeats the value of the Authenticator's keystroke-logger protection.

2. You can't use your Google account authentication to encrypt your sync store. Maybe it uses the 'application specific password'. When I try this, Sync hangs - but tells me it has succeeded. Using a separate sync password works.

There are lots of similar bugs with use of two-factor. It's really not finished; I wonder if it's one of the projects that Page has terminated. I still use it, but I don't recommend it to anyone else. The illusion of security may be worse than no security.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Microblogging and Google Reader: Tumblr Fails

I got pretty far along on the Tumblralternative to Reader Shares. I even created a subdomain with a Tumblr IP A Record to give my Tumblr blog a URL.

I tested with Google Reader Mobile and desktop, but the workflow for micro-sharing was too awkward. That looked promising, but all the posts were going to my original Tumblr blog, not the full powered one I'd setup for sharing.

What was up with that?

That's when I discovered the weird world of Tumblr primary blogs ...

Help Center | Tumblr

... What is my “primary” blog? Your primary blog is the one created when you sign up for Tumblr. It represents you (with its name, link, and avatar) when you follow or like other Tumblr blogs. You can read about blog management to understand the differences between your primary blog and additional blogs. Can I switch my primary blog? It’s not currently possible to switch or move your primary blog to another account. You can read about blog management to understand the differences between your primary blog and additional blogs....

Cue the ominous music. I could see where this was going ...

Blog Management | Tumblr

Each Tumblr account comes with a primary blog. A primary blog can fully use all of Tumblr’s social features including Follow, Like, Reply, Ask, and Submit. But, a primary blog cannot be password-protected and cannot be multi-user.You can also create additional blogs on your Tumblr account. An additional blog can be password protected for privacy and security and can be multi-user. But, an additional blog cannot fully use all of the Tumblr’s social features...

The primary blog that is made when you create your Tumblr account will always be the primary blog for the account. It is not possible to reassign which blog on your account is the primary blog. And, due the way in which Tumblr is architected, it is unlikely that we will be able to support reassignment of the primary blog in the foreseeable future. It is also unlikely that we will be able to support password protection on primary blogs....

Yes, it's all about that d*mn closed-world money-making social stuff.

The primary blog is the one that receives my shared items from Feedly. It won't do for what I want.

So now, like Posterous, Tumblr has failed.

Only Twitter and, perhaps, WordPress microblogging, remain.

Oh, and, of course, HiveMined.

No. Please. Not ... not ... Blogger!

See also:

Friday, November 25, 2011

Aperture 3.2.1 recurrent crash - EXC_BAD_ACCESS (SIGBUS)

This ends well - because I have backups. Other than the necessity of backups, the main lessons of this post are;

  1. Aperture 3.2.1 Libraries can become corrupted.
  2. Aperture 3.2.1 has some wicked bugs.
  3. A few debugging tips.
  4. It is unwise to edit in Aperture until all import processing is completed.
  5. How to manage when disaster strikes

This morning I did a routine import of 30 or so CR2 images from my Canon T2i using Aperture Import. Import completed normally. As images were post-processed I worked on some red-eye editing. I mis-clicked somewhere, and the spinning pizza of death appeared. About a minute later Aperture crashed, leaving this crash log ...

Process:         Aperture [75650]
Path:            /Applications/
Identifier:         3.2.1 (3.2.1)
Build Info:      Aperture-201094000000000~2
Code Type:       X86-64 (Native)
Parent Process:  launchd [41554]
Date/Time:       2011-11-25 09:15:19.689 -0600
OS Version:      Mac OS X 10.6.8 (10K549)
Report Version:  6
Exception Type:  EXC_BAD_ACCESS (SIGBUS)
Exception Codes: 0x000000000000000a, 0x0000000138d4d000
Crashed Thread:  23

I tried five more times. Each time Aperture opened normally, and about 30 seconds later, presumably as it resumed image processing, it crashed with the same error.

I knew I had backups, so I didn't have to panic. In fact, I have three backups:

  • Encrypted image with Carbon Copy Cloner to local drive nightly. This is a drive clone of course, but CCC also saves changed and deleted files in a 'just-in-case' folder. So it's a Clone+.
  • Encrypted image with Carbon Copy Cloner in my office that's 3 weeks old (offsite).
  • Time Capsule backup to a 2TB drive upstairs.

It was easy to demonstrate that the problem was in the Library. I option-launched Aperture and created a new Library. It was fine. I also removed my Aperture Preference files and Aperture still crashed on Library launch.

As an experiment I used EasyFind to locate the images I'd imported. I'd renamed them on import ("_Thanksgiving_") so it was "easy to find" them using EasyFind's package search option. I moved them out of the Aperture Library. This time it launched normally.

Whatever was wrong with Aperture, it was something related to processing the images I'd imported that morning -- or a problem with the images themselves.

I then used ImageCapture [1] to bring in the suspect images from my SD card. There were no problems. I added these to an empty Aperture Library. No problems.

By then my 45GB restore had completed so I put the images into the restored Aperture Library. No problems. Just to finish the cycle off, I again performed the red eye correction associated with the big crash. No problems.

One experiment I didn't do was use Aperture First Aid to repair or rebuild the Aperture database. Speaking of that kb article, I suspect this paragraph is relevant to my problem ...

...If Aperture does not open, it may help to defer creation of previews. Press the Shift key immediately after you start Aperture to prevent preview generation for that session. If a damaged image in your library is preventing normal opening, this may allow you to start Aperture...

i don't think the original images in my Library were damaged, but I do think something went wrong with Aperture's preview creation. Actually, I have a hunch that the problem is related to Aperture's face processing -- the EasyFInd recovery process I experimented with returned a number of face "thumbnails' -- but only a number. As though face thumbnail processing was not completed.

I hope the fixes I've outlined here will help others. The bottom line - be sure you have a full backup of your Aperture Library. I prefer two fully automated backup methods that have almost nothing in common. Backups are too unreliable to trust a single backup method.

[1] This app has its own really annoying bug. When used it stores the path it last saved images to. If you change drives it keeps asking for the old drive -- and tries to mount it. Dumb. Easy to delete preferences to fix.

Update: Terence Devlin - an Apple guru, also suspects the Faces process.

Update 12/20/2011: I suspect it was due to bit rot (bad sectors) on my drive.

Thursday, November 24, 2011 - Blogger Import

I'm continuing to examine exit strategies from Google 2.0 as I prepare to delete my TrueName G+ Profile [1].

Other than Gmail and Google Apps, my strongest Google Connection post Reader Social is Blogger. It hosts this post, for example.

I've considered Posterous and Tumblr, but both have fallen short. I think I'm going to have to learn the WordPress world, starting with hosted at and migrating to self-hosted.

I suspect that will take a while, but I'm starting to experiment, starting with an experimental import of tech.kateva. org to It's not a complete import, draft posts are not included. For example, import dialog shows 3738 Gordon's Tech posts, but that omits 467 draft posts. For Gordon's Notes it shows 5754, so 1277 draft posts are omitted.

Wordpress also supports import of a Blogger Atom export file. I don't know if that will include Drafts, but I may experiment with it.

I can live without the draft posts, especially since I'll still have access to those drafts post-migration. I can plumb those that look interesting and abandon the others.

I don't expect any quick changes. In any case I own the domain, so the changeover ought to be relatively invisible to my visitors (though I bet feeds will need to be revised).

If you'd like to inspect the results of the import, here's Gordon's Tech at - It's pubic but not-indexed with a temporary URL. The import went more smoothly than I'd expected, but it uncovered two surprises, both of which make me keen to move sooner than later ...

  • The "New" Blogger has no UI control to move to the earliest post. The "Old" Blogger UI has this.
  • Old Blogger doesn't show my 2003 Blog posts, it starts with 2004. WordPress imported them.

[1] I'll keep my John Gordon profile -- until Google deletes it as a TrueName violation.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Google's Omnibox and implementing Google search alternatives

Since I'm distancing myself from Google 2.0, I was receptive to Phil Bradley's alternative engine advice. I'm testing blekko (spam free) and Duck Duck Go (no tracking). I believe both are wrappers that enhance Google search.

Naturally, this experimentation works best with Chrome's Omnibox. It's very easy to add search engines; Chrome 'detects' an engine during a search site visit and adds them to it's collection. You can make any a default, and define a text shortcut. Type the shortcut in the Omnibox, hit spacebar, and your custom search is ready.

I made Blekko my default, and assigned it the letter 'b'. Google gets 'g', etc.

While I was at it, I defined a search string for one a Google custom search engine that searches my own content (web pages, blog posts): <>. I already had one for searching my dev team's Rally project.

I can distrust Google and still appreciate Chrome ... right?

Update 11/24/2011: I ran a search on moving from blogger to wordpress on both Blekko and Google. Blekko wasn't just a bit better. It was immensely better.

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    Porting a mobile number to Google Voice

    We had two kids on our AT&T family plan when AT&T hit us with their smartphone tax. The cost of each kid phone went from @$16/month to $32/month (estimated real costs) and that includes a data plan we don't want.

    I think we know why AT&T is making these desperate price hikes, but we're not playing along. After reviewing several options we expect to save about $600 over the next two years with these 3 steps [1]:

    1. Cancel the phone account for our youngest. Turns out he's not interested in either phoning or texting. He'd prefer we put a fraction of his phone bill into games and movies. In retrospect he could have waited another year. So we've canceled his account -- with a twist. We're porting his AT&T number to Google Voice.
    2. Replace our $30/month family texting plan with a combination of Google Voice, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger (yeah, it's still messy).
    3. Canceled a now useless SmartLimits account.
    4. Use DataMan Pro to help keep my son under his 200MB/month data limits. We disable Safari and YouTube on his phone, so iTunes is the main data drain. So far he's doing well.

    When we canceled #2's phone I decided to salvage the phone number. It's a memorable local number and when I recently added a GV line to my business number there were no local numbers available. I ended up choosing an area code from my former home town - Escanaba Michigan. Since I was going to cancel his phone with a memorable local number, I decided to make it mine.

    I followed Google's minimalist number porting directions. Unfortunately you can only do this with a mobile number [2] - at least for now. Here's how it went:

    1. In Voice Settings:Phones I clicked the Change/Port link.
    2. Checked lots of warning checkboxes.
    3. I tried following the phone confirmation directions on the old Nokia that currently holds my son's SIM card. (We pulled it from his iPhone when we got hit with the rate increase.) It didn't work -- Google couldn't recognize the touch tones!
    4. I put his SIM into his 3GS -- Google recognized those tones.
    5. I filled out my AT&T account information.
    6. I paid $20 into a new Google Wallet account (on my work account)

    In theory the transfer will be done in 2-3 days and my old GV business number will work for about 2 months before dying.

    In theory my son's AT&T number will disappear and that account will close. I'll check in 2-3 days. Of course since this is a family account things will probably be messier. He's not under any contract (no subsidized phone, he "brought his own phone"), but we'll see what happens. I'll update this post.


    [1] Since we're paying for a data plan (200MB/month). [2] It's convoluted, but I assume you can move a landline number to a mobile number, then from there to Google Voice. I'm thinking about that ...
    [2] Presumably we could move it to a family mobile account, then from there to Google Voice. Bit expensive and a hassle.

    See also:

    Update 11/22/2011: The next day my AT&T account showed #2 was gone. I tested the number and it called Google Voice. I called AT&T and was told the account had been cancelled. Since AT&T bills monthly service in advance (who new?) I've already paid for the billing cycle that ends in 6 days. There's no rebate on that $12 fee. Any expenses incurred this month (overage fees, long distance) will show up on next month's bill. So this went smoothly.

    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    Google Apps and Google Account integration problems

    Over the past year Google has been consolidating previously separate Google Apps and Google/Gmail accounts.

    For example, consider At one time if I wanted the Google Apps users to have Reader access, I had to create a Google/Gmail account with the username They were separate services. After the merger they are supposed to be unified. The merge process was, unsurprisingly, rocky. Some things could transfer, some not. Relics of the discarded identity may remain in an orphaned Google/Gmail account with a peculiar URL.

    It's still not working. Emily, for example, has problems authenticating with some Google services. Relics of her old identity produce odd error messages, especially with Google Reader. Some third party apps, don't work at all. for example. Seems she's not alone ...


    ... Having issues signing in with your Google Apps account? Some users reported that changing the password did the trick. If this does not help, enabling 2-step verification and creating an application specific password should get Reeder working again. Please see this help article (Getting started with 2-step verification) for more information...

    I wonder if current problems are tied to Google's troubled and incomplete migration to two factor authentication.

    We'll try Reeder's fixes, though two factor is not something I want to inflict on Emily. I fear James Fallows and Ezra Klein greatly overstate the usability of Google's work.

    Beyond this immediate glitch, these problems reinforce my sense of where Google 2.0 is going. The train has changed direction, and I need to get off. Unfortunately, Google 1.0 crushed the competition, so there's nothing to get off too. It's a 100 mile walk through the Sahara to the next watering hole. It will take years for niche vendors to move into the spaces Google has opened up.

    Update:  What I did to try to clear up the Google Apps vs. Google authentication issues.

    First I found the email notification services associated with the account merger we performed in July 2011.

    After the merge/migration of last July her old account data was associated with a modification of her old Google/Gmail username.  The domain is, the username is the old email address with % replacing @: (not her real domain).

    I entered her old password was taken to a set of dialogs similar to those I saw in July. The dialogs told me data was successfully migrated. There were bugs of course; Google is supposed to be able to show data associated with her current accounts and that failed. Nonetheless I felt reasonably sure what we cared about had been migrated. So I found the tiny "delete account" link, walked through the warnings process, and deleted the remnants of  her old independent Google/Gmail account.

    Then, a few minutes later, I tried logging into Reeder. It worked.

    I never changed her Google password and I didn't try two step verification. All I did was delete the remnants of her old account.

    I think this Google bug shows up after account mergers between Google Apps and Google/Gmail when the same password was used for both.

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    Navigon and the dark side of the iOS marketplace

    One of the downsides to the iOS App Store model is that vendors can change the rules -- and it's very hard to avoid an update.

    NAVIGON used to bundle maps withe the purchase price. At $50 it was a good price, and even though there was no commitment to map updates they were updated. Yes, it was a 1.8 GB download -- but that was a rare event.

    The price is even better than it appeared, because if a family shared an iTunes account the $50 covered all family iOS devices.

    Now Navigon has moved to the in-app purchase model. The default "update" is "free" and only 48MB, but the maps are in-app purchases and they are not free. Old maps are removed during the "update" (and so are "favorites", which is not nice). I am not certain, but I suspect in-app purchases are tied to a phone and iTunes account, not to an iTunes account alone. So each user in a family will buy their own maps. (I seem to be the only one whose noticed this.)

    This may not be a terrible deal for new users, but old users are moving Navigon to a 1 star rating.

    Unfortunately there's no way to prevent app updates and no way to keep an old version of an app. iTunes will nag forever. So I made a copy of Navigon 1.8.2.ipa and put it in a safe place. That way when it's "updated" I can delete the update and restore the original.

    PS. What should Navigon had done? Forget the evil "update" trick. Create and sell Navigon "Pro" as a separate app and stop updating Navigon 1.

    See also:

    Update 11/19/11: I tried a few experiments

    • I "locked" NAVIGON 1.8.2.ipa in the Finder then tried updating. Alas iTunes ignored the Finder lock, it just deleted 1.8.2 and kept v2.
    • I dragged 1.8.2 into the iTunes app window and iTunes let me replace v2. It, however, put v2 back on my free update list.
    • I changed permissions on 1.8.2 so I had read-only permissions. Then I tried the Update again. This time iTunes installed v2 and showed it in the app list. However the 1.8.2 file was still in Mobile Applications. I quit iTunes, deleted 2.0 (must put in trash and empty trash) and restarted. iTunes still listed 2.0, but when I tried it I was asked to locate the missing file. I pointed it to 1.8.2. The available update appeared again.

    So it looks like while I can't truly fool iTunes, by changing permission I can protect 1.8.2 from deletion. If I accidentally update to 2.0 I can revert.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Another iCloud sync issue - Google Calendar side effects ...

    Three lessons from this recent Google/iCal/iCloud synchronization problem

    Google Calendar Known Issues - Google Calendar Help

    ... Setting up iCloud sync caused events to be unexpectedly wiped from Google Calendar for some of our users who were syncing information between iCal and Google Calendar. This unwanted deletion took place between 10/11 and 10/14. We have since restored deleted events and invitees. Please note we’re only able to restore invitees who are Google Calendar users; guests who are non-Google Calendar users (i.e. Outlook users, Yahoo! users) could not be recovered and will need to be re-invited manually. In response to the above issue, we have stopped deleting events if the delete request comes from iCal. Until further notice, deleting any event in iCal on Mac OS will not remove this event from Google Calendar, but all other requests like creating events or changing existing events will be synced properly...

    Synchronization is H... Ok. You knew that.

    iCloud has bugs. Ok, you knew that.

    Google 2.0 doesn't give a s*. That's different.

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    My reader shares are back for now - thanks to Keakon.

    My Google Reader shared items are back. My memory is transiently restored ...

    How To Restore Sharing Options And Old List Spacing In Google Reader

    Reader Sharer is a simple Chrome add-on that restores the sharing functionality to Google Reader..

    It's in the Chrome extension store...

    Implemented features:
    1. The "Your shared items".
    2. The "People you follow" view.
    3. The "Notes" view.
    4. The "Your liked items" view.
    5. Share/unshare an item (keyboard shortcut: Shift + F).
    6. Share/delete an item with note (keyboard shortcut: Shift + D).
    7. Like/unlike an item (keyboard shortcuts: L).
    8. Display whether an item has been shared/liked or not.
    9. Support both list view and expanded view.
    10. Recover some old style for improving readability.
    Features unavailable yet:
    Can't implement features:
    1. Add/delete/display comments for an item. It seems the comment API is not available now.
    Source code:

    Currently has 6,400 users. That's far higher than I'd expected.

    Source code on Atlassian bitbucket. I think a Firefox version is pending.

    The author is "keakon". His blog is Chinese, Google tried to translate it for me but froze. I don't think Google translate likes Blogger's new dynamic pages.

    Now if I could figure out a way to save this microblogging archive ...

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    iOS Calendar list view has a two year limit

    It's Nov 2011, and we needed to schedule an event in June 2014.

    Emily tried her 4S with iOS 5. She tapped through to 2014 in the Calendar view.

    In the List view, however, the date was Nov 12 2013, exactly two years from today. There's no way to schedule or view a date more than 2 years in the future in List view, even though Month view extends at least 3 years ahead.

    Our iPhones sync with Google Calendar, so perhaps this bug only shows up with ActiveSync. It might be related to a perennial iOS bug: Event displayed under wrong date in "List" view on iPhone - Calendar Help.

    Definitely a bug. I confirmed it's also present in iOS 4. It's been said before, but it bears repeating -- Apple sucks at calendars.

    Saturday, November 12, 2011

    iCloud: how is it going?

    Apple, for about the fourth or fifth time, is trying to deliver network based services (their early attempts predate the internet).

    This time it's iCloud.

    I don't have any personal experience with iCloud. My family is still on MobileMe; at the moment I use it only to sync Contacts between iPhone, multiple OS X machines, and even an instance of Outlook running in an XP VM [1]. To Apple's credit, they extended our service period after introducing iCloud [2].

    I haven't moved to iCloud because, although Apple 3.0 did well with iTunes, it has an abysmal track record with things like Calendars, Contacts, and Tasks. I don't know why. I assume it's because those were career killers at Steve Jobs' Apple. Maybe he wasn't interested, maybe he assumed the considerable problems were trivial compared to the things he cared about.

    I'm hoping Apple 4.0 will do better, but iCloud is a Jobs-era project. So I don't expect it to start well.

    So far there haven't been many iCloud reviews I trust. I suspect the people I do trust don't trust Apple -- so they're hanging back. Tidbit's Rich Mogull posted on his experience. It was miserable...

    ... within minutes I realized the enormity of my error as all my calendars, on all devices, simultaneously disappeared. Lacking a corporate calendar server, this meant years of old appointments, and months of upcoming appointments, were all gone...

    ... Since I’m good about backups, I figured I could restore from Time Machine. In a few minutes my calendars were back to normal... and a few seconds later they were all gone again. “This,” I thought to myself, “is bad.”...

    ... but as anyone who experienced a sync conflict could tell you (which was pretty much everyone) each device maintained its own data and made its own decisions...

    Yep, that's what I expected. It's not that Mobile is any good -- Rich isn't joking when he wrote that every MobileMe user has had sync problems. Synchronization is Hell, after all. Rather that there's been no reason to expect Apple 3.0 to do better with iCloud than they did with MobileMe.

    Elsewhere Calendar Swamp has given up on iCloud. That's two.

    On the other hand, nobody has anything good to say about iCloud support for Contact, Task and Calendar synchronization.

    So my best guess is, iCloud is doing as expected. That is, badly.

    Now we get to see what Tom Cook cares about. Will he invest resources to make iCloud work? Heaven knows, these days I really want an alternative to Google.

    I'll check back in about 2-3 months.

    [1] Where one can use Access 2003 to manipulate calendar data. I use Google Calendar for our family's 15 (total) calendar subscriptions. It works pretty well, though I fear for its future.
    [2] That's the way to sunset a service. Google hasn't done nearly as well with its recent service terminations.

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    iPhone alternatives to AT&T's texting fees

    AT&T is facing the end of SMS. So it is mandating data plans for even unlocked smartphones while raising SMS costs.

    In our case, our unlimited texting fees are equal our family's two new and unwanted 200MB/month data plans. So we're looking for SMS alternatives. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

    I revised reviewed Facebook Messenger last week, but it's really more of an IM app than a texting replacement. Fortunately, SMS alternatives are a popular topic these days. Lifehacker did a review for iOS and another for Android recently; in fact both reviews are of interest to iOS users. Here are some of the services they listed and others I know of. I don't like ads, so I'm listing ad-free costs where applicable.

    • Google Voice: free (for now). Emily and the 3 kids all have GV numbers, though currently only i use the service regularly (I have two GV accounts).
    • Textfree: The web site is virtually content free. The iPhone app is TextFree with Voice, a year of ad-free texting is an in app purchase for $6. Phone numbers are also purchased in app. Facebook chat.
    • HeyWire: ad supported. iPhone app has ad-free in app purchase ($5/year) and option for "premium number" ($1). Facebook chat support.
    • textPlus: $3 to remove ads, $1 for premium number, credits cost money (for what?).

    I gather the ads in these products are not necessarily child-safe.

    Plugging these strings into Google turns up some related products (most can't receive SMS, some can send)...

    • Kik Messenger: No SMS, this is an IM app like Facebook Messenger
    • Yahoo Messenger
    • AOL Messenger

    If an app doesn't come with a number though, it's not what we're looking for. We need to be able to receive SMS messages.

    Lastly I came across some useful articles in my research:

    From Dudley I learn that services with a phone number are called NUVOs (Network Unaffiliated Virtual Operators) and OTT (Over-The-Top) service providers, and that in the telecomm industry Sprint's decision to integrate Google Voice into their Android phones was a really big deal (giving up on SMS early). I also see why Apple's iMessenger is much more acceptable to AT&T than, say, Google Voice.

    For our family I think we'll begin with Google Voice, even though it's not nearly as elegant a solution on the iPhone as it is on Android. My next choice is probably HeyWire, simply because two friends use it.

    Update 11/13/11: I checked out iTunes reviews on PingChat!, Kik, and WhatsApp.

    PingChat! and Kik seem to have high ratings, but the majority of the reviews are "13 yo girl seeking chat" (hopefully an FBI agent seeking pedophiles, probably a con man). WhatsApp costs $1, that seems to be enough to eliminate the "personals" reviews. WhatsApp is a Silicon Valley telephony app. I think I'll give that one a try first.

    We may also create FB accounts for <13 yo children (COPPA violation) so they can use FB Messenger, but not give them the account passwords.

    More on WhatsApp

    I like the look and feel of the app, but it has one killer bug. The point of using this app is to eliminate SMS use, but it uses a text message to verify accounts. (Correction: if you don't have texting it will time out and confirm by voice call. It does require a phone number however, which is a definite drawback.)

    Enabling extensions slows Safari to a crawl

    When I enable extensions in Safari 5.1.1 on Snow Leopard I get severe keystroke lag. When I disable it the lag goes away. Lately this showed up while testing the Feedly extension.

    It's not a new problem ...

    I suspect it's worse in Snow Leopard in Lion; my now most 5.1.1 users are probably on Lion.


    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    Tumblr - a Google Reader social replacement?

    I liked many things about Posterous. Alas, it doesn't seem to have a revenue stream. Recently, in a desperation move, they tried to become more like G+ -- they even dropped post tags!

    I also didn't care for the Posterous bookmarklet -- it pulled in too much of the source material.

    Today I'm visiting Tumblr. It and Twitter seem to be the new homes for many of the Google Reader Social Diaspora. For example, both Twitter and Tumblr are on Feedly's one click share panel, but Posterous is an extra click away. That extra click kills. (Unsurprisingly the new Google Reader really only supports G+ well.)

    Tumblr has the usual rich text edit options, but for microblogging I don't care too much about that. The bookmarket is impressive; better suited to microblogging than Posterous. The work of creating a Tumblr post from Feedly is very similar to creating a Google Reader Note/Share in the old Google Reader.

    Tumblr will create tweets for each post and they do provide a (proprietary) backup. However there's no secondary posting; one of Posterous' best features is that they'll create a replica post on Blogger and WordPress. I've seen mention of ways to repost into wordpress from an RSS stream, or import a Tumblr export file into WordPress, but nothing that looks rock solid.

    I like Tumblr, but I don't like the absence of an exit strategy.

    Still, it's ahead of Posterous - particularly because of the Feedly support (wish Reeder supported Tumblr!).

    Did I just reboot my bicycle light?

    This is kind of ridiculous.

    I've been liking my Serfas True 500 bike light. It's one of the new generation of bicycle lights - compact, LiOn, charges from a mini-USB cable and power supply, and brighter than you can believe. These lights are a generation after the Ixon IQ that we were excited about in 2008.

    Even if you're not a bicyclist you've seen these; in blinkie mode they are impossible to miss. In fact blinkie mode is so conspicuous its almost rude; I only use it in dim daylight.

    These lights are amazing. Sometimes progress happens. It costs less than a replacement NiMH battery for my $350+ NiteRider gear of the 1990s, is brighter, 1/10th the weight, 1/10th the size and so on.

    On the other hand, these are techie things. So progress is imperfect.

    Coming home in the dark on a blustery sub-freezing night my Serfas was totally dead. Nothing - despite charging off my laptop just minutes before. Not good. Fortunately I use a Blackburn Voyager Click light as a sidelight (I go with one forward light, two lateral very bright white blinkies, and 1-2 posterior red LEDs and reflector), I made that an emergency front light. Aside from almost running over an off-leash wee doggie who dashed in front of me I made it home fine.

    At home I plugged in the Serfas. Nothing happened. Not a blink.

    Then, for lack of anything else to try, I pulled the battery. Looked fine, so I put it in. The light worked. It was fully charged.

    So what happened?

    Well, maybe the battery compartment wasn't quite closed. It seemed closed, but maybe it was a bit off. Or maybe this light has an embedded OS and I rebooted it when I pulled the battery. Could be either, but I like the second. This is one weird world we live in.

    PS. The current generation of ultra-light and compact USB LiOn bicycle lights are amazing utility flashlights.

    Update 5/1/12: This time it started turning itself off. It came right on when I pressed the power switch. I discovered tapping it on a hard surface would turn it off. Not an obvious bulb problem though; once it was off tapping didn't make it flicker and a power button turned it on again. I pulled the battery and again it seemed better. A bad battery sensor? If this is a widespread bug the Serfas True 500 deserves a recall.

    Wednesday, November 09, 2011

    iPhone on a budget: The AT&T GoPhone PayGo Option

    AT&T is facing the end of their SMS lifeline. They're responding with innovations -- of a sort. For my family, their latest move is adding $35 a month to our bill.

    So we're innovating too - by migrating away from SMS based texting sooner rather than later.

    We're also looking at Paygo alternatives; moving the kids' iPhones off of our family plan. My friend Gordon F explained how it works, but see also a TUAW article of 8/11.

    Here's the short version of Gordon's scheme:

    1. Move your old number to Google Voice ($20 to Google) if you want to keep it.
    2. Start with an AT&T GoPhone plan. You'll need any old AT&T dumbphone, borrow one or dig something out of the closet.
    3. At the AT&T store get a GoPhone SIM in your dumbphone paying the minimal fee for the 10 cents/min voice plan.
    4. Buy a $100 airtime card. This card has a 1 year expiration time.
    5. If you want data, buy a $25 500 MB data package. This normally expires in 1 month, but then each month buy a 10MB $5/month on an automatic purchase plan. This causes the data package to rollover. Over two years total cost is $145 for 740MB.
    6. If you want texting pay $5/month for 200 messages.
    I've yet to way the costs of this plan against keeping the kids on our family plan and dumping SMS in favor of data messaging. I think the total costs will be close.

    Update 111111: Must be in the air. Lifehacker did a story on this a couple of days after my post. I found some mistakes there and nothing new, but it's clear there's demand for data-free iPhones.

    Microblogging with WordPress

    After dispensing with Posterous as a Google Reader social replacement, I'm looking at microblogging with WordPress. This seems a good start:

    WordPress › microblogging WordPress Plugins.

    Sunday, November 06, 2011

    Posterous - a Google Reader social replacement?

    It's tough to replace Google Reader Social (damn you Google). I've been generating tweets from Google Reader, but the workflow is awkward on the native web app. Tweeting from the feedstream is a bit better with, but still not good enough. In any case, Twitter isn't what I want...

    Gordon's Tech: After the fall of Google Reader: Posterous, Tumblr and Zootool with Twitter on the side

    I'm looking for ...

    1. Bookmarklet that generates posts with title, url, excerpt and annotation.
    2. Must have an RSS feed.
    3. Must have a business model that involves me paying for services received.
    4. Either I have control over the data store or there's a way to create a read-only repository I can keep.
    5. support, so I can use for IOS and for Mac, avoid Google's miserable UI, and prepare for migration to another OPML store.
    6. Twitter integration so it tweets shares for those who are good with Twitter's limitations.

    There are GR.oldstyle replacements under development, but for now most of us are looking at Tumblr and Posterous as microblogging solutions. For unclear reasons I've been experimenting first with Posterous.

    Posterous does pretty well against my list...

    1. Big time bookmarklet with title, url, excerpt and annotation.
    2. RSS feeds, though these are being minimized in favor of (yes, you guessed) proprietary and closed pub/sub (like G+).
    3. Business model that .... ummm .... ok, so they don't have a way to make money ....
    4. Each Posterous post can generate a secondary post to my Dreamhost Wordpress blog.
    5. No built in support, but good support for processing emailed content. Google Reader will 'send to' Posterous but I don't like how it works.
    6. Tweets on post.

    In addition Posterous will import from Blogger and Wordpress but not, alas, from an RSS feed (or I'd pull in my Google Reader Shares).

    Documentation is a bit hard to find, in fact, once you sign in to Posterous it's pretty much hidden. The Posterous 'faq' is a good start, but eventually I blundered my way to Posterous Help. It includes ...

    Overall, it's promising.

    Except ....

    Except for my #3 item. They're "free". I don't like "free". Autopost alleviates some of the risk, but free is bad. It's not good that just two months ago they went from a focus on microblogging to trying to imitate G+.

    See also:

    Update 11/9/2011: Thinking this over more. I see from comments on the Mashable 9/11 article that Posterous dropped tagging from posts. That's a real change in direction for a microblogging solution. I'm getting the sinking feeling that I would have loved Posterous in early 2010, but now their future is bleak. I'm not looking for a revenue-free small world version of G+. I'll review Tumblr next.
    Update 11/24/2011: I searched. And searched. And I can't find any way to delete a Posterous Space. I do see how to delete accounts, but not Spaces. If there really is no way to delete a Space, short of deleting an Account, then Posterous is a crazy-most-avoid kind of place.

    Saturday, November 05, 2011

    Testing Facebook Messenger as a texting alternative (4 and 3G)

    AT&T has significantly increased the effective cost of our family plan, partly through a covert and possibly illegal 2009 contractual change. It's effectively a 20% increase that's come due now.

    I'm looking at alternatives. The most promising two are PAYG SIMs and, paradoxically, buying new iPhones on contract and selling them to China to fund use of the kids' old out-of-contract-but-forever-carrier-locked iPhones with the mandated $15/month AT&T smartphone tax.

    Another option is to replace texting use. For example, we could sell the old 3Gs, buy iPhone 4s, have AT&T turn off texting (they will do that, albeit reluctantly), use iOS iMessage [1] among us, and use Google Voice for SMS as needed [2]. Dropping our $30 text and mobile-to-mobile plan would cover the cost of AT&T's covert rate increase.

    Facebook Messenger is a cheaper option, particularly if one is going to use Google Voice for texting and disable texting on all phones.

    So I ran some tests on my 4 and my son's 3G. (I'm still on iOS 4, waiting for at least iOS 5.01 and for all my apps to get settled in). Alas, Messenger needs work.

    It's a slow app that takes a while to load. Messages are very fast (WiFi), but one message got stuck in the queue for a minute (!). It took only a few minutes of use to turn up bugs and performance issues.

    So initial impressions are mixed, but we'll keep testing. I'm also researching alternatives. It's too bad Google is famously incompetent at iOS development (where did all their smart people go? Has any company flamed out so quickly?)

    See also:

    [1] $30/month + fees ($36) texting plan over two years is $864, enough to pay for two iPhone 4s and $15/month data plans assuming we make some money from selling the 3Gs and of course the 4s have higher resale values.
    [2] We have a (free) family Google Apps domain, every user has Google Voice.

    Friday, November 04, 2011

    AT&T Smart Limits for Wireless is almost worthless

    AT&T promotes their "smart limits for wireless" $5/month service to limit phone use for family plans.

    It includes limits on texting -- except AT&T no longer cells a limited texting plan. It's only unlimited or .25/message. So this is really only useful if you want to disable texting, but you can call AT&T customer service and say you want administrative texting only -- for no charge.

    The "smart limits" includes limits on data use -- except they don't work on a phone that might really use data:

    Does Smart Limits for Wireless work for restricting all web browsing / data usage?We’re sorry, but Browsing Limits and Time of Day Restrictions will not block or restrict data usage through non-Media™ Net internet browsers. Certain data-centric devices such as BlackBerry® devices offer non-Media Net browsers. In addition, Browsing Limits will not block or restrict a user’s data usage if the user is also subscribed to DataConnect, LaptopConnect, Tethering (connecting a wireless device to a laptop) or Blackberry services, while the user is in WiFi mode, or while the user is using iPhone 3.0 software or later.

    It also includes number blocking (could be useful) and "parental controls" which, I suspect, don't work on smartphones.

    This service must be a money spinner, but, really, its obsolete. Not coincidentally, it's very hard to actually locate the link that allows one to configure this plan. We had it leftover from when it made sense; I was keeping it in part for the data limitation issues. Turns out that was a mistake.

    Since this plan doesn't limit iPhone data, it means if you're purchasing a minimal 200MB/month data plan for a child with an inherited smartphone you have no way to prevent them going over their data limit and running up major fees. The best you can do is disable access to Safari, YouTube and the AppStore (AppStore allows video views). Note when App Store is disabled you can't install or update Apps!

    See also:

    XWiki - Open source, LGPL, WYSIWYG

    A colleague pointed me to XWIKI. I really want to know how I missed this, version 1 was 2008 but it has roots back to 2003. I've been looking for an open source wiki with rich text editing. In some ways it's the OpenOffice replacement for Sharepoint.

    It's LGPL, and sold into the enterprise. Good wikipedia discussion.

    Thursday, November 03, 2011

    Giving your old iPhone to your kid: working around AT&T's mandatory data plan

    This is the season for corporate evil. First Google nukes my memory, then AT&T Wireless messes with our family mobile phone plan.

    So I'm replacing Google Reader share and my kids phone plan at the same time. So much for my cognitive surplus.

    The boys iPhone use had been working out well. They've been using battered old iPhone 3G and 3GSs inherited from Emily and I. Added to our family plan each kid costs us are $12/month with no data and $7.50/month text [2]. The phones are parental controlled - so no browser access, but when there's wifi they get email. They also get Navigon for GPS (no data needed), lots of apps [3], music, tv shows [4], movies, etc.

    That just changed. AT&T whacked us with an automatic $30/month mandatory data plan on a phone that has never used cellular data [5]. (and, coincidentally, knocked out the texting service when cellular data was disabled). I won't go through the sordid details here, but do follow the link if you're interested. If you're in MN, feel free to do like me and submit a complaint to our AG.

    Supposedly the fee has been reversed [6]. Now I need a plan B.

    We can rule out paying a monthly data fee in the absence of a contract. That's what AT&T is lusting after. With a subsidized iPhone they have to send part of that fee to Apple, with an 'bring-your-own-iPhone' (BYOI) they keep the whole thing. This is what they live for.

    So the options are some combination of:

    1. Sell the old 3Gs/3GS and use the money to buy two refurbished iPod Touchs. Buy cheap dumbphones for the kids. One guy uses his voice/text so little we could drop his coverage.
    2. Study other vendors and see what their BYOI policy is. Consider switching next summer/fall and pay the exit cost for Emily's 4S.
    3. Get an iPhone 4s and an iPhone 4 under contract. I take the 4s. Sell my iPhone 4 and the brand new iPhone 4 and accept the minimal AT&T data fee $15/month. Dump the text plan, have AT&T turn off texting for the kids, and use Facebook messenger. (since Emily and I can use Apple's messenger service).
    4. Drop our family plan altogether. Kids use Paygo SIMs, maybe with jailbreaking. Emily and I go single with separate discounts and cheaper LOS. Could save significantly.
    5. We're paying $30/month for family messaging unlimited with mobile-to-mobile calling. I think AT&T snuck that one in during a recent service change. They're good at being bad. If we do a minimal data plan for the kids, and I put iOS 5 on my phone, we can drop this money sucking item.
    6. Jailbreak and use with T-mobile paygo

    Hmm. There are some good options in here. I might start with #5 for now -- since the costs are about the same. Then I'll look at the other options.

    Maybe I can make AT&T pay for making me think about this. And if I can help others, then they'll pay some more.

    - fn-

    [1] List $10/month plus another $2 in unlisted fees. In general true base charges from AT&T are 20% higher than listed charges. [2] Unlimited family plan/4.  [3] Because FairPlay allows kids apps and any media to be shared, and iPhone games are inexpensive, an iPhone is the world's cheapest game console by a large margin. [4] The 12yo spends his chore money on Dilbert cartoons for $2/apiece.  [5] Curiously when they did this they also disabled SMS/MMS. So SMS/MMS works without a data plan, but when a data plan exists it is used. Feels like a bit of a scam.  [6] AT&T gets about $5,500 from our family every two years. In other words, our mobile plan costs rival the costs of operating a car. That may be why they reversed. Or not; we are small in their eyes.

    See also:

    Update 11/4/2011: I bought a $15 data plan for one child, put the other's SIM in a dumbphone and discontinued worthless SmartLimits. So I'm behind $10/month for now. I'm concerned about tracking data usage even with YouTube, Safari and iTunes locked out. I'm planning to test a H2O Wireless SIM Card (no jailbreak or unlocking for AT&T phones, voice/text only) then test an AT&T PAYG SIM (voice/text). I'm also testing Facebook Messenger and looking to SMS alternatives. If I take the boys off the family plan I'll port their numbers to Google Voice (take that AT&T!).

    Although the H2O website doesn't say anything at all about iPhone users, there's a MyH2O app on the App Store. However the H2O wireless cards expire after 30 days, so they're better suited to a heavy voice/data user than to our guys; there's really no saving over our family plan.

    I still don't understand the AT&T PAYG plans. Their web site isn't too helpful. Is it really $30/month minimum, or is that somehow an initial payment with an expiration > 30 days? Consumer Reports tells us ... "AT&T's prepaid Go Phone service was among the lowest-scoring no-contract services in our Ratings."

    BTW, Google search is a complete failure on this topic. The spammers have won.

    Update 11/30/2011: How it ended. Victory! Lots of links to related strategies.

    Fixing OS X Cmd-H problem (hide windows)

    In OS X the keyboard shortcut Command + H (Cmd-H) hides the current app windows.

    Mac OS X keyboard shortcuts: "Command-H Hide the windows of the currently running application"

    This is a very old behavior. It made sense in Multifinder days; it's worse than useless in Snow Leopard -- it is inconsistent with Expose and Spaces. In Lion it's not quite so bad, but my fingers long ago mapped Cmd-H to "show history" in all browers.

    I'm always hiding Safari, and having to unhide.


    Today I realized I could do something about this. In keyboard shortcuts I mapped Cmd-H to Help, a system wide command. That's still a problem, but at least I don't hide my windows when I try to access history.

    Next I'll try to remap the Safari shortcut for history to cmd-H, but even this is a big help.

    Update: If I map Cmd-H to a system action like help file, it trumps mapping it to an app-specific menu item like Safari history. I decided to go with cmd-H for Safari, but outside of Safari it doesn't currently do anything. I might be able to use it for other app-specific menu actions. This will help!

    Tuesday, November 01, 2011

    After the fall of Google Reader: Posterous, Tumblr and Zootool with Twitter on the side

    When a character in Charles Stross' Accelerando loses his prosthetic brain he's almost helpless; effectively amnestic. It's the future equivalent of not knowing anyone's number because it's all in your iPhone.

    That's how I feel after Google amputated my Google Reader shares. I've got phantom prosthetic memory syndrome -- I keep trying to access a store that no longer exists.

    On the bright side, it turns out I have 3 children, 1 wife and 1 dog. Who knew?

    On the dark side, for a tech company being stupid is worse than being evil, but being evil AND stupid is even worser. (See, Google really has lobotomized me.)

    Bad stuff, but it is time to move on. I've written my Dear Google letter, deleted the from my iPhone, switched my default search engine to Bing, and installed Firefox on my work machine. I'll work on remembering what was good about Google; we had some good times in Google's glory days.

    So what replaces Google Reader social? [1]

    At first, I thought it would be Twitter. So I stared using Twitter.

    Wow. Martin is right - Twitter is a big step down from GR Shares. I'm sure I'll figure ways to use Twitter, especially after I go to iOS 5.0+, but it's no GR Share.

    So what is out there to replace GR? Candidates include Posterous, Tumblr, and Zootool - though none of those seem to be true Reader Share contenders. The original GR team was wonderful.

    I'll be looking around in future posts. I'll end this post with a list of what I'm looking for ...

    1. Bookmarklet that generates posts with title, url, excerpt and annotation.
    2. Must have an RSS feed.
    3. Must have a business model that involves me paying for services received.
    4. Either I have control over the data store or there's a way to create a read-only repository I can keep.
    5. support, so I can use for IOS and for Mac, avoid Google's miserable UI, and prepare for migration to another OPML store.
    6. Twitter integration so it tweets shares for those who are good with Twitter's limitations.

    See also:

    [1] I just bought for Mac to reduce the pain of Google's mangling of the GR's most basic feed reader functions.

    Update: Curiously, the GR shares still exist. My old share page is up:, it still has a feed, and items shared in 3rd party apps (, etc) are added there. The share links is simply missing in the redesigned GR UI. I can't consume this feed in GR because it hides it from me, but other people can subscribe to it.

    Update 11/3/11: This is a hot topic on, ironically, G+. That's the best source for non-google ideas. Tumblr w/ secondary Twitter reposts seems to be the default choice (more on that to come), but other that are showing up ...