Sunday, September 27, 2020

Things I miss: drag and drop link creation

I've mentioned here a few times that progress is not linear. Howard Oakley has a piece on a related topic today. For example, no application has done text style management as well as Symantec's MORE 3.1 -- which died decades ago. I don't think we'll ever see the like of Apple's Aperture again -- an insanely ambitious app for professional image editing and especially image management. The iPhone is a bit of an improvement over the Palm III, but it took years to equal Palm's task, calendar and note management (yes, really).

Today I mourn one small example of lost progress. It used to be easy to create a link to a web page. You'd click on the something in your browser URL display and drag it onto your web page editor (MarsEdit, FrontPage, Word, some web client editors) and *bingo*, instant link. The page title was the link text, page URL was, well, the URL. I can't do that any more, at least for Blogger (which seems to be in some kind of resurrection lately).

One day ...

PS. Been a while since I thought of FrontPage/Vermeer - Microsoft's 1990s web site manager. It was the Aperture of its day. Very ambitious, buggy, often flawed, but nothing like it now. Parts of it survived into SharePoint Designer, but now that I've mentioned SharePoint I'm spiraling into PTSD ...

iCloud backup and my lost authenticator codes

When my local Apple store tech was unable to remove the battery from my iPhone 8 they gave me a new device -- which was SIM locked to AT&T.

Well, everyone has to start somewhere, including Apple techs. Hope they improve soon.

Anyway, between the initial restore and the factory reset to clear the SIM lock I've been through two iCloud restores in the past week.

iCloud restores kind of suck now. I think they worked better a few years ago. The good news is that my photos were restored (I don't use Apple Photos/iCloud so I needed that backup). The bad news is that so many apps needed credentials reentered or new certificates generated -- especially when doing a restore after a hardware change.

The worst news is that Google Authenticator lost my authenticator codes. As near as I can tell they are restored from iCloud if the hardware is unchanged, but not if the hardware changes. Or maybe it's a bug. Whatever the reason, I lost 'em. 

It was suspiciously easy to regenerate Authenticator codes for my Microsoft account. Not too hard for Google either, because  they've moved to preferring an Apple-like proprietary two factor authentication mechanism. It is a bummer for Dreamhost though -- so now I'm going through support to try to recover access to my domains and web content.

It's hard to reconcile security and backup/restore. For example, Google Wallet and your biometrics (finger/face) aren't backed up either. On the other hand your Keychain credentials are in iCloud, and anyone who can get into your iPhone can read all of your passwords (try: "Hey Siri, Show me my passwords" or see Apple's hidden password manager). So your 4 digit Apple device passcode is not a great idea.

PS. I'm storing Authenticator codes in 1Password now. Which, like most small company software, has its own security concerns, not least that it would be relatively easy for China, say, to acquire the company or insert a backdoor into the source code.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

ToDo apps: Microsoft's solution

I've used Appigo's ToDo app for about 12 years (with Toodledo at first). It's had problems over the years, but in general it's been a good subscription choice. There's a fairly hard data lock (maybe SQLite?) but manual reentry is feasible albeit annoying.

Lately, however, ToDo has been more ragged. A recent server side change induced a date bug (time zone?) that in turn showed me I was using a macOS app last updated in 2016. It appears to have been abandoned on the Mac App Store. When I went to Twitter I found Appigo's account was closed years ago for violating TOS. Eventually I found I could download a current version of their other App Store app from their web site.

At the moment the app is more or less working again, though parts of the macOS app UI are kind of weird. I figure there was some violent ownership transition with lost dev passwords in Appigo's history (maybe they got ransomwared?).

I decided to go shopping again. I'm looking at:

  • Apple Reminders: hard data lock and I have to upgrade from Mojave to get to latest version (not happening).
  • Google Todo: this is one hell of a weird product. WTF is their web strategy? Tied to Gmail? Tied to Calendar? At least there's data export.
  • Things
  • OmniFocus: poor Omni is in some disarray ...
  • Microsoft To Do
Today I dug into Microsoft To Do. Of course it's a mess, but this is 2020 so we expect that. The mess starts with Microsoft reusing product names. To simplify a bit:
  • There are classic Outlook Tasks. I'll call these TasksClassic. TasksClassic was excellent in many ways, including, once upon a time, great import/export options and lots of view flexibility (I like to sort by last modified!). Unfortunately it's dead, just barely hanging on in the current desktop app with some degree of synchronization with the new product.
  • There's the new Wanderlist-based product variable called Microsoft To Do and ... Outlook Tasks (name reuse!). I'll call these TasksW for Wanderlist.
If you open the Help screen page for macOS TasksW (To Do) it takes one to a page on Outlook synchronization that's obsolete -- because the version of Tasks has switched from TasksClassic to TasksW. On the other hand the version of Office 365 on my Mac still has TasksClassic, and it does synchronize with TasksW as displayed on macOS and iOS Microsoft To

Are you still with me?

This gave me a brief moment of hope that there was some data freedom here. I remember the import/export options of old Windows Outlook. Alas, the only import/export from macOS Outlook is Microsoft's PST format. There might be some way to do things with Outlook Windows or with 3rd party tools but I don't have the energy for that.

At this time I think TasksW is probably a decent enough product, but this has reminded me how screwed up Microsoft is. So I'm setting this one aside for the moment.

See also: