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  • The iOS 4 Report: Sometimes it Pays to Start Over

    July 5th, 2010

    I’ve used iOS 4 on my iPhone 3GS since Day One of the official release. For the most part, the experience has been essentially as I expected after examining the material from Apple’s hype machine.

    That is a good thing, although there are some rough edges.

    Aside from the minor interface quibbles, my biggest problem was the onset of crashes when I tried to login to my Web server, which uses an a Linux-based control panel app known as cPanel. Every time I’d attempt to bring up the WHM home page, or dashboard, which is the interface cPanel employs to manage an entire server, Safari would quit.

    I managed to make it work without SSL enabled, which meant a less-secure connection, something I’m not apt to want to do on an extended basis.

    This odd symptom was troubling, when you consider the fact that I’m able to access my backup servers, which use the same control panel app, without any problem.

    Neither cPanel, a Mac friendly company mind you, nor the folks at HostGator were able to duplicate my problem, which seems to indicate that there was a problem with my iPhone setup that might be triggering those crashes.

    My first fix attempt meant a Restore, using my most recent backup to eliminate the drudgery of redoing all my iPhone’s settings and network and online logins. But there was no change.

    On the advice of one of HostGator’s Linux gurus, I reset the network configuration in the iPhone, without change. So finally I decided to really start from scratch, by using the Restore function and setting up the device as a brand new phone.

    If you haven’t done much custom configuration of your iPhone, getting all your stuff downloaded via iTunes, including your contact lists, email accounts and Safari bookmarks, is a trivial process. But as soon as you decide to start from scratch, you not only have to reconfigure all your custom preference settings, but redo your app positioning, folders (that nifty new iOS 4 feature) and all the rest.

    My efforts at customization were modest, so it took less than an hour from the beginning of the Restore process to having what was essentially a newly-activated and configured iPhone 3GS. Even better, the cPanel crashing problem was also history. In retrospect, based on my communications with various support techs, it appears that the stored information about my server’s SSL certificate might have become corrupted somehow, and there’s no direct way to fix that. You can kill stored passwords and cookies on an iPhone, but there’s no equivalent to Mac OS X’s Keychain Access, where you can delete not just passwords, by security certificate data. Unfortunate.

    In running this clean restore function, I also encountered some of those minor iOS interface shortcomings that Apple has failed to address. Whenever I add new email accounts, I have to return and change the option of when to delete trashed email on all the accounts, not just the ones I’ve added. The default account also needs to be selected all over again, if it’s not the default, which is normally the first one on the list.

    For some reason, Apple doesn’t make it possible to reorder your email accounts either, or if there’s a way, I cannot locate the secret handshake or touch to make it so. So Gmail is listed as number one, followed by MobileMe. Or at least that’s how it always turns out for me. The rest of the accounts are added in a random sequence having nothing to do with the way they are sorted in Apple Mail. No, it’s not alphabetical.

    In order to fix part of this problem, I had to manually delete one or two accounts in my iPhone’s preferences, and add them again to have them appear at the bottom of the list. Maybe such things don’t matter to Apple, but I expected their iOS programming team would be obsessive/compulsive enough to strive for a little order in their mobile lives.

    As a whole, iOS 4 is a credible improvement. The enhanced multitasking capability, however, makes at most a modest difference to me. I hadn’t configured a third-party audio or music app, such as Pandora, and thus didn’t have to worry about the loss of audio when switching to another app. I also don’t rely on turn-by-turn navigation. I’m one of those old fashioned folks who uses printed directions, mostly supplemented with output from Google Maps or Map Quest.

    Although I have a few apps at hand that are supposedly iOS 4 savvy, the impact is minor. On the positive side of the ledger, Tapatalk, an app that lets you access special simplified mobile versions of your favorite forums — so long as they install the custom Tapatalk formatting files of course, as we’ve done with ours — does manage to save the state of your previous login. Then again, it was doing that before iOS 4, since programmers have long been able to add that feature via their own special code. The custom WordPress iPhone app remains unduly flaky, and I still have problems going through the initial setup process to store my various blog sites.

    In a few weeks, there will be an iOS 4.0.1 update, primarily to address that alleged mistake in displaying the right number of bars for your wireless carrier’s signal. Perhaps Apple will use the opportunity to smooth out a few other glitches as well. But I have no regrets installing the update, despite that Safari glitch when trying to login to our server.



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