Saturday, December 10, 2016

Delete all images from iPhone: there is no efficient method if you have iCloud Photos enabled.

There is a lot of incorrect web advice on iPhone image deletion. Some of it is dated, some of is recent regurgitation of old methods that no longer work. None of the articles I found differentiate between the behavior with iCloud Photos enabled or disabled.

If you have iCloud Photos enabled there is no efficient delete method from the iPhone. That’s because Apple doesn’t want us to think about photos being on a device. Devices are only temporary stores; the true home of a Photos is in iCloud. 

You can't use Aperture to delete after import. You also can’t use Image Capture (at least not from El Capitan). Aperture will offer the delete dialog but they will remain. In El Cap Image Capture does not show the delete option. I don’t believe on Mac or iCloud will allow one to delete images that are ‘temporarily’ stored on a specific device — that really doesn’t fit Apple’s photo model. Again, the true home of a Photo is iCloud - device residence is a form of transient cache.

From the iPhone you can view the all photos album, scroll to bottom, select an image then slide up until all are selected, then delete. Apple doesn’t offer a delete all option because it knows iCloud Photos is confusing and, given half a chance, people will delete their entire photo library. Note this is only a first stage delete, you do this you have to go to recently deleted and empty that as well (“trash” equivalent).

With iCloud Photos disabled delete works from both Aperture and Image Capture.

I have experimented with using photo stream sharing from Aperture and iCloud Photos from It’s awkward and I periodically need to reenable photo streams in Aperture, but it has worked. I’ve decided it’s not worth the delete complexity though. For now I’ve turned off iCloud Photos and I’m back to old school wired transfer form phone to Aperture. I continue do iCloud photo stream sharing from Aperture and I subscribe to those on my iPhone and Aperture.

PS. With iOS 10.1.1 I saw some quite odd behavior after I disabled iCloud Photos on the iPhone. Even though showed no images Image Capture showed many. I had to do a forced restart of the iPhone (deletes some caches) to clear out those ghost images.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

iOS 10 bluetooth problems: repairing with Pioneer DEH-X6800BT

After the iOS 10 update I lost bluetooth connectivity to my Pioneer DEC-X6800BT car stereo. I tried the usual remedies.

I think the real fix was initiating connectivity from the iPhone side rather than the Pioneer side. The DEH-X6800BT was never able to find my i6, but the fine print in the manual said the phone might see if it if “Visible” was enabled. I confirmed “Visible” was “On” for the Pioneer, the iPhone saw it, the confirmation number appeared on the Pioneer, I accepted that … pairing resumed. Now I’ll see how well iOS 10 car park detection works (requires bluetooth connection between phone and stereo).

Other things I tried (maybe they helped?):

  • Usual wipe/delete connections on both sides.
  • Reset Pioneer back to factory mode (not in manual, had to Google, trick is to power off, then push the menu button and look for reset).
  • Reset network settings on iPhone
There are firmware updates for some Pioneer phones but not for the X6800BT. The stereo has an odd feature — if you cable connect an iPhone (any cable, don’t need their cable!) it will also Bluetooth pair transiently. Handy for phone of another family member.

Incidentally, I really dislike my DEH-X6800BT. Overloaded controls, too many poorly managed and weirdly distributed menus, processing pauses that make Siri unusable when car manages interaction, awful ideas like color shifting panel and “MixTrax” etc. The manual is seriously incomplete. Get something else.

Reset network on my iPhone also reset network on my El Capitan box

The joys of enabling keychain sync: “Reset network" on my iPhone also reset network on my El Capitan box.

Had to reenter the WiFi pw on my Macbook. Which reentered it on my iPhone.

It is possible to be too clever Apple.

Reusing old phones -- reset all before you put them in the storage.

We've accumulated several old iPhones - 4 and 4s. We find a use for them periodically -- as alarm clocks, media players and so on. 

Today I ran into a problem with this that I'd not considered. I went to reuse an old device with a restriction code -- and I couldn't because it was an old code we no longer use. It wasn't in my password store because it was obsolete.

Miraculously I remembered it. Two lessons learned:

  1. I can’t delete old passwords. I should know this. I ran into a similar problem years ago when Apple effectively made “” free again — and I no longer had the password I’d used when I stopped paying for it.
  2. You need to wipe phones before putting them in the bin. I was leaving them unwired as an extra backup during device transitions.

PS. Another reason to reset. If you restart an old phone it may register with iTunes and iCloud — and mess up iMessage addressing and iTunes device limits.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Congratulations Apple, is now incomprehensible.

[I figured out what Apple was doing in the latest iOS mess. I’m leaving my original confusion in place, check for the last update.]

We don’t subscribe to Apple Music. That may be the problem. Anyway…

There used to be a way to tell to only show music physically present on an iOS device. That dialog moved around a few times. In iOS 9.3 it was very hard to find.

I can’t find it in iOS 10.1.

Google is no help. I see many people asking this question more or less clearly, but the answers are incorrect or missing.

As best I can tell “Downloaded Music” should show all iCloud music (so it’s a terrible misnomer), but on his phone it displays a gray banner saying “Showing only music on this iPhone”.

I think this is a bug, perhaps related to migrating from iOS 9.x with the old setting to show only local music enabled.

What an awful mess Apple is today.

Update 11/29/2016

Somewhere in the 10.1 beta some users Music Settings screen had a toggle for iCloud music. The released version of 10.1 doesn’t have this option…

Missing toggle

Update 11/29/2016

I have a theory as to what’s going on. In 10.x Apple removed the option to hide iCloud content. In the betas they played with putting a sensible toggle in a sensible place, but some evil marketing type overruled this.

Now when you start and tap on Library you get a fairly ugly looking UI that looks like this (I used the Edit option to add Genres, etc and to move Downloaded Music to the top):

IMG 5250

It should have everything that’s in iTunes and anything new should show up as Recently Added. From this screen you can find tunes and play them or transfer them locally (download). EXCEPT it can take an hour from purchase on another device until a tune shows up as Recently Added.

What if you want to see just music on your device? You tap Downloaded Music at the top of the above list. Then you get a screen with an ugly gray banner that says “Showing only music on this iPhone) — because obviously nobody knew what Apple was doing here…

IMG 5251

This is the locally stored music. The layout here matches whatever you did on the first screen. So if you only want to see local music you go here. There’s no way to eliminate the ugly gray barrier, it’s clearly a last desperate addition put here to try to make sense of a major UI shift.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Enhanced Google Security: Security Key and Password Alert

Google is tracking a curious uptick in government-backed (Russia, China, ?) attacks on journalist gmail accounts.

They are suggesting two security measures that are new to me - a security key and password alert.

Security Key is a USB dongle (FIDO Universal 2nd Factor) Instead of running on your phone. It’s less vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks, but “Security Key does not work on browsers other than Chrome.” You can buy one from your favorite Chinese manufacturer on Amazon.

Password Alert is a Chrome app that tries to monitor for man-in-the-middle and phishing attacks. I’ve installed it in Chrome on my Mac. You have to trust Google to use it but if you’re using Chrome you’ve already made that commitment.

The Password Alert extension was part of a series of 2015 security enhancements. I’m surprised I didn’t hear anything about it.

Security Key may be newer, I couldn’t find much about it. I think Google is going to have to start selling these. Why would I trust a Chinese vendor?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

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

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

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

Detailed steps:

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

iCloud sorrow: the two ways to be in iCloud Drive

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

 Screen Shot 2016 10 16 at 8 28 56 PM

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

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

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


Friday, October 14, 2016

AT&T has an iPhone network configuration problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

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

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

The key is creating a conditional (filtered) compile.

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

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

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

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

- fn -

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

Monday, October 10, 2016

Aperture on Sierra: cautious optimism.

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

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

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

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


…  [Known El Capitan bugs evaluated]

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

Test procedure

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

Test machines:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 03, 2016

How to backup your iCloud data on a Mac

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

Archive or make copies of your iCloud data - Apple Support

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

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

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

How do you backup Notes? | Official Apple Support Communities

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Facebook: what to do when you receive a Friend request from someone who is already a friend (impersonation scam).

There are a lot of scams on Facebook. Heck, at one time their revenue came largely from shady games and the covert sale of personal information. It’s kind of in their blood. With time Facebook has become respectable, but the scams continue.

Some scams have no fix. If someone uses a personal email address you haven’t yourself associated with a Facebook account you are out of luck. At best you can lock the scammer out of Facebook by doing a password reset.

Other scams do have a fix, but the fix is usually anti-documented. What’s anti-documentation? It’s to documentation as antimatter is to matter. The opposite of useful; it gives the wrong answer to every question.

The fake-friend scam is anti-documented. When I searched recently for a good explanation I found lots of chaff and nonsense. So here’s a stab at what you do — at least until Facebook changes things again.

The fake-friend scam leverages Facebook’s default behavior of sharing your image, your name, and your friend list. A software program creates a new profile based on your image and name, then sends an invite to everyone it can find on your friend list. Friends accept, and it does the same thing to them. The resulting information can be sold. Eventually someone monetizes the network, usually by sending a link that loads malware with a payoff.

The fix is to report the fake profile. This is what I did when I received a request from someone who was already a friend (I’ve removed her identifying information). If all goes well after the report is done a confirmation request is sent to the friend who is being impersonated (though sometimes Facebook seems to remove the fake profile immediately):

1. Click the mystery drop down icon on right side and choose report.


2. Choose report.


3. They’re pretending to be … someone I know


4. Submit for review


5. Facebook will lookup the name from your friend list.


A few minutes later you should receive a Facebook notification that the case has been “closed”:

Screen Shot 2016 09 25 at 9 53 38 AM

I’ve done this a few times. So far Facebook has removed the fake profile fairly quickly, but that may depend on your friend managing their followup. So let your friend no what to expect.

Friday, September 23, 2016

What Scrivener does poorly (or not at all)

There’s a lot I like about Scrivener, a writer’s integrated development environment with compilation to platform specific documents. I’m not the only person who wants to like it, there are many enthusiasts online.

It’s easy to find tips and advice online, it’s harder to find a list of what doesn’t work. That’s important to know up front, before you commit to Scrivener.

This is my working list. I’ll expand it over time…

  1. PDF export has no page footnotes. The footnotes become chapter endnotes instead.
  2. Table creation within Scrivener is quite limited (Scrivener uses macOS text editing services).
  3. Table creation in compiled output is poor or unusable. Formatting in PDF and RTF loses font information, formatting in Word .docx defaults table to Word “auto fit to contents” instead of “auto fit to window”.
  4. It’s easy to get formatting drift between chapters, there’s no ready style enforcement (there is a process for redoing all formatting to a default)

Some of Scriveners’s limitations seem inherited from macOS text handling, others may be limitations of third party libraries. Scrivener could be more forthright about what works and doesn’t work, but that’s asking a lot of a small business.

Scrivener works best for writing fiction, though even there style support is a big issue (see also, below). It works less well for non-fiction — we need things like tables. If I do continue with Scrivener for my own book I’ll have to treat Word output as a forked version — with late stage editing being manually replicated in two locations. That’s not ideal, but it might be doable. The alternative, of course, is to use Word from the start [1].

- fn -

[1] At least in light use Word for Mac is now useable and the bugs are manageable. With the rental model Office 365 is also quite reasonably priced.

See also:

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Set alert sound to Constellation and you can't miss them.

I had one job. I had to put my daughter’s laundry in the dryer. Since I know I’m demented I set a Reminder. Which I never saw because I didn’t look at my phone and the tiny ding went unheard (and perhaps because Reminders sync to El Cap is unreliable).

It’s not the first time I’ve missed a Reminder. When I set one I really want to be reminded.

An alarm option for Reminders would be great but for now there’s a workaround. In Settings:Sounds:Reminder Alerts [1] choose “Constellation” ring tone. It goes on endlessly.

- fn -

[1] Same option can be found in Notifications. iOS changed settings model from a hierarchy to an acyclic graph; settings now appear in multiple places. I think this is a good thing, especially with search. Search is still odd though; if you search on Sounds you find individual Sound settings, but the Sound menu item appears with the description “Lock Sounds”. (I think this is a bug.)

Monday, September 05, 2016

Tweak to my, Aperture workflow.

WARNING: There are at least two issues with this workflow.

1. Not all images that appear in iOS UI for “All Photos” are actually available for import into Aperture. I suspect images that have synchronized from iCloud Photo Library are stored in a different physical location from the images Aperture sees.

2. Neither Aperture nor Image Capture can delete photos from iPhone if iCloud Photo Library is active. Aperture doesn’t show an error message but fails. Image Capture doesn’t show the delete control. Turn off iCloud Photo Library to reenable delete.

———- ORIGINAL POST ——————-

With El Capitan it is possible to have and iPhone share photos via iCloud, while Aperture owns posting to iCloud photo sharing streams. You have to fight a bit, but it works great.

So my workflow has been to use on OS X and iOS to cull images, then periodically export from to Aperture. Except original image export is broken, and has been broken since 1.0. (Exports all images, even those that are “deleted”), so this is a pain.

Finally realized there’s a much better solution. Whenever I want to move images from to Aperture I import them from the iPhone into Aperture (iPhone set to keep full res images). Then I use Aperture post-import delete. Then they delete from Much neater.

See also:

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Apple's peculiar relationship to RSS (and blogs)

Apple “Newsroom” smells like a blog, but there’s no RSS feed. I assume it uses Apple’s RSS variant and works with Apple’s, but it also renders in a browser. (Historically a dull PR site, Apple is starting to use Newsroom to promote Siri.)

On the other hand, Apple has RSS Feeds. They even have an iTunes Store query tool that generates custom RSS. They don’t have them for newsroom though. and Apple News is supposed to be able to work with RSS feeds, but I can’t get it to work with Wordpress or Blogger feeds.

Apple’s half-baked approach to subscription and notification is sadly typical for them.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

OS X and iOS wifi defect with iCloud keychain sharing: rejoining zombie networks.

With iCloud keychain sharing enabled both iOS and OS X seem unable to truly “forget” networks I’ve joined. I remove them using the WiFi menu or advanced preferences but they seem to keep returning. With large numbers of networks the U for locating specific networks is quite frustrating.

These unforgotten networks mean I’m constantly having to adjust what networks I join, or I join the wrong ones.

The best workaround I’ve found is to use Keychain Access from OS X to delete the wifi password for unwanted networks. That seems to propagate correctly and the UI includes search.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Modern bugs: server, client, and DRM. Also transient.

Another reason why we can’t have nice things.

My son's iPhone had access to some of our cloud media (TV) library, but not all of it. The UI looked like a mixture of age restricted on-device media, downloadable off-device media, on-device media missing normal display icons, and off-device media that wasn’t shown at all.

iTunes sync displayed odd alignments; it saw on-device media that did not show in iOS manage storage. His device requested App Store credentials multiple times, usually displaying the iOS 1 style dialogs seen when things are broken in iOS 9’s hacked together authentication frameworks.

An hour or so later things were more or less back to normal. Signing out of the App Store completely then re-authenticating might have helped. Or perhaps an old school iTunes sync or two. Or maybe an asteroid fly-by.

iOS flash style corruption? (There’s probably a reason Apple wants to retire HFS+ for something that’s Flash friendlier.) Problems with Apple’s DRM servers? Bugs in iOS? Bugs in iTunes?

Most likely all of the above. Sooner or later I’ll have to wipe and restore this phone, the iPhone equivalent of a visit to the dental hygienist. Reminds of me of Windows 95 really.

Modern bugs: emergent, complex, transient, common, and disruptive.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Beware: iPhones with mixed FairPlay app ownership may no longer backup/restore as expected

Ran into this with a friend’s devices. He was syncing his and his wife’s iPhones to iTunes under Lion. Not sure how old iTunes library was.

When his wife’s iPhone 6s had to be replaced he found he couldn’t restore from iCloud backup or from his old iTunes backup (Lion OS, I didn’t check his iTunes version). He tried to create a new iCloud backup but that removed  the old one and created a 0kb backup. I couldn’t get iCloud backup working either.

Probably relevant: they had mixed app ownership, some purchased under his Apple store ID, some under her Apple store ID.

I created a backup to a fresh user account iTunes instance on my El Cap machine (but, significantly, my machine is authorized on my App Store ID). Restore seemed to proceed — but app restore didn’t complete from the iTunes backup. Instead it slowly proceeded via iCloud then left apps in dim icon status.

I believe I got things working by signing them up to Family Sharing. Then apps downloaded from iCloud, but not from iTunes.

At the time I write this I’m still investigating media rights and have yet to attempt another iCloud backup.

I wonder if Apple quietly updated its backend DRM rules.

DRM is nasty stuff.


  1. The iCloud backup problem was an unrelated bug. “The Last Backup Could Not Be Completed” bug has many causes, but sometimes it’s just the wrong error message. Instead of saying “buy more storage” (which is what I usually see) iCloud Backup gave a useless error message and quit. I excluded her 5.1GB of images and it resumed.
  2. Her new phone has no media. I think I know what happened. She gets her media from a non-DRMd old school iTunes music library. If you backup, as we did, from her phone to a Library on my computer there’s a DRM conflict. Apple’s iTunes DRM is device based, not (AFAIK) user account based. So my Mac wasn’t authenticated to hold her music (maybe I could authenticate, but that’s scary). I think the music got backed up, but iTunes could’t display/handle it, so it wasn’t part of the restore. The bug here is absence of an error message, simply media free restore.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

OS X Version support - doesn't use a lot of storage (for me)

A warning that my network share doesn’t support versions reminded me that OS X added version support in Lion (in addition to Time Machine backup).

It’s a feature I’d long forgotten about and have never used. MSFT Word has no support for OS X versions, and of course Google Docs are just pointers to Google’s database. So OS X Versions aren’t that useful for me.

I wondered how much space the versions take. They are in /.DocumentRevisions-V100. Easy to find since I have Finder set to show invisibles. I had no access to view, so I added Read only access for my non-admin account to the root and child drives. I found Data organized by UID, my total version collection was about 1GB. 

So not too bad. I found a few references discussing managing space taken up by versions. I assume the OS has some rules but two references I found didn’t mention any.

If Michael Tsai can’t find an answer I won’t even try. Michael referenced Siracusa’s 2011 Lion article, the main reason Versions storage doesn’t use up so many space is that OS X is clever about what pieces of a file it saves as a version component.

I also see .MobileBackups, but despite what permissions says I can’t open that folder. Some deep wizardry there. About this Mac will show how much storage this takes, about 3GB on my 256GB SSD. There’s a clean terminal method to purge this data, but it seems to be working as designed for me.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Uninstalling Synology Cloud Station Mac -- and why you would never have installed it in the first place.

Synology Cloud Station aka Cloud Station Drive stopped working reliably for me in El Capitan.

That’s when I discovered there’s no uninstaller.


I have a rule of not installing Mac apps that can’t be easily uninstalled [1]. Clearly I screwed up. In my experience if a Mac apps doesn’t have a clean uninstall it’s not going to work out well.

Uninstall directions for Ubuntu mention a buried uninstall script in ./Cloudstation; I have Finder set to show invisible files (I like running this way) so I found the Mac version of this in /Users/jfaughnan/.CloudStation (you might be able to open this using Finder Go). I couldn’t find an uninstall script in the Mac package though. I didn’t find anything useful on Synology forums; a site that markets a (worthless) Mac uninstaller app gave generic directions.

This is what I did. I think EasyFind will do most of the work for you - just search on Synology.

  1. Exited Synology Cloud Station from the blue cloud icon Finder bar thing.
  2. Searched Activity Monitor for Synology and Cloud. Found two processes called “synology cloud station drive finder integration” and killed both.
  3. Deleted /Applications/Synology Cloud
  4. Deleted /Users/jfaughnan/.CloudStation
  5. Used (love it) to search for all files and folders containing “synology” including Invisible Files and Folders and Package Contents. It found a ton of crap. For example: /private/var/folders/5c/gx565vx110gcdhxn10mbddfh0000gp/T/com.synology.CloudStation.FinderSync [2][3]. I deleted that and several more. I’ve included below a set of partial screenshots form Easy Find (shame I don’t know enough unix to do this in shells and dump results). It’s a mess, but in practice I only had to delete 3-4 things to clear them all out. (If you have other Synology tools installed you’ll probably damage them too, but really you shouldn’t let Synology touch your Mac.)
  6. Log out and then in again to confirm Finder iteration is gone.
Ugh. What a mistake that was.
Examples from EasyFind (many of these are package contents, so only need to find Package or Folder and delete the lots)

- fn -

[1] Lack of OS uninstall support is one of the historic defects of macOS / OS X.

[2] cmd-opt-c to copy file path is the best feature of El Capitan. Almost as good as old cmd-opt-shift-v for paste as plain text.

[3] There are lots of weird files in ‘5c’, looks like some kind of cache/dumping ground. I just deleted the Synology one. There’s also a in there. Turns out Finder Sync is a newish OS X API that does a lot of interesting things (probably with bugs and Finder screw-ups, knowing Apple):

… The Finder Sync extension point lets you cleanly and safely modify the Finder’s user interface to express file synchronization status and control. Unlike most extension points, Finder Sync does not add features to a host app. Instead, it lets you modify the behavior of the Finder itself….

… With a Finder Sync extension you register one or more folders for the system to monitor. Your Finder Sync extension then sets badges, labels, and contextual menus for any items in the monitored folders. You can also use the extension point’s API to add a toolbar button to the Finder window or a sidebar icon for the monitored folder…

… Finder Sync supports apps that synchronize the contents of a local folder with a remote data source. It improves user experience by providing immediate visual feedback directly in the Finder. Badges display the sync state of each item, and contextual menus let users manage folder contents. Custom toolbar buttons can invoke global actions, such as opening a monitored folder or forcing a sync operation…

…  the user may have multiple copies of your extension running at once, and some may be very short lived…

Update 8/23/2016: I can’t kill the Finder integration on Emily’s Mac. Keeps returning. This thing must have malware in its code base.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Stop bike tracking app from auto-sharing all rides to Facebook

I think this is new. It’s certainly causing lots of confusion.

All of my Strava rides were getting auto-posted to Facebook. This was unwanted.

The problem is Strava has a cryptic poorly implemented auto-share toggle setting that’s not part of Strava settings. A deluge of customer complaints forced Strava to break it’s no-documentation rule:

Directly after uploading an activity, you will see the activity edit page before clicking "Save & View." You can share activities to Facebook by flipping ON the Facebook toggle for any activities you wish to share (button turns blue). Keep in mind that this toggle will turn on automatic sharing. In other words, all future activities will be shared as long as this button is left on.  

Take a look at the screenshot on that web site. It took me a while to find the Facebook icon. If it’s blue then auto-share is on and will stay on. To turn it off create a fake ride (walk around the house) then click the “Flag” icon to save it then hunt for a blue Facebook icon at bottom right of the “save” screen. Toggle it off. It will keep that state.

When auto-share is off you can still post to Facebook, you have to open the saved activity then click on it again and then click share.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

SMS messaging to small groups: Apple's App Store comes up empty. Again.

It may require federal legislation, but someday text messaging services will interoperate.

Today, however, we have cruddy old SMS, held in the fierce claws of Verizon and AT&T. SMS, which has a maximum of ten recipients. SMS, which carriers have kept alive by bundling unlimited SMS with data services. SMS, which is definitely not free (in the US) for sending services. SMS, which RCS  (aka “joyn”) has failed to replace for about five years — because there’s money on the table.

SMS, which has a decent notification framework even on Android phones [1]. SMS, which is the only thing that is guaranteed to work with every member of a sports team. SMS, which is a key feature of TeamSnap ($8/month — compare to $50/month for many commercial SMS services).

Bottom line - SMS is lousy, but we need to work with it. Our Minnesota NICA mountain biking team is probably going to sign up for TeamSnap for the SMS service alone. The only real alternatives I know of are free GroupMe and iOS or Android apps that turn a list of numbers into a series of sub-10 member SMS texts that are covered by the standard US Carrier SMS bundle and sent as my personal text. That seems easy to do, and unsurprisingly there are a zillion of these apps. How can one pick a decent one?

I started by thinking about what’s important:

  • A clear business model. I avoid apps that hide how they make money. Ideally a simple cash payment.
  • Easy entry of numbers - copy/paste into a text field would be fine.
  • Error handling - notify which texts don’t make it.
  • Last update within past 12 months.
  • A web site with product documentation
  • Decent App Store review numbers in past year (allowing for the usual fake reviews)
  • Android version nice to have
  • US centric - our mobile market is weird. An international solution is unlikely to meet our needs.
From the App Store I started with
  • AtomPark SMS: no reviews
  • Group SMS!: $1, 110 reviews
  • Group Text!: $3, 2,139 reviews. Last updated 9/2014.
  • EasyGroup: $5, 427 reviews, not clear what it does
  • Text 2 Group: $3, 1,885 reviews. Last updated 5/2016
My initial screen left me with Group Text! and Text 2 Group. So I read some reviews. 
Text 2 Group requires iMessage be disabled prior to use and has no support or web site. Disabling and reenabling iMessage is a pain in the ass on iOS (turning off data/wifi is easy though and probably has same effect). It’s also rather hard to know what this app actually does.
Group Text! has not been updated for 2 years but it has a web site: Which says that the manual for version 3 “is coming soon”; version 3.4 was released 9/2014. I reviewed the site and support documents — it’s pretty much unreadable. This is a dead app.
At the end of the day Apple’s vast app store yielded … nothing. Even basic quality screens eliminated every product sold.
This is probably a good place to mention that Apple’s App Store business model has been broken for years — and that’s a sign of how poorly Tim Cook is doing.

See also 

[1] I had to get an Android phone for my special needs smartphone book project. I was amazed what a mess the carriers have made of Android messaging. Google’s deal with the Verizon devil has a price.

Update 8/20/2016: On @jws points out that SMS messaging to groups can be done by using carrier email to SMS gateways. The form varies by carrier, AT&T processes email of the form This scales to a large number of users. 

I think some people block these email to SMS services; I think I do.

TeamSnap uses true SMS for the US and Canada.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Simplenote is not dead -- and the joy of nvAlt backup, an Automattic product I use a zillion times a day, is less dead than I thought. They just released a version for Android, I installed on my ultra-cheap Moto e and in the blink of an eye my notes are there.

Before I did that experiment though, I made a backup.

I launched nvAlt and my local Mac folder of Simplenote RTF files was instantly updated. I then zipped up that folder — maybe 2MB. Stuck the zip in a folder of things like that. A record of the state of my extended memory on this day.

Only a geek can understand the warm glow I get from that special level of backup. The age old problem of Cloud backup (how do you recover a single mis-edited note from a month ago?) solved. (But will nvAlt work on Sierra? Brett Terpstra’s long delayed nvAlt replacement drops Simplenote support.)

Now if only Automatic would fix the #$!%%! broken search on (only) the Mac version. I confirmed search works on the new Android version.

See also

Monday, August 01, 2016

Comcast - after the promo rolloff

Our Comcast promo rolloff happened today. Our 1st year rate with taxes, modem rental and hidden fees was $56/month. The post-promo rate was $93. I called to see what they’d deal — not much as it turned out. I have a bit of a speed boost and a few dollars off (how much is hard to tell, because the phone quotes don’t include the hidden fees).

They reset my service after the call conclusion — too bad I had an online transaction pending :-(.

I few tips ….

  • when get voice mail prompt requesting purpose of call say: “lower my bill”
  • you want to speak to “customer retention". I think I only got as far as “customer solutions”
  • You can hit 1 instead of saying ‘yes’. Works better.
  • I think you want to have an alternative service quote in hand before calling.
  • Be ready to call more than once. The first analyst I spoke with passed me on to customer solutions and then my line went dead. Well, this is Comcast we’re talking about.

See also

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

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]

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 “” 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) ( and the Mac ( 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 [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 AFP (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.

Update 8/29/2020: Backup also failed when I upgraded the old Air from Sierra to High Sierra. Good thing I have alternatives to this TM backup.

See also:

Thursday, June 30, 2016

iCloud MailDrop for distributing archival quality photos (sports teams, etc)

Inspired by an AWT post I did some testing to see how iCloud MailDrop handles a set of image attachments. I’ve blogged previously that archival/group distribution of large photo images is an unsolved problem.

It turns out MailDrop is a pretty interesting solution. You can use it to send 5GB of images at a time for a maximum quota of 1TB. Images are available for download for 1 month. That’s weirdly generous by Apple standards. Since iCloud accounts are now available to anyone this option is universally available. (Correction: AppleIDs are universally available, and they include access to Apple’s web based productivity apps, but non-Apple customers don’t get the rest.)

I tested using the iCloud web interface for Mail - I turned on MailDrop in preferences:

Screen Shot 2016 06 30 at 10 07 11 AM

With this enabled I selected about 60MB of images from a folder of Mac background images using the Mail.icloud attachment interface. After selection there was a note that they’d be sent by MailDrop. It’s hard to predict when MailDrop is used, Apple says it happens when the “ISP limit is exceeded”. I’m guessing 20MB or so [1]; but it would be preferable to have a manual way to activate AirDrop. (I’m pretty sure it’s 15 to 20 MB — and Apple doesn’t know what the cap is for corporate email accounts.)

I received the images in Gmail. The result was surprisingly attractive …

Screen Shot 2016 06 30 at 10 06 32 AM

The email was composed of thumbnails, if you click on an image you get …

Screen Shot 2016 06 30 at 10 06 13 AM

Since there’s no authentication one can send the message to oneself and forwards. I don’t normally use iCloud mail, but I could use it for distributing sports team images by sending the email to my gmail account then redirecting it.

If you want to provide a package of images that can be downloaded all at one time you need to compress them first and upload the archive. When I use this feature to share sports team photos I’ll probably do both — attach the images separately and include an archive. I may also share the archive URL in a team web page.

Apple has been curiously quiet about this feature. It may be the best way to distribute archival images available anywhere.

Here’s an edited example of an image URL, emphases mine:

- fn -

[1] It’s 20MB and there doesn’t seem to be a stable technique for lowering the threshold. This would be much nicer if it were manually adjustable. I’ll create a 15MB “filler file” to attach to emails I send to my gmail account, then I’ll resend from there stripping the filler file.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Photos 1.0.1 bug: Export Unmodified Original includes deleted images

Pretty simple bug: “Export Unmodified Original” includes deleted images. You have to empty trash to avoid this one. Happens when I select all images in “All Photos”.

Apple’s software quality continues to explore new lows. I’m still on Yosemite, it’s possible this doesn’t happen in El Capitan.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Microsoft OneDrive does archival photo sharing better than I thought (with one bug)

Yes, I’m being cautious.

In testing, however, I can do this:

  • Create a folder that I can upload full resolution images to and ALSO make it shareable so other OneDrive registered users can upload to it.
  • Create an album that is based on that folder.
  • Share the folder-based album to people who do NOT have a OneDrive account.
  • Update that folder-album using the web UI. (Switch to Files, choose Create Album from Folder. If folder actually exists then it updates - including deletes.

Unfortunately there’s a bug with the undocumented update feature. In addition to updating the album it creates duplicate albums with an iterating integer suffix. The duplicates are easy to delete. I can’t see how to submit a bug report for One Drive unfortunately.

The current behavior is very close to what I want for sharing images in our sports team. There are also album share to Facebook options.

I haven’t tested whether any ICMP metadata will be used by the albums. There don’t appear to be any uploader plugins but I’m still using Aperture so I’d be exporting.

I have 1TB of OneDrive data thanks to my Office 365 subscription. That subscription, which supports installs of Mac apps as well as Access on my Win10 VM, has been a great purchase.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

You cannot reclaim a personal email address used by a stranger's Facebook account.

I think Facebook knows this very well. They closed a discussion thread on this that’s over a year old, and you can’t start a new thread — Facebook will say the answer already exists. 

Their help documentation is incorrect:

Screen Shot 2016 06 16 at 10 16 21 AM

If you try to do this you’ll be told the email is claimed, there’s no way to reclaim. You can use a password reset to lock the other person’s out of their account (assuming you don’t know the attacker’s password) but you will still be unable to reclaim your email address. (In my wife’s case Facebook messages were being set to her spam folder, so she probably missed the notification that the email address was being used.

We ran into the same problem with Skype, but there it is possible to take the account back.

Update: this is a very old problem - 2012. The abuse page links simply redirects to the email notifications that doesn’t belong to me page where the advice doesn’t work. I’ve tried Facebook’s “report a problem” page but I’m not optimistic:

Fb report

Update 6/17/2016:

I found another Facebook page for this issue that has a different workflow:

It at least does not fail immediately.

Or, you can pretend you don’t already have a Facebook account. Use an incognito window and try this one:

Looks like every Facebook engineer has their own independent process…

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Skype identity theft feature: anyone can use your email to create an account.

Skype doesn’t validate email addresses. Anyone can use any email address with a new Skype account as long as there’s no Skype account already associated with it.

This is not a new problem. It’s astounding that Microsoft has not fixed this.

Today Emily received notice of a new Skype account using her email address. I verified that the account existed.

To fix this I had to attempt to create a new Skype account with her stolen email address. That gave me a password reset option that went to her email. I reset the password and now she has a Skype account under her control. She doesn’t want that account, but we’ll need to keep it for now.

Obviously scammers are doing this for some kind of criminal activity — and that activity will be associated with your email address.

This is the most astounding example of rank incompetence I’ve seen in years. Microsoft has truly hit bottom. 

Update: Same thing with a Facebook account. Which is curious. Report that one here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Using US National Grid System (USNG) GPS Coordinates on an iPhone - good luck with that

The boys and I are going mountain biking at the Cuyuna Trails near Ironton Minnesota. The map uses USNG - United States National Grid GPS coordinates.

For example: 2339-4834 is one coordinate. If we need emergency services we’re supposed to know where we are on the map and give them these coordinates. Way points on the map reference the coordinates.

I wondered — can I use these in my iPhone?

Unfortunately neither Apple nor Google Maps support USNG coordinate date entry. After some searching I found some suggested apps:

  • Mobile App: a web app with an odd behavior — might be embedded javascript. They’re looking for someone to make it a real app. It seems to work — shows my current USNG coordinates. Might be a way to find where I am on the trail map.
  • Apps | U.S. National Grid Information Center: 3rd party apps including Theodolite (iPad) and Pro Compass — that don’t actually seems to handle UNSG!

I also found “Map Tools”, but it is abandonware and has a nasty pricing scheme. (Incidentally, Apple App Store search is just atrocious.)

In the end the only app I could find that seemed to cover USNG and be well maintained was MilGPS. I bought it, though I’ll also test out “” — it does seem to work.

I wonder if USNG is either a dead end or a false start. (See also: 1-Introducing the United States National Grid.)

Update 7/1/2016

A comment mentioned the Gmap4 project. It is a pretty cool project, and the documentation has the best explanation of USNG I’ve found.

Gmap4 can dispay the USNG grid on Topo maps. Here is the Cuyuna area.

I am the developer of this enhanced Google map viewer. This is a public service and part of my way to 'pay it forward'.

This link and the USNG support works fine on cell phones and other mobile devices. For geolocation tap Menu ==> My location.

Gmap4 homepage:

USNG support in Gmap4:

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Clean install of windows 10 on VMWare Mac - getting a license ($130)

I needed to use Microsoft Access.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re wrong. Yes, Access is a horrible old patchwork beast, but for some kind of data manipulation it’s still unequaled. It’s particularly good at mixing local data store with ODBC stores. It helps that I know where the bugs are buried — though Access 365 on Windows 10 is particularly buggy.

So about two weeks ago I fired up my old copy of VMWare Fusion 7, downloaded Windows Pro 64bit OEM and used my multi-platform multi-machine Office 365 license to install Microsoft Access. It was all relatively painless. I did find Fusion 7 isn’t happy with Yosemite virtual desktop, so I only use full screen Win 10 in just one display. That works until I do my El Capitan/Fusion 8 update.

The entire package takes up about 23GB on an external SSD. 

I did wonder how I was going to pay for Win 10. It was working without complaint. I figured I’d get some kind of notice. About two weeks after installation it began showing a watermark on the screen requesting activation and personalization features were turned off. That was a polite reminder.

I went hunting for a Win 7 or 8 license  to get the free upgrade — but no-one I knew had one to spare. My own Windows licenses was for XP, that didn’t help. I couldn’t find any good educational deals either. Amazon had lots of Win 7/8/10 licenses at suspiciously low prices, all of which seemed a mixture of counterfeit and genuine product. (Amazon — the crooked pawn shop of the Net.)

In the end I remembered PC Connection and found that while MSFT charges $200 for a Win 10 Pro 64bit license PC Connection had an OEM version for about $145. Once I knew the right price range I found an OEM version on Amazon that shipped from Amazon for about $135. I can’t link to it because Amazon’s fraud-friendly habit of consolidating product listings that ship from multiple sources mixed in their source with $105 versions that seem to include counterfeits.

It came in a legitimate looking Microsoft white envelope holding some kind of disk thing envelope (what’s a DVD?) with a sticker and license number on the front of the inner envelope. The license number was all I needed, it worked.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Living within iCloud Photo Library's storage budget

If someone walked into my home and torched my old-school photo albums they could go to prison.

The way Apple chose to sunset Aperture had roughly the same effect, albeit in slow motion. Even Apple’s keen supporters remain puzzled by how badly Cook managed this [2]. In a better world Apple would at least be liable to a class action lawsuit. [1]

Despite Apple’s blunders there are some things they did well with [4]. I use as a staging area for iPhone images I’ll move to Aperture [8]. I like being able to cull images on my iPhone. I think Brian Chen got it wrong;’s iCloud Photo Library is the right balance between local image ownership and backup and Cloud services [3].

The problem is that iCloud Photo Library is currently expensive. My Aperture library is about 400 GB and I don’t do much video. People who do video, or who delete fewer images, can easily have 1-2 TB Libraries [5]. I don’t mind paying $60 a year for 50GB for each family member, but $600 is too much.

I’m fine with 50GB because I use iCloud Photo Library as a staging area. I periodically migrate to Aperture and empty out my System Photo Library. My daughter has as her primary repository though, and she is better at acquisition than deletion. She ran out of storage recently.

My plan for her is to archive her current Library and create a new empty System Photo Library. She deleted almost 6GB of images today [6] so I haven’t had to do it, but the plan looks something like this:

  1. Confirm all images in her current full-resolution System Photo Library on my Mac. (Call this SPL1.)
  2. Disable iCloud services for SPL1 and move SPL1 from the current external 1TB SSD to a slow external hard drive (which is backed up by both Synology Time Capsule and Carbon Copy Cloner).
  3. On another Mac (could do via iCloud, but easier on a Mac) open up her System Photo Library there and delete every image and then empty the hard-to-find trash. Confirm iCloud Photo Library is empty using web interface. [7]
  4. Create a new System Photo Library (which will be empty).

Then, when she gets up to 45 GB again, repeat the process. She will end up with many Photo Libraries, which is not ideal. Particularly since the only way to merge Photo Libraries is to make each one SPL in turn and gradually build up the aggregate in iCloud. 

Of course Apple could fix this. They could provide us with a way to move images (video and still) out of into system storage as Referenced Images — while preserving metadata and relationships. Referenced Images don’t go to iCloud, so this would allow a single Library to support both iCloud and Referenced images. While they are at it they could also provide a way to merge Libraries (3rd party solutions lose a terrible amount of data).

I don’t have much hope though. As best I can tell Apple considers customers to be smelly and unpleasantly demanding.

- fn - 

[1] The modern era has convinced me we need a legal liability framework for consumer software. 

[2] If you rely on Final Cut Pro you should expect great unhappiness in your future.

[3] Assuming, of course, Apple figures out how to run a Cloud service. They’ve been earning a C grade at best. I waited about 6 months before I started using iCloud Photo Library; I know Apple’s “1.0” is Google’s “pre-beta”. Apple has major software development issues.

[4] The image editing tools are quite good but they are tedious to use. real issue is image management, including metadata support. It’s abysmal.

[5] Ideally on SSD. Aperture sucks on a hard drive.

[6] Didn’t think she could. I underestimated her ruthlessness. My daughter is dangerous.

[7] If you omit the Delete step this is, reportedly, on the path to merging two Libraries.

[8] I’ve revised my Aperture migration plan a bit. If WWDC has substantial image management news then I’ll stay on Yosemite/Aperture until August 2017 then switch to and MacOS 12. That may give Apple time to fix bugs — especially the image corruption problems with Aperture import (brushed corrections mishandled). If WWDC disappoints then I’ll switch to El Capitan in August 2016 and stay on Aperture through 2018. Then see what my options are.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Aperture crashing on "Write IPTC metadata to Originals" - the change everything fix.

I scanned an old wedding album. When I was done I had over 200 images, some from an Epson scanner but most from running prints through a Fujitsu ScanSnap document scanner. The ScanSnap produces high contrast over-saturated scans, but with some post-processing they’re really not bad — and it’s fast.

All seemed well. I processed them in an Aperture Library, exported version JPEGs and imported those into my main Library.

Then I tried “Write IPTC metadata to Originals” and Aperture crashed hard. Again and again and again — with various timing and screwy error messages. It’s all documented in a long Apple Discussions where “lĂ©onie” (level 10!) and I worked through this.

Something in the IPTC metadata process was causing Aperture to write to random memory and eventually crash itself.  Database repair would find lost _temp files (duplicates created during IPTC process) that seemed to cause their own problems. In particular they triggered spurious error messages about “is locked or you do not have permission to modify it” (Aperture gives this message when a file is kind of half-there). At one point I discovered that processing a shared iCloud photo stream that contained these images would crash Aperture!

There was a fix, but it’s unsatisfying. I had to change every possible metadata setting. Advance time on all images 1 second. Remove all Location data. Use "add metadata from: EXIF and iPhoto" (not sure what that does!) and fill out all the possible fields.

After doing all of this, basically rewriting every metadata field Aperture deals with, I could “Write IPTC metadata to Originals” repeatedly without a problem.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

MacOS: If Chrome is default email handler system share menus will not show email (, other)

I’d noticed my (Yosemite) share menu had Air Drop and Message, but not email.

I tried Apple’s recommended fix for missing share options: If Share options or Markup is missing after upgrading to OS X Yosemite or El Capitan but it didn’t help. I got my clue looking at System Preference:Extensions:Share Menu; it showed a Chrome icon for Mail.

In I changed default mail handler back to That returned the Preview Share Extension for Mail.

PS. It’s a good idea to review Extensions periodically. I did some cleanup there.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Nursing home personal videoconferencing and iPad photo slideshow - a successful project

My 94yo father lives in a veterans long term care facility located in Ste Anne de Bellevue, a small community at the west end of the island of Montreal. It has been a good home for him despite some difficult organizational transitions. Canada’s last major war ended over 70 years ago, their veterans system is fading away.

It’s a costly 6 hour flight (fly+security+etc) to see him, so I only get out there every 3-4 months. I send a weekly email that staff print for him, and every other week I send him a PhotoCard featuring one of the kids or a family thing. Phone calls really don’t work though — he didn’t do well with them even when his cognition and hearing were better.

The facility was keen for me to try videoconferencing with him using a Skype workstation. I was a bit skeptical, but they were right. He does much better with videoconferencing than with a phone call. The audio quality is much better than a modern phone call, and it’s a lot easier for me to see how he’s doing with the conversation. I can tell, for example, that he’s enjoying just hearing me talk. He really doesn’t need, or want, to say much himself.

The Skype workstation had problems though. Most of the time scheduled calls failed. Technical and organizational issues made it too unreliable. 

I didn’t want to give up on the videoconferencing, so I researched LTE videoconferencing for a longterm care facility resident. I considered WiFi but the costs at his facility are higher than LTE and in my experience institutional WiFi is often unreliable. He was already using an LTE Rogers Wireless device to connect an old school landline phone to a cellular network [1] so I was reasonably sure the LTE solution would work from his room.

At the end of the day we deployed a new LTE iPad Air 2 in a minimally modified “CTA digital” anti-theft stand. Here are some images of the stand the Vets built for him; during this first conference he spoke with a younger brother he’d not seen in over 10 years:

IPadVets  1 

IPadVets  5

IPadVets  3

IPadVets  4

IPadVets  5

The wall stand was build by “Jean-Paul”, a staff and facilities person at the Vets. It’s a work of art and an unexpected key to this successful deployment. He built it around the iPad locking stand and incorporated a simple turntable. My father can do the videoconferences from his wheelchair or he can view the 3,000 image family photo slideshow from his lift chair. 

Dad hasn’t tried to operate the iPad. I think he could learn some things if I were there to work with him, but he’s a passive user at this time. A private aide visits him weekly and I schedule the videoconferences with her. I initiate the call, she taps the green button to answer. We use FaceTime because it’s very reliable, has great sound and video quality, and very efficient compression. A typical 15 minute call uses about 25-40MB of data, he has no trouble staying within his monthly Rogers data cap.

I often do the calls from my iPhone and I usually incorporate some kind of walking video tour. The last tour was of a CrossFit gym I’d just finished working out at. The walking tours are very popular, he reports on them to friends and family.

When the iPad is not being used for videoconferencing it’s displaying images using I was irritated when Apple dropped its original iPad slideshow functionality, but I figured there would be many fine replacements. I was wrong. There is exactly one - Picmatic. Miraculously it’s well done. It’s also ridiculously cheap at $2. It’s configured to randomly display full screen images from an iCloud photostream; I put images on there from Aperture and my iPhone. Images display full screen with an integrated clock and cycle every 30 seconds or so. He, or an aide, taps the bottom right icon to start the show. It automatically turns off at night. I wish it were more automatic but Apple is not terribly helpful in this regard. There is only so much developers can do when using iOS.

IPadVets  6 

I’d put some other apps up there I thought might be useful: Notes for memory aide, Mail to show old emails I’d sent him, Podcasts for entertainment, Great to play his history audiobooks, Contacts as an address book, Facebook to see our family activity, Weather, (of course), (for non-Apple videoconferencing) and Only and FaceTime are being used. As Dad’s moderate dementia progresses he is less able to follow things like an audiobook history talk. He might do better with a brief Ted Talk video.

I’ll conclude (out of time :-) with some quick notes for anyone considering a similar project:

  • Theft is a problem in longterm care facilities. Lots of visitors and impossible to screen them all, not to mention residents with impaired judgment. When the staff heard he was getting an iPad they expected it to disappear. This device would not be terribly hard to steal — the cable is only attached to a wall screw and the stand could be unscrewed from the turntable. It’s been enough so far though — just awkward enough to take that it hasn’t been stolen so far. There are two keys for the cradle lock; one in a lockbox in his room, the other in the nurse manager’s desk. The iPad stays in the cradle.
  • I like the cradle but with the cable lock installed it’s hard (almost impossible) to rotate orientation. It stays landscape and that works well.
  • For security I set a passcode and assigned Dad and his aide’s prints to the device. If stolen it’s iPad locked so wouldn’t be useable anyway.
  • My brother has power of attorney. He had to send a copy of that to Rogers so he could get added to the Rogers account. Then he could add me to the account. This was the hardest part of the project. When I arrived in Montreal I took the documents to the Rogers wireless office. They had a hard time setting things up because Roger’s standard software couldn’t handle my US address, they did it using old paper forms. Once that was done the SIM worked fine.
  • I bought the device and did all the setup in the US, wasn’t time to do something like that in Canada. I tweaked setup for weeks. I should have put more things in the hidden folder. I wanted everything on one screen to minimize confusing.

See also: 

- fn - 

[1] I wrote about that project in Wanted - a way to make an old style landline work over a cellular connection. Service was a bit flaky at first, but quality improved substantially and it’s fine now. It turned out to be quite economical to pay for a family member’s iPhone on Rogers then add the “wireless home phone” for $10/month and subsequently add the LTE iPad for $10/month, all sharing data. With this device he can change rooms without a service disruption, and his entire monthly service bill is less than the institutional landline charge.