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2018.12.312018 Year in Review

Posts about politics and national issues dominated the interests posts in 2018, with some healthy side-effects: posts on books rose 500% from last year. There were maybe some not-so-healthy side effects too: fitness posts were way down, and I started a new topic about whiskey (!!).

TopicCount
books6
car1
cooking/food4
family/kids9
fitness3
gaming5
geek10
leadership0
movies4
music1
nation/politics21
texas life5
whiskey3

 

I published far less interests content this year than I had in 2017 -- and for good reason: I spent far less time in front of a keyboard this year. We moved to Texas (the inclusion of Texas life and whiskey topics should have provided a prtty big hint) and I spent every day I could in our pool with kiddo, reaching all the way into NOVEMBER. Between the move and the sun, it's little wonder I'm not seeing the numbers I saw in 2017.

The nature of my posts were different this year, too. Those national interest posts were typically very long and very involved, with a lot of research behind them -- most of the time, they were news articles (The Washington Post is my main source because I'm a subscriber), but in some cases, the sources were books that I'd read from cover to cover. So, fewer posts, but with much more behind them. I wouldn't call it a format change; I'd just say it's a function of the content -- it demanded greater discipline and effort.

Finally, I split some content out into new topics this year. Kids/Family was used for probably most things family-related, and eventually I split out the posts related to our move and adjusting to life in Texas into its own topic. The cooking topic was renamed to food, so I could talk not just about dishes I prepare, but others I got to experience not of my kitchen (I still miss forkly). The new whiskey topic is separate from food, because I wanted to highlight our new discoveries in their own topic.



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2018.12.04A Few Words on Test-Driven and Behavior-Driven Development

I was lucky enough today to sit down with a solutions architect who walked me through a simple test-driven development (TDD) and behavior-driven development (BDD) exercise.

My mind was blown. It was everything he said it would be: it's challenging, because you have to think differently about the problems you're solving -- first and foremost, you have to partition your mind to focus only on the test -- it's givens and the outcome you're looking for (this is the test-driven part) -- and THEN to focus on writing the code to satisfy the outcome (this is the behavior-driven part).

The net result is amazing and mind-bending. By making yourself think in this way, the code is reduced to the means of satisfying the tests. In that sense, it is pure.

I've worked for several organizations that all said they wanted to move to TDD, but couldn't. One reason: clients didn't want to pay for it. TDD pushes out the time to produce an application, but the benefit is the code doesn't fail. Add to that a continuous integration server that runs your tests and re-runs them when others check in their test-driven code...

I guess I want these guys to understand how lucky they are that they actually get to engineer in this way. I think it's super amazing. I'm SO grateful for the demo I received today.



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2018.09.18Upgrading My iPhone X to iOS 12

The Apple iOS 12 logo. Copyright Apple, Inc.

This post is going to be quick, just like the upgrade: My upgrade went super fast, and I didn't even have to log back into iCloud or anything. Even after I shut the unit down and restarted it. My upgrade experience couldn't have been smoother.



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2018.05.19Virtual Desktops in April 2018 Windows Update

The Windows 10 Timeline icon

Windows 10 users who have experienced the April 2018 update (a long update process with multiple reboots) may notice a different icon where the Task View icon used to be.

The new icon seems to resemble a film strip with a slider bar to its right. It actually suggests some new functionality inside of the task view: the ability to recall certain applications or documents you had open recently and insert them into one of the virtual desktops.

The new feature is called Timeline. It tracks all of the applications and documents you had open recently. Paired with Task View, you can select a virtual desktop, then click on an application in the timeline to load it into the virtual desktop.

Thankfully, one still switches among desktops using the same key chord (Ctrl+Win+(left arrow or right arrow)).

I suppose Timeline could be useful for setting up all of your virtual desktops at once from the Task View. Personally, I don't think I'd work that way, but then I'm fairly regimented in how I use them -- I tend to always use certain applications within certain desktops (so you'd think I'd find Timeline useful).

Now, if I had a way to run a PowerShell script to set it all up for me at the start of a session, THAT would really be something. Of course, I'd need suitable resources (RAM) to support it.

Of course, I'm coming at this from the perspective of using Timeline on a single machine. The real power of Timeline, as PC World reports, is for users of multiple machines. Timeline will sync your history to the cloud, making it available for you to use from any Windows 10 machine.1

Also nice: you can turn Timeline off if you want to. Navigate to Settings > Privacy > Activity History. Two checkboxes should be visible at the top of the form.

The Activity History settings menu

Let Windows collect my activities from this PC is likely checked by default, and allows the machine to record the applications you've had open so they can be shown in the Timeeline feature. Let Windows sync my activities from this PC to the cloud may be unchecked by default, and is required to present your Timeline on different PCs.1

Unchecking Let Windows collect my activities from this PC is not enough to clear the Timeline. In the testing I did, I found I had to scroll down further on the Activity History form and click the button to clear the history to erase the Timeline.

My original post about the Windows 10 Task View and virtual desktops may be found here.



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2018.05.09The Power of Power BI

I started looking into Microsoft Power BI for work, and thought I'd use some data from my website as a test. I was very impressed at how powerful and easy to use Power BI is.

There's a lot of functionality packed in there by default.

For example, date data is imported in a heirarchical nature, so the graph, which is currently showing the number of posts by year, can be reorganized to show posts by month and posts by day of the month. (The graph showed me that I tend to post significantly more to interests topics on the 7th of the month than I do on any other day. I wonder why that is?)

One can also highight certain topics on the graph by clicking on them in the legend. Clicking on a topic will fade the other topics in the graph, which helps the data you want to see stand out.

There are some things I could clean up inside the data here (like the legend), but considering I threw this together with raw data, I'm really impressed with how easy this was to make!



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2018.04.10Facebook Privacy: It's About Who You Know

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about Facebook privacy, and how one can examine and change settings related to the data you're giving to third parties through the use of Facebook authentication (that is, using Facebook to log into third-party applications and websites).

This morning I realize that everything I put in that post will not be enough to significantly help you keep your information from being leaked to third parties. The reason is the entire point of social media: connection with other people.

Yesterday, I was confident I wouldn't be seeing the warning banner that Facebook talked about displaying to the 87 million affected by the Cambridge Analytica scandal. This morning, I can reproduce for you exactly what that banner said. Despite my elaborate system of lists to compartmentalize my Facebook relationships, my account is among the 87 million whose data was provided to Cambridge Analytica, and here's why: even though I never logged into the "This is Your Digital Life" app, a friend of mine did. Facebook explains:

As a result, the following information was likely shared with "This Is Your Digital Life":

  • Your public profile, Page likes, birthday and current city
A small number of people who logged into "This is Your Digital Life" also shared their own news feed, timeline, posts, messages which may have included posts and messages from you. They may also have shared your hometown.

There's no mention of a time period, except to say that it stopped in 2015. This still means that potentially several years' worth of my "digital life" -- more precisely, the time between 2015 and whenever I connected to this person -- was exposed to Soviet-born Aleksandr Kogan and Cambridge Analytica and whomever else copied it simply because one of my Facebook friends used the survey app.

Perhaps it might be best if we paused and thought about our Facebook relationships as we would consider a sexual partner: We now know we have to trust our Facebook friends to protect and minimize the data they provide to others, because their data could include information about us. I imagine this isn't too dissimilar to the trust we must place in a potential partner to protect their bodies from diseases we could contract. In both cases, we have to determine whether these other people have been reckless and put themselves and us in jeopardy -- whether they knew it or not. There are things we can do prophylactically in both cases to reduce, but not eliminate, our risk.

Make good choices.

 

P.S.: Gizmodo apparently feels similar frustration.



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2018.03.26Let's Talk About Facebook

I've a friend who started a thread about leaving Facebook. Now, I don't know what his Facebook habits are, like (get it?) how much time he spends on it daily, but I've never thought he posted too often or was particularly combative on threads I've seen. But the point he made wasn't really about politics and associated vitriol that has seemed to sully everybody's Facebook experience since 2016 -- it was about Facebook as a steward of its users' data.

In the same thread, another friend posted a link to a neat commentary by Shelly Palmer about precisely that sort of thing. My favorite few words from the post get straight to the point:

Right now, you get to use Facebook, Google, Gmail, Waze, and other “free” apps for the cost of your data. If you don’t want to pay with your data, you are welcome to make other choices.
That's really the bottom line. Palmer's post also recounts for us the Cambridge Analytica scandal and observes, "The silver lining ... is the fact that you are becoming aware of what data you create, what is collected, and how it is used."

And by the way, let's be clear about what this Cambridge Analytica mess really is -- It's about Facebook and their privacy practices. This wasn't a breach like Equifax, Anthem or MySpace. Data wasn't taken. Facebook gave CA's researcher the data, because in part the researcher lied about its use.

Let's move on.

Inspect Your Facebook Settings: Facebook Authentication

Facebook is more than just a social media platform. It's also a very convenient authentication platform. Loads and loads of phone and web apps offer authentication using your Facebook credentials as a way for you to access their content. But, as stated above, there's a price to using Facebook authentication elsewhere, and that price is your Facebook data.

Do me a favor. Open up the Facebook app on your mobile phone. Right now. Let's take a look at the permissions you've given the apps that use Facebook authentication. Jeff Rossen did a piece on this on the Today Show last week, and I was grateful for the walkthrough. Here's how -- at least, on the iPhone:

  • Open up the Facebook app's settings by clicking on the icon in the lower right corner of the Facebook app's screen -- the one that looks like three horizontal lines. Don't confuse this with the iPhone's settings.
  • Once the form loads, scroll to the bottom to the region marked "SETTINGS", and tap on the word "Settings" to the left of an icon that resembles a white gear against a gray background.
  • A menu should pop up with a few different headings. Tap "Account Settings."
  • On the Settings screen, scroll to the bottom and tap on "Apps."



  • You'll arrive at Facebook's Apps and Websites form. Tap on "Logged in with Facebook".



Spend a few moments taking this all in. This form is now separated into regions by sharing settings, in increasing order of privacy. In other words, the group of apps that are shared only with yourself are at the bottom, and the group of apps that are shared with the public are at the top.

Just spend a few minutes surfing this Apps and Websites area and make certain you're good with your settings, or change them. Different apps will request different data -- some of them will take absolutely everything they can get:


In exchange for logging into this app with your Facebook account, the app is collecting information on your friends, your posts, your likes, your birthday, and more.

If you're not comfortable with the Facebook data you are providing this third-party app, you can change those settings here. Personally, I've set all of my apps and websites to share data with only me, and have limited the particular data to my public profile and maybe my email address, but that's it.

Inspect Your Facebook Settings: Posts Privacy

When I think of "Facebook" and "privacy," the privacy of my posts is the first thing I think of. In a time of change, a couple of years after I joined the network, I figured out how to use Facebook's lists capability and came to use it exclusively, despite whatever other controls Facebook introduced in the years since.

The key to the effectiveness of the list method is in your post security. You have to be certain that the visibility of every post you make is restricted to your lists. That means at least the posts you make from here on out, but could include modifying every post you've ever made (as far back as your wall goes) if you want to be thorough. The choice is yours.

Imagine two lists, for the sake of simplicity. One is your "white list", with ALL of your Facebook friends on it. The other is a "black list," for putting friends in "time out" on occasion. Let's say you have a friend who has been getting particularly annoying of late -- maybe you've tired of her constant Candy Crush posts, or you're just done with the poltical rancor he is spreading. Put them in the penalty box by adding them to your "black list." Just make certain the privacy on your posts is set to only include the "white list", and to specifically exclude the "black list." Doing this for all subsequent posts effectively denies "black list" members visibility to anything you post (except for profile picture changes) until they're off the "black list." If you chose to change the settings on all of your previous posts, people in the penalty box will see none of your posts on your wall.




You'll likely have multiple lists. I do -- life isn't as simple as black and white (lists). The more lists you make, the greater the demand for maintenance. For example, every new friend you take on must get assigned to a list with view permissions for them to be able to see any of your posts on your wall. I started with a "white list," then branched out. Some lists are confined to my neighborhood, and some are confined to family. I also have a "children" list, so posts that aren't appropriate for younger eyes can exclude that group. You get the idea.

Creating, populating, and maintaining lists is much easier using a PC browser than on a mobile device. So log into Facebook on your browser, and look down the left side of your News Feed for a heading called "Explore." Click on the item titled "Friend Lists." You may have to click on "See More..." to reveal it.

You should land at this URL: https://www.facebook.com/bookmarks/lists/. You can create and manage lists here. Clicking on an existing list will show your wall, filtered to the list you clicked on -- but you can see and manage the list's membership on the right side either in the header or in a section titled "On this List".


The screen shot above is my actual "black list." There's currently one person on it, and this list has been in existence for over ten years. Notice the list has zero access to any of my posts on my wall. Toldja it's a penalty box!



I find it's much easier to manipulate the permissions of a single post using a computer browser than to attempt it through a mobile app. I think the way to go is to find a custom permissions set that will work well for most of your posts and to revise permissions once posts are made, than to mess with the permissions prior to creating the post. This is largely because a change in the permissions settings before you make a post will be retained until you change it again.

Let's say you're going to post some pics for your motorcycle buddies. I find it's better to leave permissions as they are, make the post, then edit the permissions on that one post, than to edit the permissions at the start, make the post, then have to change the permissions back to the way they were; particularly if your standard custom set is complex or if you're posting from your mobile phone.

Think about it this way: using the latter method, you might easily change the permissions to being only viewable by your motorcycle buddies list and make the post from your phone; but if you forget to get onto your laptop later and correct the custom permissions set, everything you post until you get it corrected will default to go only to your motorcycle buddies list.

A few years after I started my list scheme, Facebook created several automated lists, like "Family" and "Acquaintances" and so forth. The premise is exactly the same --- consider these as "starter" lists. They'll require the same maintenance as the lists you create.

Use Facebook's Privacy Checkup

Facebook has created a privacy checkup wizard. Apart from an appearance on your wall from time to time, you can also access it from your iPhone by tapping the Settings icon, then scrolling down to the SETTINGS region and tapping on the Privacy Shortcuts menu item.

The Privacy Shortcuts screen is also where you can verify your posts settings and even explore Facebook's data policy.

You Own Your Facebook Data

Remember that you can always request the data Facebook has on you. Log into Facebook on your computer or phone's browser -- not the app -- then go to Settings. The easiest way to do this is to click on the downward arrow at far right on the blue banner at the top, then click "Settings." You'll land at the General Account Settings. You'll see a series of rows of data -- Name, Username, Contact, et cetera. Below this is a link you might otherwise miss: it reads, "Download a copy of your Facebook data."

Conclusion

  1. The Internet is forever. Be careful about who can see what you post.
  2. "If you don't want to pay with your data, you are welcome to make other choices."
  3. Check the permissions you've given to third party applications by using Facebook's authentication.
  4. Check the privacy of your posts. You can use lists if you've got the drive to see it through.
  5. Facebook has a Privacy Checkup wizard available for you to run at will.
  6. You can download a copy of your Facebook data at will.

Finally (if this hasn't been bad enough), check out this Twitter thread from Dylan Curran where he reviews all of his data from Facebook and Google.



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2018.03.18I'm bored

Welp, this is silly.

A couple of weeks ago I had a period of a few days where seemingly everything I had been working on achieved their desired end states. It was weird. And now I'm on the downside of all of those achievements: I'm kinda left a little listless because I finished it all.

Years ago I really wanted an HP LaserJet printer. A model was introduced that was designed for the home or small office, and I really wanted it -- but the price was just too high for me. For well over a year I kept a close eye on the price -- I'd make a bee-line for the printers section whenever I walked into any technology store -- but the price never dropped. Then one day I got brave and looked online at eBay. There I found them, new, in-box, for a better price than I was finding in retailers. So I created an eBay account and bought one. For a long time after that, I'd just feel lost when going into a technology retailer because the thing that had driven me to go for so long wasn't a thing anymore. I remember stopping myself when I'd get to the printers section and actually ask myself what I was doing -- the search had become habit, but now that the search was over, I just felt... empty. Listless. Wondering, "Well, now what?"

Here I am feeling much the same, because so many different things all ended within those two days. Major upgrade to my website is completed, in production, and I'm really happy with it. I've had really good interviews with several potential employers. I'd even finished Wolfenstein II and finally reached level 30 in Pokémon GO!.

Now all that remains on the website work is some maintenance items; I have an offer from one of those firms, and I've barely the motivation to even open the Pokémon GO! app: Before, If I was driving by the local cemetery (a major location for Pokéstops), I wouldn't have missed an opportunity to pull in, open the app, and pick up some items or maybe join a raid. Lately, I can't be bothered. And it feels really weird. I'm just so used to working so hard at it.

I guess I'll just await the next bit of "brain candy" to devour.



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2018.02.14UPDATE: Will the AirPods Case Erase Mag-Strip Cards?

The Apple corp. logo. Image credit: Apple

I've been staying in a hotel for the past week. After two days here, I discovered the key card to the room was erased. A couple of days later, I discovered both of the key cards had stopped working, and had them reprogrammed by the front desk.

This was when I figured out I had been carrying my AirPods in their case in the same pocket as the cards.

I don't seem to have any trouble with the room key when I don't have the AirPods case with me.

I remember from my NEETS modules days that anything that generates an electrical field also generates a magnetic field. The AirPods case is a small capsule that acts as a charger for the AirPods, hence it generates electric and magnetic fields.

With the case and the key card in the same pocket, I can't help but wonder if the magnetic field created by the AirPods case is at least partially erasing the data recorded on the key card's magnetic strip. Apparently, this is a thing.

I'll simply leave this here: If you're an AirPods user, consider carefully where you carry the case in relation to things like key cards, bank cards and credit cards which use magnetic strips.

UPDATE:
We're now in our third week at this hotel. I met a guy this morning at breakfast who was wearing AirPods and had his case out on the table. I told him about my experience, and then showed him the big dumb credit card case I bought as a defense against the constant card erasure. Surprised, he admitted that he kept his room card and the AirPods case in the same pocket (as had I). He thanked me for the advice and left after a few minutes.

About ten minutes later he came back to our table and told me that his room card wasn't working!



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2017.12.312017 Year in Review

Posts about fitness, family, geek stuff and national events dominated the interests posts in 2017.

TopicCount
books1
cooking4
family/kids34
fitness45
gaming7
geek35
leadership4
movies2
music10
nation/politics24

 

Technically speaking, I did a lot on this website over 2017:

  • Added a crawler atop the welcome page
  • Made a cryptographic class
  • Upgraded the professional section to include an interactive resume, a reworked certificates and certifications form to include a coverflow-like interface, and the introduction of a technologies list
  • Implemented a major change to post favoriting to prevent records from being overwritten by production pushes
  • Numerous fixes and other minor enhancements




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2017.12.27Got Cats? Consider PawSense

the Business Cat meme image

We adopted two kittens from the shelter over a year ago. The male has matured into just a bundle of love -- I adore him. The female has matured into a standard cat, who does not care one whit about people and everything has to be done on her terms. As I said, a standard cat.

One can definitely tell the difference between the two cats when they're around my laptop. The boy will very carefully walk around it and other obstacles in... whatever he decides his path is. The female simply can't be bothered, and will walk straight over the keyboard.

If you have a "keyboard cat" like I do, I've a software suggestion for you.

Keyboard Cat

PawSense is the brainchild of BitBoost Systems, which seeks to solve the very problem of cats walking over your keyboard. PawSense monitors keyboard input for values typically distinct from human typing -- cats' paws typically strike more than a single character at a time -- and locks the keyboard until a human unlocks it, either by clicking in a particular spot or by typing specific input.

PawSense likely runs as a service on your Windows computer, monitoring the keyboard for unusual input. The software can play a sound as an attempt to startle your visitor and to train her (or him --- my bias) to keep off your keyboard.

PawSense is available for download for $19.99. BitBoost uses Paypal to handle transactions. One word of advice: the download form requires two inputs - one is associated with the name of the purchaser, and the other is a purchase ID. That purchase ID is displayed on a screen during the transaction, but it is not included in the confirmation email coming from Paypal. Do yourself a favor and copy down or take a screenshot of that purchase ID while it's displayed on the screen so you'll have it when needed. Otherwise you might find yourself e-mailing BitBoost support for assistance (like I did) -- and by the way, BitBoost support was very responsive. I had reached out to them yesterday afternoon, and had the fix waiting in my email this morning.

One more thing: PawSense was last updated to run on Windows 8, though it's running fine on my Windows 10 machine.

Perhaps an unintended additional benefit of PawSense is that it could make you a better typist. I've triggered the PawSense software twice since typing this, telling me my accuracy could improve.

Learn more about PawSense.



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2017.12.22Yes Virginia, Apple IS slowing down older iPhones

An image of Apple iPhones.

According to CNET reporting, Apple has released a statement this week which verifies a long-held suspicion: Your older iPhone or iPad really IS getting slower.

The statement was in response to an observation from Primate Labs. Published in a blog post from its founder, Primate Labs' testing showed that iPhone performance did not remain constant as the unit ages, contrary to the public's expectations.

It's a Feature

Apple's response, reproduced here, was included in the CNET article:

"Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices. Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components.

Last year we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions. We've now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future."

I admit, I'm in that camp -- I've wondered why, after the release of a a newer model, my iPad suddenly seems like someone replaced its chip with a Pentium 60. My suspicion has been that AT&T had been throttling it's network performance. Happily, I've never had a problem with a unit (iPhone or iPad) simply shutting itself off. Thanks to this article, if that happens, I'll know one reason why.

Read the full article.



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2017.12.21University of Michigan Developing "Unhackable" Computer

An image of a Rubiks Cube. Image credit: grubiks.com

MICHIGAN NEWS, a publication of the University of Michigan, reported their computer science department is working on a new computer hardware design that moves information rapidly and randomly within the system, destroying the data occupying the previous location. "The technology works to elude attackers from the critical information they need to construct a succcessful attack."

Todd Austin, who leads Project MORPHEUS, offered this simile: "It's like if you're solving a Rubik's Cube and every time you blink, I rearrange it."

Austin is excited about the program, because he believes the design offers a solution that is "future-proof." The article argues that MORPHEUS could protect against future threats, because zero-day attacks that focus on software vulnerabilities require fixed locations of the vulnerability and the data. Under MORPHEUS, the locations of everything -- the vulerability, the data, passwords, everything -- would constantly be changing. In such an environment, vulnerabilities won't matter, because an attacker would not have the time or resources to exploit them.

Read the full article.



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2017.12.20Windows 10's Fall Creators Update... Update

The Windows 10 logo. Image credit: Microsoft Corporation

I noticed the other day that my Windows machine went through a GIANT install -- on the order of the Fall Creators Update: installing a percentage of the update, then restarting, then installing another percentage, then rebooting.

It turns out it actually was the Fall Creators Update -- again. An update to the update, if you will.

I watched a video that offered a summary of updates, and found one thing that seemed useful to me directly: the ability to save a link right onto your taskbar.

Yeah, yeah, it had all kinds of other updates to Paint 3D and so on, but I don't use those. I don't need them in my life right now. But I can get behind the URL thing.

Why? Because as it happens, I have a client for whom I'm doing a lot of work using a Web form on a specific development server. It'd be nice to have a link to that URL directly on the taskbar instead of having to open the browser, fight with it while it tries to load the home page the client has set, to get to the dev box.

Luckily, Microsoft implemented a version of the feature in IE. If I was an Edge user, I should see the feature shown in the video. The implementation in IE is a little different. Under Options (the gear icon in the upper right corner) is an option titled "Add site to Apps." After clicking, I found the shortcut (pictured as the Internet Explorer "e" logo against a white background) right at the very top of my Start Menu (the first entry under "Recently Added.") Right-clicking on the menu item gave me the option to pin it to the taskbar.

You can go as far as view the properties of the shortcut from the taskbar, but you can't edit the shortcut icon. Somewhat interesting: The shortcut is of a type called "Pinned Site Shortcut" -- not just "Shortcut."

I think it's a nice-to-have feature, because it keeps shortcuts off of my desktop and down on the taskbar, where I live. One can create a shortcut on the desktop to an internet URL, but about the best you could do to get it onto a taskbar in Windows 10 is to pin it to a browser taskbar icon. Not bad, but not quite as handy.



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2017.12.16UPDATE: iPhone X's Face ID is a Pain in the Neck

The Apple Face ID logo. Image credit: Apple Corporation

Since the iPhone X was announced, Apple has marketed its Face ID feature as purely a security enhancement, designed to increase the security of the unit tenfold over its earlier fingerprint ID technology.

But I believe Face ID's hidden purpose is to combat distracted driving -- or at least provide a mitigation strategy for the company. Intentions aside, Apple has made using an iPhone in a car significantly more inconvenient than ever.

"1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving. Texting while driving is 6x more likely to cause an accident than driving drunk."


Do Not Disturb While Driving

iOS 11 contains a key enhancement in this regard -- its Do Not Disturb While Driving feature activates automatically by default when your phone connects to a Bluetooth system in a car, or when you're traveling at a relatively high rate of speed (determined through Location Services). While the service is engaged, use of the phone is permissable only after you signify that you're not driving -- performed through an extra tap on the phone's lock screen. Players of Niantic's Pokemon Go! might recognize this from the game -- if location services detects that you're moving rapidly, the game makes you acknowledge an "I'm a passenger" alert.

Face ID Demands Your Attention

Face ID completely ups the ante on Apple's anti-driving campaign because, by default, Face ID requires you to look directly at your phone before unlocking it (Apple calls this "requiring attention"), and applies attention awareness to other features, like dimming the phone's display. (See Settings > Face ID & Passcode for the settings.)

The new unit also forces requirement of a passcode immediately, without any other option or the possibility of disabling the requirement (see Settings > Face ID & Passcode > Require Passcode). What this essentially means is you can no longer just unlock your phone, keep it in your lap and casually use it in the car. The iPhone X and iOS 11 demand you bring the phone up to your face to unlock it, OR make you unlock it by typing in your code if you're not using it continuously.

Cheap Sunglasses

Another note for mobile users (pun intended): Face ID probably won't work if you're wearing sunglasses (it doesn't work when I'm wearing mine). So now, in addition to having to bring the unit up to your face and to look right at it, you've also got to take off your sunglasses.

Who wants to have to do all of that stuff from a car seat?

"Apple has made using an iPhone in a car significantly more inconvenient than ever."


Distracted Driving

So now I feel obligated to insert some data about traffic fatalities related to distracted driving and mobile phone use, to highlight the problem. To be fair, the numbers are alarming. According to statistics offered by a personal injury law firm, quoting the National Safety Council, "1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving. Texting while driving is 6x more likely to cause an accident than driving drunk." 1

With figures like these, it seems petty to argue whether Apple is acting to protect consumers or to protect itself. Besides, one could also argue that Apple is incentivized to make these changes to their products to keep people alive so they can buy more of their products -- or, in the case of younger consumers, appeal to their parents. (Cell phone use is highest among 16 - 24 year olds.) 2   I'm not saying these things to act in poor taste; I'm merely exploring Apple's rationale for making the changes I'm griping about.

Not Yet Sure How I Feel About It

Yes, this makes me one of the 660,000 guilty of using a mobile phone in some way while in a car. I also wrote some software called "AUTOreply" several years ago for my Android phone because I was tired of constant text messages while I was driving.

Typically if I'm using the phone, I'm answering it over the car's stereo in a hands-free way. Sometimes, I make calls, too -- and Apple's now made it really difficult for me to do that, because dictation doesn't work well through my older car's system (hmm.... are they trying to boost sales of CarPlay-equipped units too?) I'm still against texting.

The design changes of the iPhone X absolutely discourage any active use of the unit while driving or even just being in a car, and for good reason.

Over time, I'm sure I'll get used to them; right now, I guess I'm too familiar with the relative convenience my 7 Plus offered, and find myself wanting it back.

 

UPDATE: There is one setting change you can make to make your life a little easier. I found it after I'd published the original article (of course). You can modify the Auto-Lock setting to give you a little breathing room. Find it under Settings > General > Display and Brightness, at about the middle of the screen. I believe my machine was set to 30 Seconds as a default. Set that value to something higher to give yourself a little more time before having to reverify your identity to your phone again.



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2017.12.14STAR WARS TONIGHT

Image of a Star Wars: The Last Jedi promotional poster. Image credit: Lucasarts

We've tickets to the first showing of The Last Jedi in just a couple of hours.

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG



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2017.12.06iPhone X's Face ID is a Pain in the Neck

The Apple Face ID logo. Image credit: Apple Corporation

Since the iPhone X was announced, Apple has marketed its Face ID feature as purely a security enhancement, designed to increase the security of the unit tenfold over its earlier fingerprint ID technology.

But I believe Face ID's hidden purpose is to combat distracted driving -- or at least provide a mitigation strategy for the company. Intentions aside, Apple has made using an iPhone in a car significantly more inconvenient than ever.

"1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving. Texting while driving is 6x more likely to cause an accident than driving drunk."


Do Not Disturb While Driving

iOS 11 contains a key enhancement in this regard -- its Do Not Disturb While Driving feature activates automatically by default when your phone connects to a Bluetooth system in a car, or when you're traveling at a relatively high rate of speed (determined through Location Services). While the service is engaged, use of the phone is permissable only after you signify that you're not driving -- performed through an extra tap on the phone's lock screen. Players of Niantic's Pokemon Go! might recognize this from the game -- if location services detects that you're moving rapidly, the game makes you acknowledge an "I'm a passenger" alert.

Face ID Demands Your Attention

Face ID completely ups the ante on Apple's anti-driving campaign because, by default, Face ID requires you to look directly at your phone before unlocking it (Apple calls this "requiring attention"), and applies attention awareness to other features, like dimming the phone's display. (See Settings > Face ID & Passcode for the settings.)

The new unit also forces requirement of a passcode immediately, without any other option or the possibility of disabling the requirement (see Settings > Face ID & Passcode > Require Passcode). What this essentially means is you can no longer just unlock your phone, keep it in your lap and casually use it in the car. The iPhone X and iOS 11 demand you bring the phone up to your face to unlock it, OR make you unlock it by typing in your code if you're not using it continuously.

Cheap Sunglasses

Another note for mobile users (pun intended): Face ID probably won't work if you're wearing sunglasses (it doesn't work when I'm wearing mine). So now, in addition to having to bring the unit up to your face and to look right at it, you've also got to take off your sunglasses.

Who wants to have to do all of that stuff from a car seat?

"Apple has made using an iPhone in a car significantly more inconvenient than ever."


Distracted Driving

So now I feel obligated to insert some data about traffic fatalities related to distracted driving and mobile phone use, to highlight the problem. To be fair, the numbers are alarming. According to statistics offered by a personal injury law firm, quoting the National Safety Council, "1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving. Texting while driving is 6x more likely to cause an accident than driving drunk." 1

With figures like these, it seems petty to argue whether Apple is acting to protect consumers or to protect itself. Besides, one could also argue that Apple is incentivized to make these changes to their products to keep people alive so they can buy more of their products -- or, in the case of younger consumers, appeal to their parents. (Cell phone use is highest among 16 - 24 year olds.) 2   I'm not saying these things to act in poor taste; I'm merely exploring Apple's rationale for making the changes I'm griping about.

Not Yet Sure How I Feel About It

Yes, this makes me one of the 660,000 guilty of using a mobile phone in some way while in a car. I also wrote some software called "AUTOreply" several years ago for my Android phone because I was tired of constant text messages while I was driving.

Typically if I'm using the phone, I'm answering it over the car's stereo in a hands-free way. Sometimes, I make calls, too -- and Apple's now made it really difficult for me to do that, because dictation doesn't work well through my older car's system (hmm.... are they trying to boost sales of CarPlay-equipped units too?) I'm still against texting.

The design changes of the iPhone X absolutely discourage any active use of the unit while driving or even just being in a car, and for good reason.

Over time, I'm sure I'll get used to them; right now, I guess I'm too familiar with the relative convenience my 7 Plus offered, and find myself wanting it back.



Link to this

 

2017.12.03Citizen Eco-Drive Proximity Watch is Obsolete, says Citizen

Image of the CITIZEN Eco-Drive Proximity W760. Image credit: SBNATION.com

Citizen's Eco-Drive Proximity line is a series of watches that are designed to be semi-smart, in that they tie in with your smartphone to provide some very nice functionality. For example, syncing with your phone means never having to set your watch manually again. The best use of this that I can think of is when you're flying across time zones -- a touch of a button and your watch is set to the correct time. It's also able to alert you when you receive new e-mails and when your phone goes out of range (e.g., you've left it someplace). Syncing with your smartphone obviously requires a smartphone app. The application communicates with the watch over a Bluetooth connection.

I received mine as a gift several years ago and loved it. It's spent the last couple of years on the shelf with my other dress watches because I favored my Apple Watch. But since I dropped it and smashed the screen, I'm back to my other watches again.

I downloaded the Citizen Proximity app onto my new phone (running iOS 11) and couldn't get the watch to connect, so I contacted Citizen support.

Some three weeks later, I received a reply, which basically told me that my watch -- the W760 -- is obsolete, compatible with iOS versions up to 9 (two major versions ago). The more recent W770 models are still compatible with the current operating system.

I have a problem with having only some percentage of its functionality available because the watch won't sync anymore. So I replied, asking if Citizen is doing anything to upgrade the W760 owners to a W770. Who knows when I'll receive a reply --- with the holidays coming, I might not get a reply until sometime in January.



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2017.11.08GIZMODO: Poor Guy Accidentally Steals and Then Destroys $300 Million Worth of Ether Cryptocurrency

animated GIF of code scrolling on a computer screen

GIZMODO reports a newbie developer has found himself in the center of a "perfect storm" of bad moves and bugs that caused him to take "possession of an estimated $300 million worth of the Ethereum cryptocurrency by accident. In an attempt to give back the money, however, the poor guy ended up locking up the funds permanently. In effect, that money is just gone."

Read the full article here.



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2017.10.31Re: Stop HTML5 Videos from Automatically Playing

animated GIF of code scrolling on a computer screen

Just wanted to say that this guidance proided by PCWorld is still useful to me, a Firefox user. I've referred to their instructions two or three times since I posted about it back in mid-April.

If you're a Chrome, Firefox, or Opera user, this post will step you through how to rid yourself of the annoyance.



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2017.10.29TIME: "Apple's Best Product is Something You Can't Buy"

The Apple logo

I really enjoyed Jon Patrick Pullen's article in Time Magazine, "Forget the iPhone X, Apple's Best Product Is Something You Can't Buy".

Pullen favors Apple's privacy policy and practices above those of competitors like Google and Amazon, based in part on the companies' business models. I like Pullen's approach here: if user data is a revenue stream, it follows that users' privacy cannot be a primary concern for that company:

Google, by contrast, not only sells phones and other devices, but also makes money off the ads (and the user data) that appear on those handsets, laptops and tablets. Amazon's gadget-oriented business model wants to sell you things... that will help sell you more things.... Facebook's users... are themselves the products unwittingly feeding the social network's revenue model.

I take issue with one point Pullen made, which was to partially blame Apple for the successes of a 2014 phishing campaign that led to the leaks of celebrities' embarrassing personal photos. It's wrong to hold Apple responsible for that. Google or Apple or Slappy's Online Fish Market could encrypt and secure absolutely everything related to users' data, but if the user surrenders their means of accessing it -- maybe the ONLY way to access the data in decrypted form (passwords, physical keys, fingerprints, or whatever) -- that's not the company's fault. That's like blaming Ford for the theft of your car because you gave a stranger your keys.

The article is worth the few minutes to read, because it encourages one to think about the companies behind the data storage. The author notes the privacy policy and protections add to the value proposition of Apple's products -- even the $1,000 iPhone X -- and subtly reminds us there's always a catch.



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2017.10.02Early Thoughts on iOS 11, Part Four

The Apple iOS 11 logo

Apple has already released a patch for iOS 11.

Version 11.0.1 was on the street this past weekend. Intended to correct a problem some were having with e-mail, 11.0.1 is apparently presenting problems for some iPhone 6 users.



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2017.09.21Early Thoughts on iOS 11, Part Three

The Apple iOS 11 logo

I upgraded the iTunes application on my laptop, my iPhone to OS 11 and my Apple Watch to WatchOS 4 yesterday.

Upgrading iTunes

The biggest thing to watch out for in the iTunes upgrade is that apps are no longer handled through iTunes. iTunes is now for media content only. That's going to take some getting used to. Also, sort of iTunes related, you can now restore your your ringtones directly on the phone. This is a huge benefit also to the AppleCare people who support iTunes -- in the past, users had to call into AppleCare to have them unlocked.

Upgrading to iOS 11

My upgrade to iOS 11 went very smoothly, and I have not experienced the slowness that others have. This may be, in part, because I'm an Apple Music subscriber, which has eliminated the need to have music downloaded directly to the unit. The result is substantially fewer files stored on the phone, which means I have more than half of my space available. My surmise (read: I might be talking out of my tailpipe here) is that the relatively low number of objects (photos, music files, etc.) and the large percentage of unused space gave the OS plenty of room to index relatively few objects.

I've seen a few nice changes to the interface. I'm sure there are more I haven't yet discovered. Perhaps the most obvious of these is that they've taken the UI for Apple Music and applied it through their entire ecosystem, giving a uniform look to the other iOS apps (that is, the other Apple apps). Also, the control center has been revamped -- swipe up from the bottom to check it out. Other smaller touches: Screenshots now produce a miniaturized image of the screenshot at the bottom left of the screen -- more than just a nice little reinforcement that you got the screenshot; touching the miniaturized image drops you straight into editing tools, and even lets you delete the 'shot. And speaking of images, iOS 11's Photos app now displays animated gifs, and includes the capability to create an Apple Watch face directly from the menu, just like you can with wallpapers for your device. Another nice touch is in the Activity app -- you can look in the history of your workouts now and see a graph of your heart rate (heart rate was a topic of discussion at the unveiling).

Apple has also introduced a new safety feature on the phone. If you connect your iPhone to your car's audio system (I do this via Bluetooth), the phone will now restrict what data you get back from Siri, will intercept texts you receive and reply that you're driving, and will make you attest that you're not driving if you attempt to access the device. I believe this can be overridden someplace in settings, but I haven't looked into how yet.

Apple has also made a few subtle statements with the new OS release. For example, the Contacts app icon now depicts silhouettes of male and female figures (before it was a silhouette of a person -- I never really assigned it a gender). Another example is in the wallpapers included with the new system there are several still wallpapers which feature solid lines in multiple colors that appear similar to, though not quite reproducing, the pride flag.

iOS 11 is a much bigger deal for iPad. The change in the control center is far more pronounced on the iPad than it is on the iPhone. My iPad Air 2 has a couple of years on it, but I really don't use it for a whole lot. So I'm uncertain how the upgrade will impact my use.

Upgrading to WatchOS 4

The upgrade seemed to take forever. I chalk this up to a combination of demand and the fact that I was upgrading a first generation Apple Watch.

WatchOS 4 comes with a few new faces, but some other nice enhancements -- starting with the lock screen: the numbers and keys are larger and easier to read.

But I'm annoyed with another enhancement -- when I play music on my iPhone, the watch shows that the phone is playing music. (Tap the crown to close that to get back to your watch face.) Hint: I don't need that information. Really. I listen to music all day long. I'd rather not have to close the stupid music app every time I look at my watch. To fix this, open the Apple Watch app on your phone and navigate to General, then scroll down to Wake Screen. Toggle "Auto-launch Audio apps" to OFF. Now when you play music, the iTunes app won't automatically launch, and you'll see your watch face when you raise your wrist.



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2017.09.20Early Thoughts on iOS 11, Part One

Image of an iPhone battery indicator, showing low battery.

Early reporting from BGR.com suggests that, while any OS upgrade will slow all phones down temporarily while objects get re-indexed, some iPhone users, especially those with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, have reported lasting battery life effects. These users have been running iOS 11 since last week, when the Gold Master was released.

The author suggests users might try throttling back background refresh and location access settings:

If you experience faster battery drain after updating to iOS 11, there are a few things you can do to potentially extend your battery life. The two big ones are limiting the number of apps that can refresh in the background (Settings > General > Background App Refresh) and limiting the number of apps that can access your location in the background (Settings > Privacy > Location Services). If that doesn’t have much of an impact, Low Power Mode may become your best friend until Apple pushes out new updates in the coming months that will hopefully address excessive battery drain.

The author also wrote a separate article with additional information on how to lighten the load on your device.



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2017.09.20Early Thoughts on iOS 11, Part Two

The Apple Photos App icon

My wife has already upgraded both her iPad Air 2 and iPhone 7 Plus to the new operating system, and is currently installing the watchOS upgrade onto her first generation Apple Watch. I have exactly the same kit, but have done none of this so far, partly because it hasn't been on my radar, partly because I doubt I'd have made the time to do it even if it was, but also partly because I haven't yet been overtaken by the potential coolness and anticipation.

But I'm also putting off the upgrade until I have another task completed: clearing the clutter of old photos off of the phone.

I have the Microsoft OneDrive app on my iPhone. It's there really for one reason: to make backups of all of the photos I take. Now, you might say, "Well, you already have backups of all of your photos in iCloud." True. But here's the rub: deleting photos from my phone also deletes them from iCloud. Actually, deletes them from all of my Apple Devices AND from iCloud. So thumbing through the All Photos album means I have to see every. single. picture. Some of these, I just want archived in a way where I can forget about them. I'm not saying they're unimportant photos; I'm just saying that I don't need to scroll through the 200 images of Papa's birthday celebration every time I'm looking for a particular image. The OneDrive app has a feature called Camera Upload, and it does exactly what you'd expect: grabs all of the images off of the camera roll that aren't already uploaded to OneDrive and pushes them up. Once done, they're away from iCloud and the iPhone, and I can prune the photos on the phone to my heart's content.

I could keep the Camera Upload feature on all of the time, but that would mean that every photo I took would get uploaded in near real-time. I prefer instead to keep the feature turned off and do some rudimentary culling first to clear out junk like images I download for one-time use. Images like those don't really have any meaning beyond, say, the context of a conversation, so I don't feel the need to persist them anywhere. So every couple of months I'll go through my photos, delete the ones that can be deleted, then fire up OneDrive and activate Camera Upload. Once the images are done being copied, I'll shut Camera Upload off again.

Copying and culling photos like this is a great way to cut down on the number of objects getting indexed by the OS. The indexing supports Spotlight search, making searching for specific objects super fast. Major OS releases (like iOS 11) always reindex EVERYTHING at first -- all of your contacts, all of your photos, and so on, and it takes time and power to redo the entire index. And by power, I mean battery life.



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2017.08.07How to Repeat the Current Song in iOS 10

I could swear this used to be easy.

I've found a song that I want playing over and over and over again while I work. It's beautiful, melodious, and would be perfect background noise while I do my nerd thing. But I couldn't find where to set the repeat or shuffle command ANYPLACE within the music app on my iPhone. Every time I'd look at the song's "context menu," I saw options to add to a playlist, play next, play later, and sharing and liking options, but nothing for simply triggering a repeat or shuffle.

Well, turns out I couldn't find it because it's not in the music app at all. To get to these options, you have to use the little control menu that has options for airplane mode, WiFi, Bluetooth and so on at the bottom of your screen. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access the menu.

The first form has the options I mentioned earlier across the top, and access to the flashlight, timer, calculator and camera across the bottom. Swipe left to access the second form, which is dedicated to music player controls.

This second form shows the album cover art at left, with text at right, starting with the name of the current track. Tap on the track name to bring up info about the track in a full-length form.

Now scroll up on that form to reveal the shuffle and repeat buttons.



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2017.08.06Replacing a Screen on an iPhone 7 Plus

In all the years I've owned iPhone models, only once have I had to replace a cracked screen. And that day was yesterday.

This post is not about how one performs a screen replacement; it's about what to expect when you take it to an Apple Store to get the screen replaced.

A couple of weeks ago, my unprotected iPhone slid out of my pocket, out of my car, and hit the concrete driveway, leaving a crack in the screen resembling a dog-ear on a paper page, and a few pits in the metal at the impact point. The unit was still usable, but I knew the crack was an unsafe condition at the very least. Besides, this kind of thing is what AppleCare is FOR.

Our nearest Apple Store is about an hour and a half away. They didn't have any appointments available for the coming weekend, so our next shot was the weekend after that.

Upon arrival, the Apple people made things as easy as possible for me, but there were a few surprises. They ran a diagnostic to ensure the unit didn't have additional damage, then had me check and disable a few things in Settings, like you would if you were replacing the unit. Replacing the unit was an option, but it would cost $99 as opposed to the $29 cost for just replacing the screen.

Now might be a good time to talk about the Find My iPhone feature. It's one of the things I had to disable when I brought the unit in for repair. Find My iPhone was repurposed as a theft deterrent in response to a wave of iPhone thefts a few OS versions ago. The feature now prevents the unit from being accessed or restored over by anyone other than you. In the case of repairs, the Apple Store technicians need this turned off in order to work on your phone; in the case of buying a new phone, it needs to be turned off to allow the information on your current phone to be erased.

The surprise part was that I had to leave the phone at the Apple Store for two hours while the repair was effected. And, when the phone was returned to me, I was told the Home button sensor was also replaced as a matter of SOP -- understandable considering it's attached to the glass -- but the notion of resampling all of the fingerprints I had stored was a bit annoying.

Touch ID is the phone's ability to identify an authorized user by fingerprint. Originally implemented as a security convenience for access to the phone, Apple extended the API to programmers to allow their apps to take advantage of it. It is implemented through the Home button -- the only button on the face of the iPhone. So replacement of the Home button also meant replacement of the Touch ID mechanism. After "surgery," I found that some of my apps continued to respond to Touch ID as if nothing happened; but in at least one case, Touch ID was disabled, meaning I had to go into the app's settings and re-enable it. Your mileage may vary, but keep in mind that some of your apps may have disabled their Touch ID capability after the Home button was replaced.

So, if you find yourself in this situation, you can expect:

  • to be able to easily make an appointment with the Apple Store by using the Apple Support app. Download it from iTunes. The icon is blue with a white apple logo in the upper right corner, resembling the tee shirts the Genius Bar people wear.
  • to be asked to back up your phone before you visit the Apple Store
  • the technician will verify the serial number on the unit and verify that you backed up the phone
  • you will be directed to disable the Find My iPhone feature. You'll have to enter your iCloud password to do that.
  • your phone will spend a little time in surgery. In my case, it was two hours.
  • you will be directed to log into your phone (Touch ID will not work.)
  • you will be advised that you'll have to re-enable Find My iPhone and Touch ID.
  • you may need to re-enable Touch ID on some of your applications.
  • you will see they did a beautiful job.


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2017.07.29OnStar Misreporting Tire Pressures

Image of iPhone app icons

I was just at the gas station, and put air in three of the four tires on my car (I couldn't get the air hose to reach the right rear tire). The mobile app I have from the manufacturer is incorrectly reporting the tire pressures on the car -- it says the tire I couldn't reach is now up to spec, and one of the tires I could reach is still below spec.

Because I'm a good guy, I'm working to contact the app developers to let them know they may have their wiring mixed up with regard to the air pressure reporting -- I believe they've got the right rear data being reported in the right front, and visa versa.

So I'm on a call with OnStar and she's telling me I'm receiving the data incorrectly because I don't use the app often enough.

Now I have to weigh the cost of staying on the phone with this script-bound kid, who insists on sending data to my car, against the velue of getting the message to the app developers.

It's becoming a question of how badly I want to help -- whether it's worth enduring their procedures and diagnostics. All I really wanted to do was shoot OnStar a quick e-mail.



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2017.07.25UPDATED: Persnickety Update

animated GIF of code scrolling on a computer screen

After both the May and June cumulative updates failed to install, the laptop found something about the July update it liked, and now the laptop is up-to-date.

I'm so happy this case is closed. The laptop is back home where it belongs, with a whole lot more RAM and, more importantly, it's not trying to choke down a GIG worth of data anymore every time the laptop boots.

I confessed to the HP support people that I was shopping around for somebody to reload the whole laptop and do all the updates -- what I found was expensive: $120 to $150 for a complete reinstall with all of the updates. Had the price been more reasonable, I might have jumped on it -- I'm glad now that I didn't.

Read previous info for this post.



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2017.07.12How to Delete a Workout

Image of the Apple Watch icon for the Workout app

Left your Apple Watch's Activity app running after your workout? Use your iPhone's Activity and Health Apps to delete bogus workout data

 

Never stop learning.

I recently learned that there is an "Other" type of workout available on the Apple Watch. If you set this to "Open", you've basically got the watch recording everything you're doing. It's great for limited use stuff like a busy morning routine -- going downstairs, making the coffee, letting the dogs outside, going into the basement to get the dehumidifier pail, coming back upstairs to dump it, then going back downstairs to place the empty pail back in the machine, then back upstairs to the main floor... you get the idea.

One runs into problems when the activity is left to record once all that movement is done. This morning, I engaged the "Open/Other" activity to do a bunch of things downstairs before returning to work, and failed to shut it off -- it ran the entire time I was taking a training course -- for over an hour. After the course, I went outside to start my morning exercise, and saw my activity ring had 82 minutes recorded to it. Oops.

Here's what I did to resolve it, though be warned: You'll lose all of the data for the "bogus" workout. So if you actually exercised for 10 minutes and then sat on your behind for 60, you'll lose credit for all 70 -- the good 10 minutes plus the rest. If you're okay with that, follow these steps. If you're not, read through and maybe you can figure out a better way to do business.

  • I opened the Activity app on my phone.
  • The History panel is selected by default, and the view is the current day. I scrolled down to the Workouts list and found two actual workouts and the bogus one.
  • I opened the bogus workout and noted the time range.
  • Then I went back to the list of today's workouts and deleted the bogus workout. (Yes, I lost credit for the actual workout part, but I figured that was a small price to pay.) The move ring data reset immediately, but the activity ring data did not.
  • Then I opened the Health App.
  • On the Health Data panel, I tapped on the large orange Activity icon at top left.
  • I scrolled down the list of data to and tapped on Exercise Minutes.
  • I tapped on Show All Data.
  • I tapped on the row with the current date.
  • Every minute that has recorded data shows a "1", followed by the time down to the minute. These rows are sorted in descending order, such that the most recent minute is at the top. For each row in the time range I noted earlier, I swiped left to expose a delete button, and tapped the delete button.
  • After clearing out each of the entries, I backed out two or three times to the Exercise Minutes panel to ensure the data saved.
  • The activity ring data on my watch reset.

I'm not saying this is necessarily the BEST way to handle this. I'm simply sharing what I did to get my data back in line with my actual activity, albeit I did it at the cost of the 10 actual minutes of workout data in my "70-minute workout."

Perhaps I could have done more in the Health app to whack the calories in the Exercise Minutes I deleted. I simply don't know. But what I did got me far closer to actual effort than leaving it be.



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2017.06.30What Happens When Your Apple Watch Dies During a Workout

Image of the Apple Watch icon for the Workout app

"I figured that since the Health app also takes input from some measurements on the iPhone, some percentage of the workout could be retained, like distance. In short, NOPE."

 

Because there seems to be so muh redundancy between the Apple Watch and the iPhone, I wondered what would happen to your workout recording if the Apple Watch battery expired during a workout.

Well, last night I found out.

I had never had any challenges with battery life with the Apple Watch v1 until I started using its workout features. I've progressed to the point where I close the activity rings every day -- that's a stand goal, a move goal, and an exercise goal.

I believe the Apple Watch collects all of this data and it gets recorded by your iPhone in the Health app, then read from the Health app by the Activity app. Particularly during a workout, the Apple Watch is very busy recording. Data surfaced through the Activity app includes two flavors of calorie burn, average heart rate, the weather at the time, and elevation gains. So it should be of little surprise that all of this data collection can be demanding on the power source, and that longer workouts will mean greater drain. I've become used to seeing my Apple Watch report battery levels under 10% by the evening.

Last night we walked about a mile to get Laurel caught up on her workout -- it had rained earlier in the morning, precluding us from following our normal routine. At the time we left, my battery level was at 3%. There was no way it was going to hang on for longer than a couple blocks. Still, I figured that since the Health app also takes input from some measurements on the iPhone itself, some percentage of the workout could be retained, like distance.

In short, NOPE. Last night when I got home I saw no record at all of the partial workout. It wasn't showing on my rings, it wasn't showing in the Activity app -- it was like nothing had happened. This morning after powering the Apple Watch back up, the data from the workout up until the watch died was resident in the Activity app. The map shows the precise location where the battery gave up, and all of the workout data accounts for only that percentage of the workout -- meaning the record I have shows that I worked out for 4 minutes and a distance of 0.23mi, burning 21 calories.

Now, the Activity app also shows your total number of steps, though not measured by workout. That data appears low when compared with the steps shown on my Stridekick app -- just under 8,000 compared to almost 9,500. I don't have an Apple Watch app for Stridekick. That tells me the Activity app could be ignoring the iPhone data in favor of the Apple Watch data. But when I examine the data sources for steps in the Health app, both the Apple Watch and the iPhone are listed.

I'll reach out to Apple Support on this and report back with their response.



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2017.06.21This is Why Your Browser's Autofill Can Compromise Your Privacy

animated GIF of code scrolling on a computer screen

"Autofill can insert your personal information into multiple controls at once, like filling out an entire address form for you as a convenience. NaviStone's code can snatch it up and send it as each field is filled."

 

GIZMODO reported on a company called NaviStone with code that gets embedded in clients' ecommerce sites. NaviStone's code collects and transmits the data you're providing regardless of whether you actually perform the transaction.

During a recent investigation into how a drug-trial recruitment company called Acurian Health tracks down people who look online for information about their medical conditions, we discovered NaviStone’s code on sites run by Acurian, Quicken Loans, a continuing education center, a clothing store for plus-sized women, and a host of other retailers. Using Javascript, those sites were transmitting information from people as soon as they typed or auto-filled it into an online form. That way, the company would have it even if those people immediately changed their minds and closed the page.

The GIZMODO report further explains that while the NaviStone technology is giving retailers the option to collect your data in real-time, whether the retailers opt to take advantage of the collection capability could come down to policy. My interpretation: There may be a distinction between NaviStone's collection and what portion of it the retailer is interested in. (Just because the retailer doesn't want particular data until you submit the form doesn't mean the software isn't collecting it in real-time anyway.

GIZMODO also claims that NaviStone changed their collection policy as a result of the GIZMODO investigation:

[GIZMODO] decided to test how the code works by pretending to shop on sites that use it and then browsing away without finalizing the purchase. Three sites—hardware site Rockler.com, gift site CollectionsEtc.com, and clothing site BostonProper.com—sent us emails about items we’d left in our shopping carts using the email addresses we’d typed onto the site but had not formally submitted. Although Gizmodo was able to see the email address information being sent to Navistone, the company said that it was not responsible for those emails.

. . .

As a result of our reporting, though, NaviStone says it will no longer collect email addresses from people this way.

"While we believe our technology has been appropriately used, we have decided to change the system operation such that email addresses are not captured until the visitor hits the 'submit' button," [NaviStone COO Allen] Abbott wrote.

I may have some personal experience with this. I was browsing the web store for the band STYX some time ago and abandoned the transaction. I received several e-mails from the site, reminding me that I'd left items in my cart.

The NaviStone technology is not necessarily ground-breaking -- JavaScript's ability to execute in the browser client is a cornerstone of the modern Web -- but using it to report data prior to submitting the form is, at the very least, a betrayal of netizens' trust. (An expert GIZMODO contacted on this very topic concluded that a legal complaint could be viable.) And it is reporting the data -- it's encoding it as a file and sending it each time the value of a form control gets changed, like a textbox getting filled in or a selection is made in a dropdownlist. See the GIZMODO article for the illustrated play-by-play.

This application of client-side technology could have some serious ramifications for the autofill capability in your browser. Autofill can insert your personal information into multiple controls at once, like filling out an entire address form for you as a convenience. NaviStone's code can snatch it up and send it as each field is filled.

This might sound a bit alarmist, but consider disabling the feature in your browser, or at the very least, think twice before allowing it to run on unfamiliar sites.



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2017.06.04UPDATED: Persnickety Update

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I've a family member who was complaining of her laptop running extremely slowly. Her laptop is an inexpensive HP unit with 4GB RAM. So the first thing I did was goose it with 8 additional gig. But then I dug a little deeper and found that the hard drive activity was maxing out immediately and staying pegged for about 10 minutes or so. Between the hard drive activity and the low RAM, no wonder she felt like she couldn't do anything when she booted up.

I found that a cumulative Windows update from early May keeps getting stuck and not installing. It's a huge update -- like 1GB. Walking through the issue with HP technicians, I monitored several logs in the Windows Event Viewer during an install attempt and found the root of the problem documented in CBS.log: the update code gets hashed and compared with a hash value someplace in sxs, and one part failed the comparison. The log seems to infer that the automagic fix for this is to repair a corruption in the component store (which is sxs) -- that also seems to be the go-to solution for the HP technicians -- but DISM consistently reports there's nothing to repair, and the repair effort always reports nothing found, nothing fixed.

If there's a hash for these updates someplace in the component store, then that means the value gets put there somehow. My guess is the store is fine, but either the hash in sxs is bad, OR there's a problem with the file Windows Update is pulling down.

Let's discuss:
  • In the latter case, if the hash that sxs is organically bad, the update should fail on ALL clients, not just mom's -- and it installed fine on my laptop. So maybe that value got munched somehow in transmission to mom's laptop.
  • In the former case, it's failing to stage one particular packet -- not ALL packets. Clearing the WU download directory and redownloading is having no effect (as is everything else the HP technician is asking me to do -- but I understand s/he's likely following a script).

I think I need to get smarter on the relationship between the component store (sxs) and Windows Update.

In the meantime, I'm going off-script: I've cracked open a copy I made of the CBS.log and started Googling. I've found a post from Microsoft which includes a series of steps -- many of them I've already done as part of troubleshooting before engaging HP or as part of the HP troubleshooting... some aren't. I figure I can include the results in my next post to HP Support.

UPDATE:

I thought I had it licked: Critical analysis of CBS.log gave me crucial clues. The part that was failing was a file that included major, minor, build and revision numbers that seemed to match the Windows OS. Googling those numbers led me directly to a patch Microsoft had released in April -- the KB number for that release was not among the updates installed on that PC. So my path was to install this missing update, then reattempt to install the problematic May update. The instal failed, but the message in the Setup log was far more direct than the Setup log messages I receive for the failed May update attempts. Perhaps that's something.



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2017.05.30Windows 10 Creators Update

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My laptop downloaded and installed the Windows 10 Creator's Update yesterday evening, and this morning my laptop said, "What printer?"

On my network, that printer has it's own dedicated IP address. There's no reason whatsoever for this laptop to not be able to see that printer.

UNLESS you're a printer driver killin' Windows update. I was able to remove the multifunction device and reinstall it to Windows pretty easily. As with most Windows troubleshooting things, identifying the problem takes way longer than it does to correct it.



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2017.04.14Stop HTML5 Videos from Automatically Playing

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Probably related to my annoyance with Edge's jealousy in Windows 10 is my annoyance with videos that start playing in my browser on page load. SERIOUSLY annoying.

If you feel the same, check out this article from PC World.

If you're a Chrome, Firefox, or Opera user, this post will step you through how to rid yourself of the annoyance.

If you're a Microsoft or Safari user, this article, dated September, 2016, won't do you a whole lot of good.

Hopefully these vendors have since developed another way to get you where you want to be. If I can find solutions for Microsoft and Apple browsers, I will update this post.



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2017.04.05Not the Answer I Was Looking For

Sent this e-mail to support this morning. Thought I'd share with my nerdlicious friends:

"I do appreciate the nod to Douglas Adams in the default assignment of Number types to a value of 42.

Fortunately, explicitly setting such a variable to zero before using it will prevent your calculations from including the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.

I found this when writing a workflow that involved time duration calculations (summing the durations of calendar events).

Upon storing the sum in a variable, I found the value was being converted to a Number (as seconds) in the variable, plus a special surprise: every calculation I was making was somehow getting an extra 42 seconds tacked onto it.

The calculations were corrected once I explicitly assigned a value of 0 to the variable at the top of the workflow.

I’m hoping you might consider adjusting the app to correct for this. After all, 7.5 million years is a long gestation period for a bug."



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