Friday, February 25, 2022

Impressions of the Eero 6

In retrospect my AirPort Extreme was probably flaky for a while. It's hard to diagnose router failure issues, but my son complained his iPad Zwift app was disconnecting. I was getting corrupted Synology Time Machine backups after years of good results. Then the router started to power down spontaneously. It was 6 years old and the power supply had failed.

We bought an Amazon Eero 6.

Before I talk about the various issues and surprises, let me see this is one of the more fun purchases I've made in a while. It's a huge pain to move all our various devices over to the new primary and "Guest" (where untrustworthy hardware connects) networks, but it's delightful to see 5 WiFi bars everywhere. Including the MyQ garage opener -- which is at least 50 feet from our home. (That's how we open the garage door when it's less than 15F and the external battery powered device doesn't work.) I have one device by the Comcast router, one on the middle floor towards the garage, and one basically hidden beneath the ground floor serving the basement and side patio.

Why did I buy the Eero?

  1. Microsoft doesn't make a router, so the least evil tech giant was unavailable.
  2. Apple doesn't make a router, so my very Evil master was unavailable.
  3. That left Google, Amazon and the small ones (Linksys) who may not last very long and thus can't keep the patches coming.
  4. I read that Eero does a good job of updating its devices.
  5. Google is maximal Evil. I'm in the midst of a long painful divorce from Google Apps and Google Drive and I really don't want anything more from Google.
  6. Amazon could get me a Eero 6 threesome within 8 hours of ordering it. It came at 6am. I felt the fangs of my Prime Parasite dig deeper into my core.
What were the surprises?
  • Some older equipment will not connect to an Eero 6. The problem seems to be that the Eero has one SSID with two frequencies; my old AirPort had separate 2.4 and 5 GHz SSIDs. Devices that can only handle 2.4GHz may not work. We ran into two problems [see update below]:
    1. SONY Playstation 4 (SONY's link no longer works of course): Go to Settings > Network > Setup Internet Connection > Use Wi-Fi > Easy. Select the SSID (wifi network name) but don't choose it! Now press the Options button on the controller. Select the 2.4GHz band. (When I tried 5GHz I got an obscure error message.)
    2. Samsung television: It simply won't connect. Samsung has some tips I've not explored, I could try updating the firmware. Google found some Reddit discussions but that site crashed at the moment. (This TV is behaving a bit oddly, so there may be other issues.)
  • The Eero 6 has two ethernet ports on the base unit. It's hard to tell from Eero's dreadful web site but I believe the Eero 6 Pro has ports on peripheral nodes too. I needed one for the Synology NAS and one to the Comcast modem. Given that not all devices work with the Eero it would be nice to have parts on each station -- I could then hardware devices that don't work with Eero wifi.
  • The Eeros are smaller than I expected.
  • The Eero app crashes every time I try to assign a device to a profile. I suspect it can't handle the ethernet address swapping of modern iPhones. It's amazing that's not fixed.
  • If you want to use the parental control features on iOS devices you need to turn off the ethernet swapping. This will make it easier for vendors to track your use however.
  • Amazon tries to upsell subscriptions to services including a security package. This is really annoying and it keeps doing it even after initial decline. Be careful not to accidentally subscribe to anything. You don't get filtering or website controls without the extra monthly fee, other routers provide those for free (but they usually don't work well or at all with modern connectivity).
The easiest way to swap routers is to keep the network names and passwords the same. I couldn't do that for reasons, so I get the tedium of reconnecting very old devices to WiFi.

Update 2/27/2022: Pause 5 GHz to allow older devices to connect

I read an Amazon review saying there was a way to pause 5G to allow older devices to connect! I haven't tried on the TV yet. It's an obscure feature:

Settings -> Troubleshooting -> My Device won't connect -> My device is 2.4 GHz only -> Temporarily pause 5 GHz.

There are some other features buried in troubleshooting, including Health Check.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

1Password WiFi broke with my new iPhone - how I fixed it (for now)

I pay about $4 or so every month to 1Password because I have not yet been able to replace it. Reason enough to dislike them, but there's worse. 

We use 1Password's legacy WiFi sync with 1Password 7. It dates from the days that 1PW was merely mediocre. It was flaky and annoying but it mostly worked. We didn't have to put our lives into the hands of company that could be hacked or acquired at any time (China, Russian ... who wouldn't want those yummy credentials?). Even now that we pay monthly (not yearly, because I plan to leave) we still use WiFi sync.

Every so often we get this:

WiFi sync is deprecated and unsupported now, but there is still a troubleshooting page. Check WiFi, restart everything, restart router, toggle WiFi sync on/off, etc. That usually works, but this time was different. Nothing worked.

I'd just replaced my iPhone 8 with an iPhone 13 Pro, so I had a hunch what was wrong. [1] There was something broken in the authentication process between my phone and the MacBook running the desktop version of 1Password. I needed a button that said "reset authentication" -- but that doesn't exist. I could delete 1Password and reinstall, but it had been a few weeks since my last sync. Who knows what I'd changed. I didn't want to lose everything.

This is what I did:
  1. I saved copies of things I knew I'd changed to a local text file
  2. I discovered iOS 1Password has a backup/restore feature and I could transfer that to a Mac by iTunes. You can actually unzip the backup and browse it in SQLite, including the database schema (I think passwords are encrypted though).
  3. After I saved my backup to my Mac I deleted and reinstalled 1Password. As I'd guessed this allowed me to sync again. (Bad Bug 1Password Inc. But you don't care.)
  4. I then went back to my Mac, copied the backup using iTunes back to my iPhone, then did a restore on the iPhone
  5. I then did sync again.
It's not quite as simple as that. I had to quit and restart 1Password a few times. At one point 1PW for iOS was only showing me sync options for Dropbox! Somehow, after some restarts and tweaks it seemed to sync. Did it all sync properly? I have no idea. For now it's no worse than it ever was.

Once Apple Passwords get the notes feature (holds secret questions) we'll migrate to a hacked together approach of Apple Passwords and a shared Secure Note and I'll finally be done with 1Password.

Update: looks like the process lost my authenticator codes.

[1] I dread iPhone swaps. I try to do them no more than every 5 years. All kinds of pain happens.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Can you edit photos in Halide App? (No, you can't)

Halide is a popular image app. I've had it for a while but only with my iPhone 13 Pro did it feel worth using. The manual focus in particular came in handy.

Then I went to edit my image and I couldn't figure out how to do it. I'm not the only one, Google captures the common question but the responses are useless. The Halide app description and web site don't help with figuring out how to edit. I tried all kinds of gestures and swipes and taps and holds...


Yeah, you can't. It's not a photo editor. All the adjustments are like doing manual setup on an SLR for Raw or HEIC or JPEG.  You have to edit in a different app (including iOS photos). Halide is a replacement for Camera.app, not for Photos.app.

In retrospect it makes sense, but it confused the heck out of me. It doesn't help that the Halide user guide has a weird chapter on editing.

Google isn't what it once was, but maybe one day it will use this post to answer the common questions.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Surprising things in my upgrade from an iPhone 8 to an iPhone 13 Pro (mostly bad)

 This is what surprised me:

  1. The 13 Pro is  chunk. Compared to the i8 it feels heavy and big. It's thicker than I expected.
  2. The lenses poke out a lot. It needs a case to lie flat. Which makes it even chunkier. I ordered the mag safe compatible Spigen clear case.
  3. There's still a bug in the update process. Settings may get stuck on Update Apple ID Settings. I had to power down and restart. Definitely annoying.
  4. You can order generic or carrier preset (Connect to Carrier). If you order Connect to Carrier your carrier will charge you a $30 activation fee and you get an eSIM phone. If you order without the carrier preset you need do do a SIM swap but there's no activation fee. When the carrier charges a "discount" Apple shows this as the phone price even though the actual price is $30 higher. So I'd call this one a joint Apple/Carrier scam. The advantage of a physical SIM is that you can move your number to a new phone if needed, the disadvantage is that someone who has your phone can also do that (and defeat some 2 factor protection).
  5. After you insert the SIM card you can convert to eSIM! The option shows up in Cellular for AT&T. Your physical SIM card will be deactivated, so you can't use a backup cell if your phone dies. I suspect if you did this your carrier would charge you a $30 activation fee.
  6. It took about an hour to do phone-to-phone swap but installing all my apps looks like it will take quite a while.
  7. I needed to read the manual -- especially about the camera. The zoom control is kind of cool. The transfer didn't respect my settings for compatible (JPEG, not HEIC) or Live Photo off. I had to reapply.
  8. There's no documentation at all with the iPhone. Not even the simplest pamphlet identifying the buttons. Everything is in an email sent in advance of the phone.
  9. It ships with a USB-C to Lightning cable. Weirdly I thought it was an adapter and I needed to buy one. So I have two. I'm sure I'll find a user for it. I bought the Anker USB-C mini-charger.
  10. The app install seemed to start but not progress. A restart didn't help. I was over 10 devices with my Apple ID so I removed my old phone. I then installed a new app from the App Store. Eventually apps started to complete.
  11. It ran hot for the first day or two.
  12. I share as part of the family, but "Find My" said it couldn't find me. I had to tweak my profile in Find My and specify my new phone as my location source.
  13. I went to use Apple Pay and there were no cards! Turns out Apple Pay/Wallet cards are not part of the iCloud backup. That included a transit card with an account balance. On the other hand my pending event tickets ("passes") and expired passes were restored. However, when I clicked to add new cards iOS offered to restore cards used in past! The Apple Card and the Transit card (with balance) restored immediately, I had to enter the 3/4 digit 'secret' code for the other cards.
  14. Handoff (clipboard sharing) stopped working. This might have been related to my other Apple ID issues; also I'm doing it between Mojave and iOS 13 and that's a stretch. Still, the Apple ID problems are old and it worked before, so I'll call this an update bug. I had to sign out of iCloud on both my iPhone and Mac and sign back in to restore it. (I also signed out of Store ID on my iPhone.) Of course since I'd signed out of iCloud I had to restore my Apple Wallet cards again. And download a zillion photos again.
  15. Authenticator style apps often don't backup properly. So you need to redo them all.
  16. It's very easy to accidentally trigger the 911 code with my car adapter. I turned off the emergency dial feature.
  17. 1Password 7 WiFi sync stopped working. My theory is I need to regenerate some private key but that's not supported. The company no longer supports WiFi sync so I'm kind of screwed here. [I figured out something close to a fix.]
  18. The zoom, low light image enhancement, and Find Objects features are nice, but the iPhone 13 Pro is actually not all that big an improvement over the iPhone 8.
Contents of email sent with iPhone 13 Pro:

Guides to Get You Started

Setting up your new iPhone

Watch and learn with video guides from Apple Support.
Set up your new iPhone
How to back up with iCloud
Read step-by-step guides at your own pace.

iPhone Activation

How do I activate my iPhone?

Once you have your iPhone, activation is simple. Turn on your iPhone by pressing and holding the side button for a few seconds. Then follow the onscreen instructions to set it up.
To activate this iPhone on your employer’s plan or a prepaid plan, you may need to contact your carrier, or—if your workplace employs more than 25 people—your employer.
If you didn’t choose a carrier when you bought this iPhone, you’ll need to contact a carrier or insert your own SIM card. Older SIM cards may not work on a 5G network. You may need a new SIM card from your carrier.

Do I need a SIM card?

iPhone 13 models activate on eSIM. With eSIM, no physical SIM card is needed to connect to a cellular data plan, though you will need Wi-Fi for setup. If you would like a physical SIM card, you can reach out to your carrier.
iPhone 12 and earlier models may arrive with a physical SIM card already installed depending on your choice of carrier.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

How do Facebook Messenger (and Instagram Message) Link scams work?

Every day large numbers of Facebook users receive a message that appears to be from a friend that invites them to click a link. If they click that link their Facebook friends (social graph connections) receive a similar message -- from them.

Many of the victims post on Facebook that their account has been hacked and that recipients should disregard the message. Most change their account passwords, some close their account.

So how does this work?

It's the old "enter password' trick -- a phishing attack. If you click on the link a Facebook screen asks to verify your account identity. This, of course, is a fake page. The credentials you enter there are used to send messages from your Facebook account.

The attackers don't try to change your password, they just send messages to recruit new credentials. There are lots of scams that can be run using Facebook or Instagram messages so this is a profitable business.

Just change your password and try not to be tricked again.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Things I learned switching from Spotify to Apple Music

I'll keep adding to this list. For historic reasons going back over 10 years all my owned music is under one Apple ID and my iCloud services are under another. 3/5 family members use the same Store Apple ID. Because of the way family sharing works that legacy Apple ID is a six family member.
  • On the individual plan you can stream to one device at a time. On the family plan you can stream to up to 6 devices at one time. On the individual plan if two devices share the same Store Apple ID only one can stream at a time. (I think you can play Music you own on more than one device.)
  • If you are on a free plan and upgrade to family plan you don't get any special credit, just go to full price.
  • When you do upgrade from the Music app (good luck figuring this out) you get the monthly $15 renewal. There's no yearly discount.
  • I think music that you have in legacy iTunes that is not part of Apple's library is uploaded and available. For example (from 2003!). I don't know if I play from streaming if I get this one or a newer version.
  • In addition to iTunes you can use music.apple.com to access your library on a Mac.
  • FreeYourMusic.app on iOS $10 works pretty well to transfer Spotify playlists to Apple Music. The $10 is a lifelong subscription but it is not family shared.
  • When you cancel Spotify you revert to ad-supported Spotify, your playlists don't go away.
  • To Share Playlists you need to create a Profile.
  • Apple Music includes iTunes Match
Additional notes on results of moving Emily from using a shared Store Apple ID to her iCloud Apple ID for media and purchases given family sharing:
  • Playlists that were on her phone seemed to stay on her phone
  • Downloads on her phone are still there and they synced to the Cloud
  • Still TBD how this will impact movies, apps, etc given family sharing (our legacy shared Store Apple ID is a 'family member').

Thursday, February 10, 2022

How to add an Apple Store order to your Apple ID after purchasing as guest

I finally ordered my iPhone 13 Pro -- but even though the Apple Store web view showed a link to my account the order was processed as a guest order.

I found there's a way to add to the order to my Apple Store account. You need to know the order number, the phone number used, and the email used.

From your account page,  choose Your Orders. Since your order doesn't show, choose "Find it Now". This displays the Order Lookup Screen. Enter the order information and you will be given the option to add it to your Apple ID account.

Saturday, February 05, 2022

Relentless beeping when plug iPhone into MacBook USB port -- it's maybe iTunes?

When I plug my iPhone 8 into my MacBook Air's USB port I get relentless beeping and the iPhone power icon flashes. Sometimes iTunes throws up a "received an unexpected response" error. I'm on Mojave iTunes.

I figured this was a bad USB cable or bad port or bad connection, but it's both ports and all cables and the phone connection is good. More importantly, I rebooted with no peripherals connected and switched to my admin account. Then every beep was associated with a new iTunes dialog asking me (yet again, and again, this is such a pain) to authenticate. When the dialogs ended the beeping stopped.

Stack Exchange has an article on this, but that's definitely connection issue related. This Apple tech article seems closest; but they also focus on cable issues.

I'm not entirely sure it's not something hardware related on my Air, but I think there's an iTunes component too.

The console shows:

I see: usbmuxsd errors, HandleUSMMuxConnect, iTunes Helper, MobileDeviceUpdater, "no such device". So iTunes is causing the beeps (though the underlying issue could be hardware).

From those clues I found these posts:

  • https://discussions.apple.com/thread/251691536: kill usbmuxsd related processes
  • https://discussions.apple.com/thread/6611777?answerId=27079314022#27079314022 - a bug in usbmuxsd that Apple may have fixed in later releases
  • https://discussions.apple.com/thread/6728641?answerId=6728641021#6728641021 has a discussion:
It's an iTunes 12 bug... Not sure who's responsible for usbmuxd at Apple, but they should be fired! This was extensively discussed and worked out here: itunes 12 will not recognize iphone

All credit to oskapt, who's post detailed the entire issue. The short version is a recent version of usbmuxd has a programming error that leads it to never close any connection. At the same time, it's constantly making new connections too. The end result is this background process actually hits the built-in UNIX limit on open connections by a single process (to prevent bugs like this from ultimately crashing an entire computer), and is blocked by design from functioning after that point. Once usbmuxd fails, iTunes can't see your iOS devices.

The fix is to quit usbmuxd, either via Activity Monitor or Terminal. It will automatically relaunch, and work again until it hits the limit. That thread has several suggestions for automated scripts to run every 24-48 hours to prevent this.

Update 2/20/22: I never solved this problem, but I did get a new phone and the beeping is gone. So either a connection problem with the old iPhone or a bug with the "trust relationship" between iPhone and MacBook.

Update 3/5/2022: In the process of cleaning out old iPhones I tried various iPhones and I tried iPhones that beeped on my Mojave iTunes machine on a different machine. I think it's a bug with establishing a Trust relationship. Probably fixed in later versions of iTunes.