App failure

As a software developer I well know that software and information systems can have bugs. But it still astonishes me when software from big companies that is being used thousands of times each day across the world has egregious errors.

For example, look at this screenshot from the Malaysian Airlines iPhone app, where the top of the screen has a prominent and scary message about there being no e-mail address provided, while the bottom of the screen has a notification that an e-mail has just been sent to the address which is supposedly not available. And yes, an e-mail was received.

 

The Woes of iCloud Photos

I’ve blogged before about how Apple’s iCloud is a disastrous mess when it comes to managing your music library. What about photos?

Until recently I had been using Flickr to upload my iPhone photos to the cloud. Flickr is about to enforce a 1000 photo limit for free accounts, so I thought I’d give iCloud Photos a go. In the settings page on the iPhone it proclaims that iCloud Photos will …

Automatically upload and safely store all your photos and videos in iCloud so you can browse, search and share from any of your devices.

Nice promise, but largely unfulfilled. I’ve been using iCloud photos for about a month, and I’m somewhat gobsmacked at how badly a global tech giant like Apple can mess up a basic function such as uploading photos to the cloud. I’ve experienced numerous problems over the last month. Yesterday was a prime example of the inadequacies of iCoud. I went bushwalking and took about 50 photos. When I arrived home and connected to Wi-Fi, iCloud uploaded the most recent 7 photos and then resolutely refused to upload any earlier, or subsequent photos.

When you do a Google search on iCloud sync issues, you get hundreds of results, but all the suggestions are various permutations of “Have you tried turning it off and on again”. (Yes I have. It turns out that turning it off and on again doesn’t stop iCloud being rubbish.)

In the interests of truthfulness and transparency, Apple ought to update the message in the iCloud Photos Setting to

Automatically Intermittently and unpredictably upload and with a false sense of safety safely store all some random subset of your photos and videos in iCloud so you can browse, search and share from any some of your devices (because the Windows PC iCloud client is rubbish.)

[Update: In a cruel twist, moments after I hit Publish on this blog post, iCloud uploaded the remaining photos from yesterday, some 17 hours later. I guess that just reinforces the point that uploads are intermittent, unpredictable, and ridiculously slow.]

GFail

After months of declining the new GMail interface, Google finally foisted it upon me today. Maybe I’ll get it used to it after a while, but in my opinion that font they’re now using is way too weighty and ugly. I feel like I’m being shouted at whenever I open my mail.

Monster cookie misstatement

The FAQ page of the parentteacheronline.com.au site confidently asserts that

We do not use cookies at all on our PTO site.

Oh really? Chrome inspector begs to differ.
This level of misstatement give me no level of confidence in one of the other assertions on their FAQ …

PTO maintains the highest level of Internet Security available. This means that any data entered into the system is as secure as information held by banks and large businesses.

 

Now secure

Today I’ve done something I’ve been meaning to do for quite some time … to make this website use HTTPS (a.k.a. SSL/TLS). That means that all traffic to and from this website is now going over an encrypted connection, and web browsers will indicate this with a friendly green padlock in the address bar.


The final impetus for getting this done was Troy Hunt’s blog about how “Life Is About to Get a Whole Lot Harder for Websites Without HTTPS”. Soon, any website page that has a text input box will start displaying an “insecure” warning to users who load the page over old fashioned HTTP.

So how hard was it to get HTTPS enabled on this WordPress site? In short, not at all. Thanks to a collaboration between Comodo and cPanel I didn’t have to obtain or install SSL certificates – it was there waiting for me to use. All I needed to do was install and activate the Really Simple SSL WordPress plugin. That was it. Job done.

iTunes 12.6.2.20 sync woes

I use iTunes to organise my music library, listen to music, and sync music to my iPhone. With this fairly basic usage pattern, its probably been close to a decade since iTunes added any functionality that is of use to me. And that leaves me fairly ambivalent about the regular notification that “an update of iTunes is available”. On the one hand I don’t want to upgrade and risk breaking something that is working fine, but on the other hand skipping an upgrade potentially leaves security vulnerabilities unpatched.

The cautious side of me steers me to upgrading, and usually this is unproblematic. But not last time.

In late July I updated to iTunes 12.6.2.20 on my Windows 10 PC, and to iOS 10.3.3 on my iPhone 5. Everything seemed to upgrade as usual, but when I next connected my phone via the USB cable I got an error that the phone “cannot be synced because there is not enough free space to hold all of the selected items.”

I sync music to my phone based on a smart playlist I hadn’t changed the playlist settings or added any new music recently, and the size of the playlist as displayed in iTunes was indicating that the music should fit in the available space on my phone.

I tried simplifying the playlist rules, and a few other things, but the sync operation continued to baulk with the incorrect error about available space. I was eventually able to resolve the problem with the following steps.

Firstly I turned off the “Sync Music” checkbox, and performed a sync that removed all the music files on my phone

After doing this, on the phone I went into Settings –> General –> Storage & iCloud Usage –> Manage Storage –> Music. Even though all the music files on the phone had been removed, the phone was still reporting 10.49GB of space being taken up with music. (In the music player app, a large number of songs were displaying as available, but trying to play them would fail with an error.) By swiping left on “All songs” I was then able to ‘delete’ these phantom songs.

After this I restarted the phone. I’m not sure this was necessary, but I wanted to ensure the phone was in a clean state before the next step.

Lastly, in iTunes I ticked the checkbox to sync music again, and this time the sync progressed to a successful completion after several hours.

In summary, I don’t know whether it was the iTunes update or the iOS update that broke things, but it seems that the phone ended up with an incorrect reckoning of how many music files it had. The fix was to delete all the music files and resync the music files from a fresh start.