Monday, February 27, 2023

Managing sync issues in the Apple Notes app - what I do

I use Apple's Notes app fairly often. It's come a long way from early days but it has its share of bugs. The two I run into most often are formatting bugs and especially sync failures.

Formatting bugs seem to be related to frequent edits to a note using Notes app styles and character formats. Sometimes editing stops working in odd ways. I have to create a new Note and select all/paste into the new Note.

Sync bugs are more common and more serious. There are two kinds of sync bugs - global application sync failure and note specific failure.

Global sync means no notes are synchronizing and perhaps no iCloud content. I've seen that with iCloud password changes. I recommend never changing an iCloud password, Apple really doesn't want it to change. I had to recently because trying to use the Stanza calendar on the Saint Paul Saints web site with Apple integration triggered an instant Apple account lockout and mandated password reset (be afraid).

If iCloud sync doesn't work after a password change and iCloud seems to be properly authenticated first try restarting your iPhone or Mac. Then, on an iPhone, try sending an iCloud email. That last may require you to YET AGAIN enter your iCloud password. With luck the credential problem may resolve for all iCloud functions.

Single note sync failure may be something I see because I'm using Notes across the latest version of iOS and Mojave. I suspect it's actually fairly common even on Monterey/iOS though.

If it's just one note that won't sync between two devices you can check out Apple's web client view of Notes. That will tell you which device is off but it doesn't help with the fix. As far as I can tell there's no sync failure resolution built into Apple Notes. If Apple's sluggish iCloud sync means you have edited one note on two devices when they weren't in full sync then that particular note will no longer sync. No error messages, no offer to sort things out, no creation of two versions, it just quietly sits in isolation.

The workaround is to create a new note and confirm that syncs. Then on each separate device move the content from the now isolated notes into the new syncing note. Then delete the notes that didn't sync on each device.

Synchronization is a problem some seem to have solved (Simplenote for example), but Apple is not among this elite group.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Apple Watch Sleep App: Reinstallation and setup

My son has an Apple Watch SE running watchOS 9.3.1 (current). I'd never touched an Apple Watch but we wanted to get some data on sleep issues so I dug into it a bit. It turns out that the Sleep app is a frequent topic of Apple Discussion posts. I'll summarize what I learned here in case Google miraculously works and it's helpful to someone else.

References that were actually helpful:

Key discoveries

  1. It's not obvious which Apple Watches support the Sleep app. It seems to work on any device that can run the latest OS. His SE qualified.
  2. It's possible to delete the Sleep app from Apple Watch. His didn't have it; he may have accidentally deleted the app. App Store search is utterly broken so it's hard to find it to reinstall. Reddit had directions (see above) that worked.
  3. Once you have the Sleep app reinstalled you need to follow the directions on Apple Track Sleep with Apple Watch and iPhone carefully including this part: "If you paired your Apple Watch after completing Sleep setup, you can still turn on Track Sleep with Apple Watch. In the Watch app on your iPhone, tap the My Watch tab, then tap Sleep. Then tap Track Sleep with Apple Watch to turn on this setting."
  4. The reports are well done but they are only viewable on the iPhone or Apple Watch. There's no export or print function [1]. Third party apps may have more capabilities, but the App Store is a sewer so I didn't want to wade into it.  Instead I did a bunch of screenshots from his iPhone and used Picsew to stitch them together and Preview to create a PDF with the reports.
- fn -
 [1] You can export all heath data as XML. This produced a 180MB file that BBEdit was able to open. It's not helpful.

Sunday, February 05, 2023

Family member not getting iCloud+ family subscription for 2TB storage - "Use Family Storage" in Settings (Family Sharing)

A family member was seeing only the default 5GB of storage. I prepared to the usual fixes like restart phone, upgrade iOS, leave and restore iCloud and, finally, remove from family and add back in.

Turned out the fix was much simpler as of iOS 16.3.

Settings:Apple ID: iCloud: Manage Account Storage: Use Family Storage.

After I selected this option they got access to our 2TB and the "Use Family Storage" option went away. Instead they had "Change Storage Plan". Tapping that gave the option to leave Family Storage.

Apple's docs mention something about an iMessage going to family members to give them the option to use Family Storage. I suspect that didn't get attention.

Once I'd fixed the problem I used the new keywords to search for Apple documentation. Google found nothing (though it's really bad now) on the Apple site except a post from 2 days ago. So this might be newish.

Update 1/17/2024 

In the 2024 version of iOS and macOS (Sonoma) a friend ran into a similar issue. The family organizer had purchased the 2TB plan but my friend was only seeing the 200GB he paid $1 a month for. This time we found an Apple support document on the problem. If someone is paying for anything beyond the default free storage they have to manually switching into the family plan and end their subscription. This is now found on an iPhone in the newish Settings:Family:Subscriptions.

  1. Go to Settings > Family.
  2. Tap Subscriptions.
  3. Tap iCloud+.
  4. Tap Use Family Storage.

Also, when updating this, I discovered a 2017 post I'd done where I ran into a similar problem. That might be worth a look too.