Monday, March 24, 2014

Mavericks iBooks Apple ID and Sync issues - one possible fix

iBooks for Mac 1.0 has not been well received; Apple Discussions include a good range of rants and removal hacks. (You can, and should, register your feedback here. Tom Cook’s Apple seems to pay attention to those submissions.)

I’ll join the chorus. My initial experience on a Mac that migrated from Mountain Lion to Mavericks did not go well — possibly because my Mavericks account iCloud services use a different Apple ID than my iTunes/Apple Store/App Store purchases.

In particular when I did my usual wired sync with iTunes I received this unfortunate error message:

Screen Shot 2014 03 24 at 7 52 22 PM

It’s an unfortunate error message because;

  1. There’s nothing to tell me what “A_Decade_of_Reversal” is (book? app? podcast?).
  2. The item (a PDF) was actually on the iPhone, the problem is it wouldn’t sync to my Mac. (Precisely the opposite of the error message.)

Once I figured out what this item was (I searched Google on “A Decade of Reversal” and found the medical journal article I’d saved to iOS from for iOS) I tried starting up iBooks and was asked to provide my Apple ID for iBooks store purchases…

Screen Shot 2014 03 24 at 7 49 02 PM

Except the Apple ID I use for all my purchases is not the old address shown above, nor is it two of my other 3 (known) Apple IDs, it’s my Apple ID [1]. I tried entering that one and iBooks refused it.

I was stuck.

This is what seemed to work:

  1. Got iBooks to sign me out of the address. I did this by messing with Store and auto-download setting in Preferences, but I think one could just go to the Store menu and sign out. Then sign in again with the correct Apple ID for purchases. This triggered a message telling me I would have access only to books for the new Apple ID, but interestingly very little content seemed to change.
  2. From within iBooks choose “Move Books from iTunes”. I thought this already happened, but it seemed to happen “again”.
After that I could sync, and after my first sync the PDF “A Decade of Reversal” nicely synchronized disappeared. Oh, nicely played Apple.
So I downloaded it to my phone again (view PDF, choose open in iBooks) and tried another sync. This time it showed up in iBooks for OS X. I’m hopeful sync will work from now on.
BTW, if you do provide feedback, don’t forget we need to be able to edit basic metadata again (lost Mavericks) - Category, author, title, etc. 

[1] Which, but the way, I thought didn’t have an associated iCloud account. Wrong; I just checked and it does. Everything except email, probably because the email address was orphaned when I failed to renew my .Mac online service some time in the early 00s.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Low cost net entry for Canadians: The Virgin Mobile experience

For my US kids I wanted low cost voice/text services and no data. With H2O Wireless we pay $40/year per kid. Yeah, 40 bucks. The buys never use their text/voice quota, my daughter sometimes runs a bit more. They mostly use WiFi.

For my Canadian sister I needed a different solution. She has no net connection, no computer, and no wifi. She's off the net and her budget is limited. For her I wanted enough data to do basic email, iMessage, and non-video Facebook and emergency voice services. I had an unlocked refurbished AT&T iPhone 4, and I had some experience with Virgin Mobile Canada prepaid data - I decided to try that combination aiming for a cost of about $200 a year (not including the phone).

So far it's working, but Virgin Mobile is no Ting, it's not even AT&T. Be warned; I'm not at all sure this is a good solution.

I followed the general procedure I documented a year ago for my own personal use (if you're in Canada you can order SIMs for 0$ from Virgin, I paid $10 at Future Shop). Once again Virgin's web site didn't recognize the AT&T iPhone's IMEI. The web experience was painful -- I was almost done when I timed out and had to restart (moving more quickly). This time around I paid more attention to how much spam Virgin generates -- their contract authorizes an appalling amount of spam (email, sms) and telemarketing/robocalls to any email or phone number you give Virgin. Follow the link to track all the places you have to go AFTER you sign up. See also turning off Virgin's text spam and email spam. To turn off the robocalls you need to call from the mobile phone at 40cents/min; when I did that I found the number was already DNC but I extended protection for 5 years.

Just like last time it took about 30 minutes to activate my sister's account on the web site. Until the account was active entering the number created a password prompt, only after activation did I get a PIN prompt; with prepay you don't get an honest password and username, just a phone number and PIN. It took another 30 minutes to activate the phone.

Then I ran into a bug I'm still sorting out. When I tried to use my balance to purchase the monthly data add-on I got "...Contact our Customer Care at 1 888 999 2321 so we can help." I was able to use Chat to complete an initial purchase and make a change to to the recurring purchase, but when I asked why I couldn't do it online I was told there was a "web site problem". I later found that this is what the call center operators are told to say.

It's not clear what the problem is. As I noted above, Virgin didn't recognize the the AT&T iPhone4's IMEI; maybe the website can't tell if I should see the BlackBerry or Smartphone options. Or maybe there's some weird rule here I don't understand yet. I'm slowly working this with tech support

Between Chat Support and the web site I've put together some notes on how Virgin does prepaid plans and prepaid data as of March 2014: [1]
  • $15 Top Ups expire in 30 days, $25 and $50 Top Ups expire in 60 days and $100 Top Ups have an expiration period of 365 days. (A Top Up is simply a credit one buys from Future Shop and other retailers.)
  • Unused funds expire at the end of the Active Period unless you Top Up within 7 calendar days of their expiry. If you Top Up before hitting zero the new Active Period will apply to the combined amount of prepaid funds.
  • Expiration is based on the expiration date of the latest Top Up. So if your credit expires in 60 days, and you buy a $100 Top Up, expiration is 365 days, not 425. Other prepaid vendors are much better; the expiration date is sum of original remaining plus new. (If expiration is 365 days and you but a $10 Top Up what happens then? Nothing good I fear.)
  • If you run through your Data Plan, Virgin charges per MB overage fees until your prepaid balance is exhausted. (If you optionally associated a credit card with the prepaid plan I suspect the credit card is charged until your bank account is exhausted. I don't know if this applies to INTERAC purchases.)
  • If your prepaid funds expire and you do not top up for 3 months your account will completely disconnect. (It may be possible to 'reactivate', but I don't know how that works or for how long.)
I'm very reluctant to give Virgin a credit card number - I don't trust them in the least. I think the best option is going to be their pre-authorized monthly bank debit plan -- $20/month one day before plan expires:
  • 10$: 100MB
  • 7$: 500 text
  • 3$: minimal voice

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Aperture and/or iPhoto had a nasty habit of emptying Facebook photo albums @2011 or so

For some time I've noticed some of the older Facebook albums I'd created from either iPhoto or Aperture showed with generic icons when displayed in Aperture's Facebook view. After a recent Aperture update to 3.51 I decided to investigate; I right clicked on the icons and navigated to the albums in Facebook.

Which had no images in them. It sounds like this bug, documented back in 2010 (as I write this I think Discussions has gone offline):

Xeep 11/6/2010

... I was pleased that the Aperture 3.1 update fixed a lot of bugs related to Facebook, however it seems to have introduced a new bug. When I started Aperture after the update, it brought in all my Facebook albums (about 10 of them), however one of the albums was empty. I went on Facebook to see that this album still existed but was also empty. It seems that Aperture deleted the contents since there were obviously pictures in it before the update. I created a new album in Aperture and uploaded it successfully to Facebook. The photos stayed intact until the next time I opened Aperture after which it deleted all the photos again. I repeated this 5 times before giving up. It only affected the one previous album (seemingly random) and any new albums I try to create. I've since disconnected Aperture from Facebook and only upload through Safari. Anyone seen something similar?...

I saw some similar comments in Apple Discussions, but not much elsewhere. Looking back at my albums the most last empty album was some time in summer 2011. So perhaps the bug, which might have belonged to Apple or Facebook or both, was fixed after that.

The photos are still in Aperture -- though I had a stomach ache moment when I thought they weren't. So this appears to be a synchronization bug, of the sort that have plagued me for years decades. Synchronization is tough, and Apple has failed at it more than once.

I could recreate the albums by exporting images from Aperture and uploading via Safari, but for now I'll leave them be.

If you used Aperture or iPhoto @2010-2011 with Facebook you should take a look at your albums.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Lion: prompted for lpadmin group when printer pauses (and Apple's permissions mess)

I didn't have a problem with Snow Leopard and my prior printer, but our elder MacBook (plastic, dual USB, no ML support) running Lion is having repeated problems with our Brother HL-6180DW. The printer keeps going into a paused state (sleep / wake bug?), and users are prompted to "Type the name and password of a user in the lpadmin group to allow...". Of course the kids don't know what to type -- and this is a very awkward prompt in any case. Something is broken.

Of course a lot of things are broken with OS X and printing - even in Mavericks. So this isn't a great surprise. It is annoying though.

There are lots of online tips on this mostly focusing on terminal commands for adding users to lpadmin manually or disabling printer queue password requirements. Sometimes they seem to work, sometimes not. [1]. 

The only Apple doc on this covers 10.5 (Leopard) to 10.6 (Snow Leopard). It's weirdly written, and suggests some intersection with parental controls  "Limit printer administration" (which makes sense). Then it talks about toggling admin privileges for the admin user, even though one assumes that only non-admin users would see the prompt.

FWIW even after I created a new admin account on the Lion machine OS X 10.7 wouldn't let me toggle admin status for my primary admin account. It merely said it couldn't. Seems there was something odd about that admin account. So I deleted it (my admin accounts are all disposable, I only use them for admin tasks). I'll see if fixing that makes any difference. If not I'll play around with toggling parental controls and exploring Workgroup Manager and those terminal commands.

- fn -

[1] If you don't like Terminal Commands took a look at Workgroup Manager. Lion’s Server Admin Tools includes Workgroup Manager, I used Workgroup Manager downloads to get the Mountain Lion version (see also). You need to select “Show System Records” to see the “system” users and groups (thank you Google).

In Mountain Lion the lpadmin group is _lpadmin and the Name is Print Administrators. All Administrators were members of lpadmin, and so was ONE of the FIVE non-admin accounts on that machine. Interestingly the ONLY non-admin member of lpadmin on my ML box has parental controls enabled. By Darwin, Apple made such a mess of permissions in OS X.

See also:

Update 4/5/2014

Most of the problems were with one user’s account. With Workgroup Manager I found he was NOT a member of Staff, but all other Lion user accounts were. He was a member of a Group that had the same name as his User Name, probably due to the horrid User/Group/Staff mess of 10.3 to 10.7. I deleted that Group and assigned him to Staff. I’ll see if that works.

There’s also a recent Brother printer driver update to try, and a firmware update. The latter requires Java, which is essentially obsolete on the Mac. I was able to perform the update using an old Lion machine. Shame on Brother for not supporting firmware updates via the web app. (They used to.)