Apple 2018

I wasn’t always an Apple fan. My Atari 800 was bought by my parents because the Apple II was too expensive. It felt like a computer for the elites. I got over that when my grandfather bought a Mac 128k for me in early 1984 and it was everything Byte magazine said it was, and more.

Since then, it’s been a fun ride. The original Mac was easy to figure out. The screens were all 72 dots per inch, which meant that even without a screen, I could shut down a Mac via the Special menu with a mouse. The Mac grew and languished at the same time, and then things changed.

When Apple bought NeXT, things changed for the better. Gone were most system crashes due to shared memory, or system lockups due to cooperative multitasking. The UI was rough, but overall stability and growth potential more than made up for it.

Apple did start another trend with OS X, one towards discounting consistency and user friendliness. It was subtle. For example, the application name moved to the right of the Apple logo. This small change meant that familiar menus like File and Edit were no longer accessible via mouse muscle memory. Their location shifts with the width of the application name.

Apple shipped iTunes and the UX experience continued its downfall. Release after release added, and changed, functionality. Dialog boxes became less and less useful. One example was “Some items could not be synced.” This is not very useful to the customer, especially a non-technical customer.

The trend continued over the years. When Time Machine corrupts a remote backup, Apple tells the customer that the backup needs to start over to improve reliability. This is technically true, but it doesn’t help the customer by telling them that a) their entire backup was corrupted and lost and b) What to do to prevent this from happening again.

The trend continued into iOS, where a dialog that “some applications could not be restored” appeared. Hardware like the Mac Pro languished for years. Apple stopped shipping new wireless routers, which I’d claim helped them seal the Apple ecosystem, but continued to sell the older hardware. Apple stopped selling monitors.

Then it all came to a head starting in late 2016. Apple shipped the new MacBook Pro. Between the expense, the keyboard, the touch bar, and the lack of upgradability, Mac fans like me had had enough. Yes, I bought a 2017 MacBook Pro, but it wasn’t a normal purchase. I bought it to replace a damaged machine. I wasn’t excited. I wasn’t blogging about how great it is. I kind of loathed it.

I write this story on that MacBook Pro, and it’s fine, but not $3600 fine. I don’t need the Touch Bar, but to get the best graphics, Apple forced me into it. So many people were upset and venting that Apple brought a number of media personalities in for a talk about the upcoming iMac Pro and a new Mac Pro.

In the meantime, they announced, and still have not shipped, the HomePod, which many are seeing as an overpriced Echo competitor. Apple wants you to think of it as an awesome speaker with Siri built in, but that’s not the message customers are getting.

The problem is, along with these other decisions Apple has made to become less user friendly, they haven’t even made Siri awesome. Siri works, and is very cool technology, but it fails just as often. Fifty percent isn’t that great. Just the other day Siri completely garbled a message to my wifi. Trying to add items to lists in apps other than Apple’s is very spotty. Things sometimes work, sometimes fail miserably.

Apple also had a very bad run software wise. I trust Apple with all of my data, a lot of important data, and they let me down with password bugs, root access bugs, HomeKit access bugs, and other general software concerns.

However, the issue that came back to light and inspired this story is how Apple transitioned to iOS 11 and dropping 32 bit apps. During the course of iOS 10 usage, Apple had some vague dialogs about apps that may no longer work when iOS 11 ships and also told people when they tried to use those apps.

However, what Apple totally failed at was telling customers, at the time of upgrade, exactly which apps would no longer work. I spoke with relatives, who are not technical at all, who were upset that they no longer had access to some apps, and more importantly, some data. Apple has revoked access to people’s data, and to me, this is peak Apple 2017.

I am sure Apple’s analytics show that not many people were using 32 bit apps, and I agree with the need to move past them, but I think Apple should have spent more time to educate people and to treat their data better.

A customer may have an app that will never be updated. The developer may have died. Who knows the reason, but now the customer is stuck. Unlike a computer, a customer can’t get to their iOS data and try to convert it with another app. The data is invisibly locked away, for good security-related reasons, but the customer doesn’t care.

All they know is that Apple took their data away.

The last stroke of 2017 was the battery issue with iPhones. As a final example of Apple trying to present customers with zero information, Apple was burned by public perception of what Apple was doing to prolong the life of their iPhones. I won’t debate the issue with the batteries themselves, but because Apple decided that customers don’t need to know which files could not be synced, that they don’t need to know which Apps could not be restored, that they don’t need options when it comes to building expensive hardware, that customers want a black box that just works, Apple hurt their reputation and wrote some future Samsung television ads for them.

I thought about making a list of things I want to see Apple do in 2018, but I am sure their plans are already written in stone. I just hope that Apple has woken up. There is a middle ground between too much information and zero information, too many choices and zero choices.

I want Apple to make me feel great about Apple again.

Workflow reminds me of AppleScript

Workflow is an automation tool for iOS. The app is great, so great in fact that Apple bought the company.

However, when trying to do something simple like prepend asterisks to a list of text on the clipboard, I immediately ran into confusion and had to find another workflow someone else wrote to get over the hump.

AppleScript was this way – Promise of grandeur, then a lot of skinned knees.

In the end, I got the task working, but it was not at all obvious, especially since my text, a table from Numbers, isn’t exactly text.

The solution?

  • Get Clipboard
  • Repeat over every item on the clipboard
    • Split the text on new lines
    • Replace ^ with “* ” using a regular expression

  • Combine the text with a new line
  • Send to Clipboard
The real problem here is that iOS doesn’t let you introspect the type of data that is on the Clipboard, nor does workflow let you introspect what is in a variable. You kinda have to just look at the output and guess. Why did some operations result in 183 pages of text? I still don’t know.

Editing text on the iPad is horrendous

I don’t know how Federico does it. Editing a post in WordPress in Safari felt like a Fischer Price experience. Select out of the text area and selection breaks. Cannot shift-select a large selection. Cannot drag a selection and have the text box scroll.

I know it’s a website, but still, these are all easy things to do on a computer.

Hell, often I would command-tab back to Safari and the Smart Keyboard shortcut popover would stick on the screen.

Apple can fix this.

Cannot start words at the beginning of sentences with lower cased letters with the Smart Keyboard

Another annoying bug that I am sure Federico has many Radars on.

When using a Smart Keyboard on my iPad, I cannot start words at the beginning of sentences with a lower cased letter. IOS (see!) just won’t let me do it.

The only lame workaround is to press and hold on the down caret in the bottom-right corner of the screen until the software keyboard comes up, then toggle the shift key off.

Tapping the shift key on the Smart Keyboard does nothing.

Grr.

iOS 11.2.1 (grr)

Text selection extension is broken in iOS News for iPad

If I tap on a story in News on the iPad, it opens in it’s own view controller. I can select text, but if I try to extend the selection by grabbing either the beginning or ending selection marker, the screen just scrolls in the direction I drag.

These kinds of bugs, where Apple owns the OS and the App, are just infuriating.

IOS 11.2.1

Overcast and CarPlay progress bar bug

Overcast and CarPlay in iOS 11 have not been very friendly. Every beta of iOS and release have broken Overcast in one way or another.

The latest bug is:

  1. Tap a podcast in Overcast’s CarPlay UI
  2. It goes to now playing, but doesn’t start playing (it used to)
  3. Tap play
  4. The progress starts, but there is no audio
  5. Tap pause
  6. Tap play
  7. Now the audio starts.
  8. Rewind to beginning to hear what I missed

Siri didn’t like my message

My friend Joel sent me a message and I used Siri via CarPlay to respond.

After I finished speaking, Siri just beeped her completion sound and went away.

She didn’t send my message, didn’t express concerns with its content, didn’t report and error.

Rude, Siri.

Getting HomeKit to work again

Ok, Apple, in order to fix this HomeKit nonsense we had to:

  1. Update iPhone
  2. Guess that Apple TV also needed updating because you didn’t tell us
  3. Disable Apple TV public betas to see 11.2.1
  4. try cellular, no go
  5. Enable WiFi and use the Home app
  6. Now cellular works
  7. Ugh

Apple Pay Naughty or Nice List

Updated: 2017-12-10 21:30:38

Nice

  • Ace Hardware
  • All about Air heating and cooling
  • Chevron (at the register)
  • Jimmy Johns
  • Local post office
  • McDonalds
  • Panera
  • Parkrose Hardware
  • Safeway
  • Starbucks
  • Subway
  • Walgreens
  • Where the shoe fits
  • Whole Foods

Naughty

  • Applebee’s
  • Bath and body works
  • Buffalo Wild Wings
  • Burgerville
  • Chipotle
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • KFC
  • MOD Pizza
  • Potbelly
  • Target
  • Walmart

Apple Watch

As recently as February I was telling people that I would not be buying an Apple Watch. As sure as Bill Hader’s Lindsey Buckingham cannot resist Keenan Thompson’s Diondre Cole, I own an Apple Watch. Fan points earned.

The feature that swayed me was the taptic touch, where the watch touches your wrist through some electromagnetic magic. The iPhone 6 Plus is so large that I often miss the vibration of a notification while the phone is in my pocket, and surely do not hear the sound. I had missed several messages from my wife while driving home, so I figured the watch may resolve this issue. Apple created the problem and I am solving it by buying more of their products.

The first weekend has been fantastic. Battery life is fine. One day. Unless you are working out two hours a day, I do not think that you will have to charge it more than at night. This opinion is applicable to the 42mm Apple Watch Sport. The 38mm watch has a smaller battery so your usage duration will vary.

The weight is nice. The sport band feels nicer that I expected. I worked out to see if I would get a rash from sweat under the band and I did not. The band has one small piece of metal, a pin, that extends slightly out of the band. This makes for a nice experience when using the band on a metal laptop.

Delightful.

The Apple Watch is delightful. It taps me as I am following navigation directions to let me know if I need to turn left or right. This is a nice alternative to Siri talking to you, and is very nice if someone in the car talks over Siri’s directions. The watch taps me when I get a message or a tweet. When I raise the watch to look at it, Mickey Mouse is tapping his foot every second. Luckily this does not tap the wrist.

The watch records how often I stand and entices me to stand if I have been sitting for too long. The watch records my calories burned and my heart rate every ten minutes. The watch tracks my exercises. I apparently do not exercise strenuously enough as my thirty-two minute workout only accounted for six minutes of exercise. The watch could do a better job of letting me know I was failing to meet its expectations, but I will see if I can come to common ground with it today.

The watch lets me quickly see what Dark Sky is predicting for the weather. The watch lets me access codes to enter buildings. The watch lets me turn on and off my Hue lights.

All from my wrist.

The apps are too slow. This is a very version one product, akin to the first iPad. The watch is delightful none the less.

The watch lets me raise my wrist to pause a movie on Apple TV. Be careful, if you leave the Remote app running and decide to cross your arms, you might find an inadvertent touch from the underside of your other arm rewinding the movie in hyper speed. You can resolve this by pressing the digital crown to return to the clock after using the remote app. Double press the digital crown to return to the previous app.

The digital crown is stiffer than I expected and I believe is fooling me into thinking it is harder to turn at times. I think the visual clues as well as taptic feedback allow Apple into fooling me that I came to the end of a physical list, while the crown is actually still turning normally. Crazy. Delightful. Magic.

I used Apple Pay to pay for lunch at Panera Bread. Two taps on the Contacts button (that’s the button below the digital crown) and I had activated Apple Pay. When the cashier gave me the total, I moved the watch to the reader and the watch emitted a simple “Ping!” sound of delight and the payment was made. The cashier said he had not seen this done before, and wants to get a watch for himself.

I wandered around the grocery store buying items we needed, checking them off one by one in the Wunderlist app. Just a tap on the watch. Next item. I didn’t have to keep pulling my phone out of my pocket or putting it back in to heft heavier items into the cart.

When did my phone become a nuisance?

The space gray aluminum materials are nice. Feel nice. Not sure how long it will hold up, but it looks nice for now.

My heart rate. It’s 65 right now. It was 88 a minute ago. I am doing better than I thought I would be. All of this data goes into my Health app. I am going to share it with my doctor. This all feels early and simple while feeling futuristic and eye opening. Will my niece wear a watch that detects a health issue months or years before it would present itself?

The future is here. This is 1984, 2001, and 2007 all over again. 2022 is going to be incredible, but for now, my Apple Watch has reminded me that I have some chores to finish.

An example of how Apple and Microsoft are different

Update: Joel Bernstein (@castirony) points out that this paragraph works perfectly with “Apple Watch” instead of HoloLens. Damn you, Joel! But he is right. However, I think Apple Watch is an exception for Apple whereas Microsoft does this much more often.


 

On using the Microsoft HoloLens, Engadget writes:

“Does it work? Yes, it works. Is it any good? That’s a much harder question to answer. In its current state, HoloLens is a series of demos with varying levels of polish, meant to demonstrate the possibility of the device. More clearly: in its current state, HoloLens is far from ready for public consumption. It’s an impressive demo in need of longterm investment, which Microsoft says is happening. All that baggage aside, what’s it like using HoloLens?

I believe this is a great example of how differently Apple and Microsoft operate. You would never read:

“Does it work? Yes, it works. Is it any good? That’s a much harder question to answer. In its current state, iPhone is a series of demos with varying levels of polish, meant to demonstrate the possibility of the device. More clearly: in its current state, iPhone is far from ready for public consumption. It’s an impressive demo in need of longterm investment, which Apple says is happening. All that baggage aside, what’s it like using iPhone?”

 

Why erase and restore your Mac?

I am a power user. I develop iOS and Mac software. I run betas of my firewall, my operating system, and my applications. I have developer tools installed. I am bound to have problems.

I am not alone though. OS X, over time, can become crufty. Old extensions,old files, or even improper installations. Third party installers often corrupt permissions or install older components.

System crashes (kernel panics) and OS bugs can lead to disk corruption that most do not catch until it is too late. The operating system does a poor job on alerting you if there are file system issues.

Running Disk Utility to repair these issues may seem successful, but sometimes are not. You may notice a “lost + found” folder on the root level of your hard drive. If you find a “iNode” file within that folder, things are not good.

My Late 2013 MacBook Pro is a little over a year old and has gone through many betas, many system crashes, but according to Disk Utility, all was well. I had had disk corruption that needed fixing by booting from the recovery partition, but Disk Utility fixed it.

Come Christmas, I bought a new monitor for myself, a new Razr Naga Mouse (which has its own drivers) and a new USB dock. The computer started to complain.

At first, it was spinning beachballs of death. Then it was strange kernel panics in the file system and in the graphics drivers. Finally I had had enough.

As members of PMUG know, I have many backups. I backup via Time Machine to a drive on my OS X server, to a local WD Passport drive, and to a drive at work. I also have several clones made with Carbon Copy Cloner. One is in the bank, one is at home, one is at work. All are encrypted.

I figured that if i was having all of these issues, I had better restore, because backing up corruption is not good. So I did what I have not done in a very long time.

I erased the disk and started over.

I began by booting from the recovery partition. This is easy, just reboot and hold down COMMAND R. Hold these keys down until the booting process starts, which is a black screen for OS X 10.10 (Yosemite).

Once the recovery tools had booted, I chose Disk Utility and erased my hard drive. Gulp. It was nice knowing you! Because I use FileVault, I had to first unlock the volume by selecting it and choosing Unlock from the File menu. Then I erased it as a normal journaled disk (not encrypted!)

I then quit Disk Utility and used the recovery menu to reinstall OS X Yosemite. This took about 35 minutes to download and install.

Next up was telling OS X that I wanted to restore from a Time Machine backup. I chose my WD Passport as I had just backed up to it and being a USB 3 drive, this was about as fast an option I had. The restoration took about 2.5 hours.

When all was said and done, I got about 30 gigabytes of my drive back. I am hoping this is due to all of the caches, sleep images, and other operating system artifacts, but I am not certain. A quick perusal though my file system seems to have everything I expected.

I suppose that some of my used space was because of previous disk corruptions, or the worst case scenario is that corruption caused some files to never be backed up, or overwritten. Time will tell.

This is why it is also import to archive. An archive is a backup that you then put away forever. Once a year I take one of my external Time Machine drives and label it as an archive. It goes into the bank and then I buy a new 1TB drive.

With this system, if I notice years down the road that I am missing a file I really want, I can go back to an archive and see if it is there.

Both backups and archives are important.

In the end, all spinning beachballs have disappeared. All kernel panics have disappeared. The system is fast and stable. Something was bad, and it seems that only a complete restore was the answer.

TL;DR If you are having very weird Mac problems, consider not just reinstalling OS X, but also erasing the entire machine and doing a full restore from backup.

Getting Apple Pay to work with Subway

I went to Subway last week and was unsuccessful at getting Apple Pay to work. Neither the clerk nor I knew how it should work with their point of sale, and there was a line of customers that I did not want to holdup.

Today I went back and there was no line so I tried again. The clerks, both super nice and helpful, said that Apple Pay did not work with their system yet. They said that something about the POS cannot handle the Apple Pay processing.

I found that odd and asked if we could try. I had already moved my iPhone 6 Plus to the reader and Apple Pay came up. This proved to be a mistake.

They tried to put the POS into “mobile” mode but it failed with a beep. I asked them to try credit card, because that’s all Apple Pay is, but the phone had timed out or the NFC reader had timed out, because Apple Pay was no longer coming up.

We chatted for a bit and they tried another mobile mode, which brought up a QR code on the scanner, and they asked me to hold my phone over it. I explained that would not work, so I asked them to try credit card once more.

They were sure eager to get Apple Pay working. They said that they had been trying for over a week but it never worked.

They put the POS into credit card mode again and I put the phone up to the reader. On the left side of the reader the Apple Pay screen came up, I tapped touch ID and the payment went through!

They exclaimed how cool that was and I explained why credit card works but not “mobile” as that must be for other payment systems. They thanked me for helping them to get it working.

Subway should train their employees a little better and explain how this all works. Apple could do a little better with the user interface. For example, does the phone sense NFC or not? I could not tell which piece of hardware timed out or got into a confused state. Apple Pay did not have a good UI for “resetting” it, so I just logged into the phone, then slept it, then backed away, and started over. I think I knew to do this because I am an engineer. A normal user would just give up.

Apple Pay is awesome, but it has some edge cases to be smoothed out.

WWDC

There is a lot of talk around WWDC. Apple will introduce HealthBook, home automation SDKs, a flat UI for OS X, etc.

Here is what I am hoping for:

Development

  • Xcode 6 that doesn’t crash when compiling XIBs via the command line
  • Xcode 6 with better refactoring and editing tools (AppCodeque)
  • Xcode 6 with a better IB that allows for shared resources such as named colors across XIBs
  • Ability to ship alpha/beta versions of our in-production apps to opt-in/select customers via the App Store
  • App distribution (Testflight) built into Xcode
  • Better Xcode CI functionality around externally hosted GIT repositories that use submodules
  • UIKit on OS X
  • A better Feedback tool for submitting/tracking/communicating about radars
  • Elimination of useless Team Provisioning Profiles
  • A “fix” button in Xcode that does not break more than it fixes

iOS

  • Better keyboard (or even custom keyboards)
  • AirDrop to OS X
  • 100% Calendar parity (edit/create every type of event, such as M W F)
  • Better battery life
  • Better GPS accuracy when in Airplane mode
  • Widgets on homescreen
  • Siri that allows me to retry a command when one fails
  • Built in transit

What Apple’s SSL bug means to you

On Friday it was revealed that Apple has a very serious flaw in iOS 6, iOS 7, and Mac OS X 10.9.x.

You should stop what you are doing and update iOS now. Agile Bits has a good explanation on how to do this here:

1Password is not affected by the SSL bug (http://tinyurl.com/mxhj2vh)

As of this writing (Sunday night, February 23rd) Apple does not have a patch for OS X 10.9 Mavericks, but as said that one will come “very soon.” You can get that update by choosing “Software Update…” from the Apple menu. 10.8 and earlier do not appear to have this flaw.

To test your system, use gotofail.com

What’s the issue?

When your computer connects to the Internet and asks for a secure connection, it does so using one of several protocols. Secure Socket Layer (SSL) is one of them. When the data comes back, the operating system does checks to make sure everything is proper.

Sometime in 2012, Apple checked in some broken code. The code had an extra line that caused the software to always skip a check and consider the answer good. Now if someone has control over a privileged portion of the network you are communicating on, they can intercept the data and lie to iOS or OS X. Because of the bug, the lie will not be caught and your data will be improperly encrypted.

So someone who has taken control of a coffee shop’s wifi router, or a rogue employee at an ISP, or a hacker who has taken over a router somewhere, can listen to the traffic from Safari, iMessage, iCal, Mail, etc.

Chrome and Firefox are not afflicted because they do not use Apple’s code for SSL.

This is a really big deal. You are encouraged to not use a network you do not trust until Apple patches OS X. Apple has already patched iOS 6 and 7, but not OS X.

iOS 5 is not affected.

For more reading, check out Imperial Violet

Apple needs to be held accountable somehow. Depending on how much tin is in your hat, this bug is either a plain bug that was not caught because Apple lacks code review and unit testing practices, or they added it for the NSA, or a rogue NSA employee added it. That does not matter, this is the most trusted of code and it should never fail like this for so long.

Chevy and/or Apple improve Volt music connection

Updated: 2014-07-15

I am a huge fan of my 2013 @chevyvolt.  The only issue I have with the car has been it’s entertainment stack and how that works (or doesn’t) with the iPhone.

It seems as though there have been improvements, either over the air via OnStar, when I took my car in for maintenance, or via iOS 7.0.4.  I have been tracking the same issues since iOS 5, so I doubt that Apple has fixed anything.

When do the issues arise?

  • Use Siri to start playing music
  • Switch to Bluetooth source on the Volt
  • Try to use the controls on the Volt to skip tracks
  • or try to use Siri to play new music

What would happen?

  • The Volt would switch to Paused mode, while the phone said it was playing
  • The Volt would be showing the incorrect song for the music playing
  • Everything would finally cease working
  • Music would start playing on the iPhone, but not through the Volt

All of these things are terrible on their own, but while driving, it’s downright dangerous, I believe, because it distracts from keeping one’s eyes on the road. People are allowed to use a radio while driving, and this should be as reliable and simple. Therefore I choose to not use this while I drive, and just listen to FM radio.

Chevy has not responded to inquiries about updating the 2013s for Siri Eyes Free, so I think it is safe to say that they will never support this. @Chevrolet has tweeted asking how will we use the new Siri support in our Volts, but we cannot, because the new support isn’t available unless you buy a new car.

In my tests today, it seems that all but the last issue are working better. I hesitate to say resolved because I need more time with the system.

In addition, I found that the issue with the audio muting happens when you are connected to the iPhone via the Bluetooth Source and then use Siri. This causes the Volt to switch to “dialing” mode for Siri. When that is done, it switches back to Bluetooth Source, but no audio is heard. If I switch to another source then then back to Bluetooth, the audio starts, usually about 15 seconds into the song.

Apple and @Chevrolet can get better. I’d appreciate it if @ChevyVolt would give me a way to pay for an upgrade to my $40,000+ car so I can safely use Siri, iTunes Match, and listen to my music in my electric car of the future

It’s iCloudy and time for an umbrella

The Apple ecosystem is growing faster than anyone could have imagined.  We buy music, apps for our phones, apps for our Macs, videos, and books all via our iTunes accounts.  We can even pay for our Netflix accounts via iTunes now.

This is convenient and nice, but as people come together and form families, things can start to become a mess.  Some music is bought on one spouse’s account, while some apps are bought on another.  Kids are typically set up with an allowance on a parent’s account.  Some families that existed when the Apple ecosystem started have adopted to buy everything under one master account.  Some families have, sadly, broken apart and have to deal with figuring out who gets the main account and who starts over.

In all of these cases, it would be easier to let everyone have their own iTunes account, and then combine them under an iCloud umbrella.  The umbrella would give permission for everyone under the umbrella to use the assets of the other accounts.  The umbrella simply manages the keys needed to access the assets.  If someone is removed from the umbrella, those keys would be revoked.

This system would allow my wife to access the apps that I bought, and vice vera.  We would not have to play the login game to keep our apps up to date.  We could access each other’s music and album art without playing games.

This is Apple after all.  It should “just work.”

Apple, shield us from the rainy iCloud days and give us iTunes account umbrellas.