iOS 7.0.3 – sync still bad

I just updated to iOS 7.0.3 and iTunes, and while I like the fact that you can now turn off the dizzying animations of the start screen icons, syncing music is still problematic. The first time I plugged my iPhone into the computer after the update, iTunes copied to my iPhone 1143 items that were already on the phone.

soonI hope they fix this soon.

The Old Reader and stale caches


When “The Old Reader” goes bad …

I just had a problem today where “The Old Reader” website was displaying really weirdly in Firefox (my default browser), but was looking OK in other browsers such as Internet Explorer or Google Chrome.

Turns out that “The Old Reader” site has just recently been updated, and my Firefox browser had cached versions of files from prior to the upgrade. Simple fix was to clear the cache using the Options dialog and Network tab.


Clearing the cache in Firefox


iOS 7 and iTunes sync is really bad

As I mentioned in a previous post, since upgrading my iPhone 5 to iOS 7, synchronising using iTunes has become really buggy. Try googling “itunes sync hangs waiting for changes to be applied” and you’ll see I’m not alone.

albumartistA lot of the time, syncing happens fine, but sometimes it will do bizarre things. For example, I had a 10 track album where 7 of the tracks had just an “Artist” name entered in the song data, and 3 tracks had both “Artist” and “Album Artist” set to the same value. On my iPhone, the album only showed the 7 tracks where the “Album Artist” field was set. After clearing the “Album Artist” on all the tracks, the album then showed up correctly on the iPhone.

Also on random occasions, the sync process seems to hang at the “waiting for changes to be applied step” and then after about 20 minutes want to re-sync thousands of my songs to the iPhone for no apparent reason.


Fun with scammers #2

On a semi-regular basis, around about dinner time I get phone calls from the Indian scammers – you know the ones that ring up with a bogus story about how they’re from Microsoft or Microsoft partner and they’ve detected a large number of errors emanating from your PC and they can help you fix the problem – the reality being that they want to either trick you into paying for some ‘fix’ that you don’t need and/or take control of your PC.

I can usually predict a scam call when I answer the phone, because there is a slight delay in the person at the other end starting to talk, an artifact of their auto-calling phone system and the fact that the call is from overseas.

When they ring I take the view that, as long as I’m not super busy on some other task, I’ll try to talk to them as long as possible – every minute they’re talking to me is a minute they’re not taking advantage of some other poor soul who is not wise to their tricks.

To keep them talking as long as possible I have to play the conversation as straight as possible, playing the part of a worried but slightly incompetent computer user. Doing this I can easily keep them on the line for 15 to 20 minutes at least. But that gets a bit boring, so taking inspiration from Troy Hunt who is a master at this game, I’ve been trying to mix it up a bit to add some self-amusement. Of course, the wackier I get the more quickly the scammers hang up, so its a delicate balancing act.

Some approaches I’ve tried out so far are:

  • Every time they ask me a question, I ask a question back at them. (That was much harder to do than I anticipated. Quite a challenge.)
  • Play dumb at first, to get them going, and then increasingly ramp up the technical level of questions back to them.
  • Play the conversation straight at first, and then suddenly challenge the person on the ethics of what they are doing. The person at the other end vigorously protested their innocence, but not very convincingly.
  • Every time time they ask me to press a particular key (e.g. Ctrl key, Window key) pretend to not be able to find it, then explain to them, that I have an Australian keyboard, and that in this country the X key is called the <australian animal> key.  That was a fun call –  I managed to get through the ‘kangaroo’ key, ‘platypus’ key, and ‘echidna’ key before the scammer hung up on me.

I’ve got a few more ideas in reserve for future calls – stay tuned.

Mixed message from NRMA insurance

I’ve just tried to ring the claims department of NRMA insurance, where for 15 minutes of being on hold I’m repeatedly told

“… we realize that your time is valuable. Please continue to hold and a member of our team will attend to your call as soon as possible”

If they truly did think my time is valuable, why are they asking me to continue to hold for an indeterminate amount of time, instead of either
a) giving me an indication of waiting time, or
b) giving the option for me to leave a callback number?

I gave up after 15 minutes – after all, my time is valuable, NRMA Insurance told me so.

What’s wrong with the iOS 7 music app (Part 1)

IMG_1471[1]Previously in iOS 6 if I wanted to listen to a particular album by a particular artist I could tap on “artists” and see a list of artists going down the page. In iOS 7 I can still do that, but because of the album art, the screen only shows 4 artists at a time, so it takes a lot more scrolling to find the artist I want.

IMG_1472[1]In iOS 6, having opened an artist, I saw a list of albums to choose from. Now in iOS 7 I see a list of every song from every album from that artist, which means that if the album I’m looking for is down the bottom of the list and requires lots of scrolling to get to.

Also the albums are sorted by release date, not alphabetically, so if the release dates are not set in the metadata or are set incorrectly then who knows what order the albums are in. If the release dates are set correctly, you have to know the release dates in order to know where in the list the album might be.


IMG_1473[1]Then, in IOS 7 to play an album I can’t just tap on the album cover or album title (which would seem logical), I have to tap on the first track title, and then instead of playing just that album, the music app enters a playlist of every song by that artist, so that when the album finishes it just goes on to the next album. Also if I turn on shuffle, instead of just shuffling through the tracks on the one album, it will shuffle through all tracks by that artist.




IMG_1474[1]The workaround seems to be, just forget that the Artists view exists, and use the Search bar in the music app to find the album you want to play.

NetComm NB604N NSW Timezone

As a followup to my previous post on problems setting the timezone on a NetComm NB604N modem/router, now that daylight savings has started in New South Wales (but not in Queensland) I had to adjust the timezone settings. I tried setting the timezone to “(GMT +10:00) Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney”, but having done that, the time now shows 1 hour behind what it should be.

It seems clear now that the bug in the modem’s firmware is that they have the rules for the start and end of daylight savings the wrong way round, so that the modem thinks daylight savings is starting when its actually ending, and vice versa.

Anyway, the workaround for me is to set the timezone “(GMT +11:00 Magadan)” for the next 6 months, or until Netcomm issues a firmware update that fixes the problem.

iOS 7: The Apple overlord taketh away

I’ve been using iOS7 on my iPhone 5 for a couple of weeks now, and overall I’m not that pleased with it. There is nothing new that is of major use to me, there are few little niceties added, some things which are backward steps, a few interesting but useless things, and a some annoying bugs added.

Things I like about iOS7:

  • The screen for turning on/off Cellular Data is one level higher up in the Settings hierarchy.
  • The way in which you can switch between or close running apps after double clicking the Home button. I particularly like that you can close the app that you were currently viewing.
  • In the camera, swiping left/right to change camera modes.
  • In Safari:
    • the method for viewing/switching between open tabs.
    • having a unified URL/Search input box.
  • Being able to slide anywhere on the lock screen to unlock.
  • Being able to see the delivered timestamps on individual messages in the Message app by swiping to the left.
  • Being able to open the “Spotlight” search from any home screen by swiping down.
  • Calendar app: Infinitely scrolling view, and year view.

Things I don’t like about iOS 7:

  • I’m not a fan of the new UI aesthetic. It’s bland and flat and boring. It looks like its been left out in the desert sun and faded. In some places the UI elements are hard to see because they have light gray on a white background. Also light gray on white icons gives the false impression that buttons are disabled. (e.g. in the Clock App) The UI looks like it was designed by the same people who designed the Microsoft Windows 8 UI. Yuck.
  • Apple Maps still suck.

Things I’m ambivalent about in iOS 7:

  • The slide up control panel. Yes its nice to be able to easily get to some settings like the flashlight and WiFi/Bluetooth toggling, but the setting I use the most is toggling Cellular Data on/off and that’s not there. But Airplane mode is there. Seriously, how often does the average user need to turn on airplane mode? Also, although I’m not keeping count it seems that I accidentally open the control panel about the same number of times that I intentionally open it to do something. I could do without this new feature

Cool but useless things in iOS 7:

  • The 3D look on the home page and Safari tabs, where the perspective changes as you tilt the iPhone. Nice, but a battery drain, so I turned it off.
  • Spirit level in the Compass App. Maybe one day I’ll have a need to use this and I’ll bump this item up into the “Like” section. I can’t envisage how or when.
  • The Album wall in the Music App (that replaced Cover Flow). While its nice to be able to see more albums on the screen compared to Cover Flow, it’s still highly problematic in that it shows every bit of music you own. This means that a mediocre song that you download as the free Single of the Week gets the same prominence on the wall as your favourite album with a dozen classic tracks. It would be nice if the album wall only showed entries where you actually owned the complete album.

Major faults/bugs/problems in iOS 7:

  • Synchronising of smart playlists doesn’t work reliably, in fact synchronising in general I’ve found to be pretty buggy.
  • Smart playlists are not doing live updates on the iPhone, only when syncing via iTunes
  • The way the Music App shows albums in the “Artists” section is just awful, a real backward step from iOS 6.

These major faults/bugs are all related to the music app, and I’ll deal with them more fully in separate posts, including some workarounds that I’ve found.

So in summary, with iOS 7 the Apple Overlord giveth, but the Apple Overlord has also taken away. There’s not a whole lot to praise here, and in retrospect I would have been quite happy to stay on iOS 6.