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.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Yosemite, Fusion 7, Windows 10, Office 365: experience

I am a bit freaked out about how painless this was. The experience was surreal to someone of my vintage.

My primary machine is a 10 month old MacBook Air with 8GB of RAM, 1.6GHz i5 and a 256GB internal SSD running Yosemite. A Thunderbolt 2 Hub connects an USB 3 external 1TB SSD and an old Firewire 800 3TB external drive and separate 3TB backup cradle. All pretty generic stuff.

For work reasons I bought Office 365 Mac. I thought I might be able to avoid Windows entirely, but a new contract meant I couldn’t escape.

So I installed my Fusion VM 7.x and an old XP image with Office 2007. The image is stored on my external SSD. That went disturbingly well, so I downloaded the Windows 10 ISO (64 bit) and asked Fusion to create a new image from the ISO. That also went disturbingly well. The only glitch was it hung during VMWare Tools installation. I had to restart the VM and I reinstalled the tools.

Then, hey, what the hell, I installed Office 365 too. The usual 365 license covers several machines, both Windows and Mac. Yeah, same thing. No problem.

The image on the external SSD took 12.6GB with just Windows 10 Pro, 14.45 after Office 365 installed. Heck, I’ll probably move it back to my primary SSD.

The performance of my very generic low end MacBook Air is excellent. Modern SSDs are a miracle.

Very. Strange.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Android restriction (parental control) solutions: Screen Time and MMGuardian advance to next step

For my book project I searched my moto E test phone (Android 5.1) user guide for “child” and “restriction” and “parental”.  I found “products are not toys and may be hazardous to small children”.

Ooookaaay. That’s not too encouraging. My iPhone User Guide has an extensive discussion of restriction options.

Next I tried “restricted profiles” (Android 4.3 and later). Oops. They’re only for tablets, not phones. So it was time to look for 3rd party options [1].

Google found me some lousy references and two useful ones: Five parental control apps for Android devices - Pocket-lint and 10 Android Parental Control Apps - Yoursphere for Parents [2].

From these I picked up MMGuardian, Funamo, AppLock, Kids Place, Screen Time, Net Nanny, Norton Family and a few others. Between the set of these Android, for a technically sophisticated user, can have advantages over built-in iOS restrictions (iOS security models limit the value vendors can add). 

I’m most interested in products that work for teens and/or adults with atypical minds, so that eliminated a few options. Next I looked for good quality companion web sites with clear pricing — that criterial took out both Norton Family and the (not-really-free) AppLock.

I ended up with four options:

  • MMGuardian: app usage, time use, texts including driving. $35/year. iOS solution from same vendor.
  • Screen Time: $48/year
  • Net Nanny: browser restrictions, remote access. $60/year - primary focus on browser control.
  • Funamo: $20 one time purchase.

Funamo is the value option, with a more limited and geekier web site than the competition. For my target users I think more support is needed. Net Nanny has the highest pricing, which may reflect longer tenure. MMGuardian and ScreenTime seem (hey, information is limited!) to have a good balance of price and value.

ScreenTime and MMGuardian both have well done blogs with working RSS feeds. ScreenTime is Android only, MMGuardian has an iOS product too. Both have a 14 day free trial. ScreenTime has 7,600 Play Store reviews, MMGuardian has 1,200. Both have well documented uninstall procedures[3]. They are well balanced competitors.

I’m going to have to test both of them — since MMGuardian also has an iOS product I’ll start there.

- fn -

[1] Android reminds me so much of Windows; only geeks can truly use it. Why hasn’t Google bundled even minimal functionality into their OS? The sort-of-free AppLock has 3.3 million reviews. There is a need.

[2] There’s something broken in the info-sphere. Exactly two useful reviews?!

See also:

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Brother HL6180DW laser printer: manufacturing defect in foam roller in @ 2003 printers?

This post is based on my two star Amazon review of our 3yo paper-jamming Brother HL6180DW:

We've had this printer for 3 years.

Early on this printer had sleep/wake issues with our Mac. Sometime in the first year or so of use software updates fixed those.

After almost 3 years of regular home printing use it began jamming. The Drum was also due to be replaced. We replaced both the drum and the toner cartridge, but the jamming worsened until it became unusable.

Since this happened I’ve been in contact with Brother support. They requested photos of a key foam roller and they wanted the printer serial number. Even though the printer is 3 years out of warranty they said they'd mail me a refurb. Problem is -- they don't have any refurb devices, they've all been shipped out.

I think my year of this product had a manufacturing problem with a foam roller. It's visible when you open the rear port and flip out a plastic guide. It should be crinkled at the margins and smooth in the center. Ours has linear striations. There are blog posts about this problem. I think Brother offered the out-of-warranty refurb because they know printers in my model year are failing. They're unwilling to announce this however. This probably also explains the lack of refurb machines.

I'm actually ordering a new one. If they send me a refurb in the next 30 days I'll return it (so Brother will have another refurb to distribute!). If they send me a refurb 4 months from now I guess I'll have two. I'm ordering a new one because I have toner and drum components already.

If you have an older HL6180DW do these things before you order a new Drum for an old printer.

1. Check the foam roller and make sure it looks like it should (When you get a new one, photograph the roller.)
2. Check the Fuser lifespan remaining. After 3y we had 71% left. (it's in the manual).

I’ll add photos of the current foam roller condition and the new one once it arrives.

The last really good printer I owned was an Apple LaserWriter Select 360. Printers have not really improved since the early 90s, scanners stopped improving around 2000, dSLRs stopped around 2014, smartphones around 2016.

Update 5/6/2016: Very much to my surprise Brother phoned to say they were unlikely to get any more 6180DW, but they’d overnight ship me a HLL6200DW along with a toner cartridge. That’s the 6180 replacement.

Update 5/10/2016: I received my replacement HL-L6200DW. I can’t tell if it’s new or a refurb. The test print is vastly better than my aged 6180DW, there was more wrong than the paper jams. Installation was straightforward, save that one Mac gave me an annoying “unable to communicate with the printer art this time” over the WiFi interface. I reset the OS X print system then restarted the Mac and the printer and it worked.

I didn’t bother with the directions, I used the USB cable and OS X printer page to get  it on the WiFi network.

Some of the things I’ve learned:

  1. Think very carefully about replacing the Drum Unit on a 3yo printer. The Drum Unit was half the price of a new (toner-free) printer. If I hadn’t bought the Drum Unit I wouldn’t have bothered contacting Brother on an out-of-warranty device, I’d have just bought a new printer. Faster and less trouble.
  2. Brother is pretty serious about service. It took a few days of back and forth tech questions, but their responses were never unreasonable. Probably best to say you use paper they recommend when asked (in fact I did, but only by chance).
  3. I was a bit annoyed when Brother said to wait for a refurb — I pointed out I’d have to buy a printer while I waited. So that wasn’t stellar, but they then phoned and said they would send a newer model. So there’s that.
  4. It’s really dumb to think that a Drum Unit will help with paper jams if the paper isn’t jamming in the Drum Unit. Duh. I wasn’t thinking very clearly there. In my defense the Drum Unit was end-of-life, so I figured it was problem. It wasn’t.