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  • Newsletter Issue #780

    November 10th, 2014

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    Although we say upfront that The Tech Night Owl LIVE is carried on a regular radio network, I realize some of you don’t realize this fact. Being on terrestrial radio means that we have a fair number of ads. The number of spots we run is the same as on hundreds or thousands of other radio shows in the U.S., but I realize some of you are used to listening to small podcasts that may be ad-free.

    Well, if you don’t like ads, I have good news for you. The network that syndicates my shows, GCN, is now allowing us to post a premium ad-free version of the show for a modest monthly subscription fee. When it goes live in the next week or two, you’ll be able to subscribe to The Tech Night Owl+ for $5 per month, or $50 per year. If you don’t want to pay for a radio show, no problem. We’ll still offer the existing free version via on-demand streaming or download from the usual sources.

    We’ll let you know when the premium service is officially open, so stay tuned for the good news. It’s already available for our other radio show, The Paracast, and there will be value-added features over time.

    Meantime, on this weekend’s episode, we welcomed Kyle Wiens and Miro Djuric, from iFixit, who presented the results of teardowns of the latest iPhones, iPads, and Macs. You also heard some of the results of tearing apart gear running Android, and whether it’s possible to fix a broken printer or a broken TV set.

    Backup strategies were on the agenda as we presented Mike Bombich, creator of Carbon Copy Cloner, a Mac app that makes a clone or duplicate of your hard drive. He explained the differences and the app’s advantages over Apple’s Time Machine.

    You will also heard from Bryan Chaffin, co-founder and co-publisher of The Mac Observer, whose bill of fare included his perfectly awful experiences with Comcast support and why Apple makes it so difficult to upgrade most Macs. You also heard about WireLurker, malware that can impact both Macs and iOS (now blocked by Apple), and Bryan’s reactions to iTunes 12.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present Larry Holcombe, long time student of the UFO mystery, author of “Presidents and UFOs: A Secret History from FDR to Obama.” Just what do they know about the UFO mystery? Are they read in to the truth, or, as temporary residents of government service, not considered to have a “need to know”? Larry’s book features a forward by Stanton T. Friedman. You’ll be especially interested in these comments from Larry’s blog, “I continue to believe that Roswell, and the bungling of crash retrieval events, was the defining moment in the development of the United States policy towards the UFO issue. My writing and speaking efforts now center on bringing light to bear on media indifference to the UFO issue, and the continued United States denial and cover-up of UFO issues while other countries around the world open their files and acknowledge the existence of UFO’s.”

    Now Shipping! The Official Paracast T-Shirt! We’re taking orders direct from our new Official Paracast Store, where you can place your order and pay with a major credit card or PayPal. The shirts come in white, 100% cotton, and feature The Paracast logo on the front. The rear emblem states: “Separating Signal From Noise.” We’ve also added a huge selection of additional special custom-imprinted merchandise for fans of our show.

    iOS 8 AND APPLE’S BIG MISTAKE

    Taking advantage of lower prices for flash storage, buying iPhones and iPads with more space to put your stuff has become cheaper. So it costs $100 extra to increase capacity from 16GB to 64GB, and another $100 to go to 128GB. In passing, I eagerly await the time when Apple offers larger solid state drives on new Macs for prices that come closer to that of a mechanical hard drive.

    So clearly Apple is delighted if you have plenty of extra space. Unlike Microsoft and Samsung, Apple actually doesn’t reserve a huge portion of storage space for its own needs on an iPhone or an iPad. But it still may not be enough for iOS 8.

    Now there have been loads of questions as to why the iOS 8 upgrade pace continues to lag behind iOS 7, and even iOS 6. Give it time some suggest, while others talk about rampant bugs. The 8.0.1 update, which killed cellular service and Touch ID on an iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, is cited as a key example. But Apple withdraw the update within a little over an hour, not enough time for many people to be impacted. In all, some 40,000 devices were affected, and Apple provided easy instructions to restore those devices. The next day, iOS 8.0.2 arrived, which fixed the problem that was allegedly due to a problem with the update’s “wrapper,” according to Apple.

    But iOS 8 migration wasn’t so swift even before the 8.0.1 debacle, so that might have been part of the reason for continued slow update, but not the only reason.

    Some suggest that iOS 8 didn’t have so many compelling new features, but that’s just not true. Sure, the interface isn’t so different from iOS 7, but iOS 6 had a decent update rate even though the interface wasn’t that different from iOS 5. So there has to be another answer. Besides, when you check the list of new features, you’ll find hundreds of changes and enhancements, including the ability to use third-party keyboards and to add extensions that enhance an app’s capabilities. The impact of HeathKit and HomeKit has yet to be determined, but there’s a lot of potential for both.

    Yes, the critics might wrongly claim that iOS 8 isn’t that different, but that’s taking a blind eye to the truth. Sure, they will say that Android 5.0 Lollipop represents a major change, but aside from the Material Design interface — and that name is perfectly awful by any normal standard — there aren’t so many enhancements. The list is far smaller than what Apple is offering.

    A significant reason for a lagging update rate is that tens of millions of older iPhones, iPads and iPod touches are not compatible with iOS 8, and it’ll take a while for sales of new gear to make up some of the difference. That seems to cover part of the problem, especially since it seems the upgrade rate has increased somewhat recently, perhaps due to all that new gear being put into service at a face rate. It’s not necessarily the changes in iOS 8.1, welcome as they were, because it still doesn’t fix slow, halting performance on an iPhone 4s or an iPad 2. But that may be partly fixed in the rumored 8.1.1 update that’s being beta tested by app developers.

    Besides, most people don’t pay that much attention to these finer points that we tech geeks salivate over.

    Indeed, Apple clearly recognizes what may be the most significant problem, which is the meager available space on iPhones and iPads with a “mere” 16GB of storage. Assuming that the OS and device overhead kill up to 3GB of the remainder, that doesn’t leave a whole lot of space for an in-device update. iOS 8 requires 5GB for the installer and cleanup tasks, though it’ll be less when the installation is done.

    There’s a perfectly easy solution, but Apple didn’t put up proper warning notices to explain it. You see at one time, you would have to sync your mobile device with iTunes on your Mac or PC. It was a perfectly acceptable solution, but Apple wanted to add the capability of updating in the field via the cloud. In-device updates make it convenient for customers who are no longer forced to return to a Mac or a PC for syncing.

    Well, unless there’s not enough free space to perform an OS upgrade.

    But I can see where users either gave up outright or wasted time deleting apps to free up some space. What a drudgery.

    Well, Apple recently sent out emails to registered customers explaining how to overcome the “Not enough space to update” problem by updating with a Mac or a PC. When you go to Apple’s support site and select iPhone, it’s one of the featured topics. The advice on this support document covers both using iTunes and freeing space.

    Much of the problem could have been resolved by putting up clear and informative messages on the device itself, at the start of an upgrade attempt, about how to solve upgrade bottlenecks of this sort. Evidently customers weren’t being properly advised, since far too many people didn’t seem to realize the advantages of syncing with iTunes, even though you’re temporarily tethered to another device.

    So will being proactive boost the iOS 8 adoption rate? Well, it’s not really so bad, and far better than other computing platforms. Don’t forget that, even with Android 5.0 Lollipop, hundreds of millions of users of mobile devices powered by Google’s platform will never be upgraded. That’s true even if the device supports Android Lollipop, because it requires working with handset makers and carriers to push the updates. That’s been a long-standing bugaboo with Android.

    The adoption rate for Windows 8 and 8.1, after two years, has been pathetic, no better than OS X Yosemite just days after its release.

    According to the last figures posted by Apple at the app developer site, the adoption rate had exceeded 52% and is likely more by the time you read this article. As I wrote this article, it stood just shy of 57% at Mixpanel Trends, which calculates device and OS use with web metrics. At the end of the holiday shopping season, when tens of millions of new iOS gear will be sold and activated, the rate should exceed 70%. By the time iOS 9 arrives, I fully expect the final numbers to approach 80%, which isn’t too shabby.

    SO WHERE ARE MY COOKIES?

    In the online world, a cookie is sometimes believed to be a nasty thing, but that’s not necessarily so. You see when you visit a site, a cookie or identifier is often sent to your browser and stored on your computer, even a mobile device such as an iPhone. So when you return to the site, you will be recognized and the site will deliver the information and user experience that best applies to you. A cookie will even keep you logged into a site if that’s what you want, such as a message forum. If you accepted a site’s terms of service, the cookie will store that information so you don’t have to do it all over again each time you return.

    Modern browsers let you determine whether you want cookies stored along with a few restrictions, such as only allowing them on the site you’re currently visiting, the sites you’ve visited, or all sites. You can usually clear cookies if you want to start over.

    Now the usual default option is to allow cookies only from the sites you’ve visited. Assuming the operators of that site aren’t doing nasty things — and most aren’t — you should be perfectly secure. Just be careful about visiting a site that’s off the beaten track, and maybe block cookies for your protection.

    Well, all well and good. But it appears that my iPhone 5s, running iOS 8.1, was having a cookie recognition problem. This all began when I’d visit CNN’s site and be constantly presented with the option to accept the terms of service. Usually you do it once, and the stored cookie on your browser would register that fact.

    I also encountered the repeated need to login to my forums, powered by XenForo, despite selecting the “Stay logged in” option. I had similar problems accessing the Dashboard, or main control area, of my WordPress blogs. When you add it all up, it became downright annoying, so I decided to do a little troubleshooting.

    Understand that this isn’t an iCloud or iCloud Keychain issue, since I have no such problems on my Mac. It was restricted to the iPhone. So I went to the Safari settings an selected “Clear History and Website Data.” A restart failed to resolve the problem.

    The second choice was to try the Reset All Settings option under Settings > General > Reset. It’s a little more drastic, because you have to redo most of your preferences for the device. But I was willing to put up with a little annoyance with the hope that it would eliminate the constant login requests.

    Understand that I didn’t consider the possibility it was a problem with a few sites not delivering proper cookies, since multiple sites were affected. So I decided to see if Apple could devise a solution other than the most drastic choice, which I’ll get to shortly. Rather than deal with a telephone call on a Sunday morning, I requested support via the chat room at Apple’s support site.

    It took maybe three or four minutes for a tech to respond, and the demeanor was friendly and fast, with responses delivered in proper colloquial English rather than shorthand or with the repetition of marketing drivel.

    After I explained the troubleshooting steps I took, the solution seemed obvious to both of us, the one I wanted to avoid, which was to do a full Restore of the iPhone. That meant setting it up as a new device, without restoring from a backup. As part of the Restore process, I made sure all the data was backed up, so any apps on the iPhone that weren’t on iTunes were copied over.

    Overall, it took maybe an hour for the full process to complete, including syncing apps, ring tones, and other data. I also spent another 30 minutes or so redoing, from memory, all of my iPhone settings. I don’t engage in elaborate nonsense, and try to keep my iPhones as lean as possible.d I assumed that the few settings I missed would gradually get done.

    In passing, this is very unlike setting up an Android smartphone from scratch, where there are loads of granular settings that may take hours to configure and test. You can’t just leave things on default and be assured you’re getting the best possible performance from your device.

    So how did it end up?

    Well, so far at least, it was worth the effort. The case of the missing cookies has vanished. More to the point, all my previous settings had been carried over from backup to setup over several iPhones, so maybe it was just time for a fall cleanup.

    THE FINAL WORD

    The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
    Marketing and Public Relations: Barbara Kaplan
    Sales and Marketing: Andy Schopick
    Worldwide Licensing: Sharon Jarvis



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    2 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #780”

    1. Peter says:

      I see lots of the iPhone 4/4S designs out there (those were the “free” ones), so I’d imagine that has quite a bit to do with it. I’d also add the “appliance” argument (especially if people heard about the problems with iOS 8) that if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

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