Apple and iTunes Are Driving Me Insane

I may have finally hit the point where I am ready to abandon the iPhone and the Apple eco-system.

Something weird started happening when I got my iPhone 7+ a couple of months ago. Syncing, which had never been a problem before, suddenly became a huge fucking problem. I’ve had almost every iPhone and I have never had this problem before and Apple’s tech support has been almost absolutely useless in solving this.

When I sync, if I have new music that I want to copy to the phone, or have updated apps on my computer that need to be updated on the phone, sometimes what happens is the sync will start up, it will do the back-up just fine, it will copy the diagnostic information, and then when it comes time to copy apps or music to the phone, it just dies. “Copying 1 of …” and it just sits there, until after about 30 minutes or so it times out and stops, unless I’ve stopped it before then.

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iPhone 7 Plus – Changing the Location of Your Backups

If you’ve been following along, you might recall that I got the new iPhone 7 Plus with 256 gig of RAM, the intention being to use that additional space for Lossless (FLAC) music files. I’ve so far added in more than 60 gig of FLAC files.

And then I ran into a problem – well actually two problems.

The first problem is that when I got the phone and set it up and then upgraded from iOS 10.0 to 10.0.1, it went into recovery mode. And the same thing happened again yesterday when doing the upgrade from 10.0.1 to 10.0.2. I have not had a chance to search around and see if this is a commonly reported issue or not. I may bring the phone to the Apple store when I am in Hong Kong this weekend.

Doing all of these back-ups and restores came with a cost. Like many people today, I use a relatively small solid state drive (SSD) for my C: drive. Mine is 223 gigabytes. I try to put as much as possible on other drives – all my data, most application installations and so on.

iOS is treating all of these FLAC files as “Documents & Data.” That means that this 60+ gig gets backed up every time I back up my phone. And that used up all of the free space on my C: drive. All of it.

iTunes does not offer you any options for location of your iOS device back-up files. They go on the C: drive, hidden away in a directory called C:\Users\(username)\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync.

I did not want to go out and replace my SSD. And I didn’t want to delete all those FLAC files from my phone. Finally I found a solution here. Basically what you’re doing is creating a symbolic link in the MobileSync directory to a new backup folder, which can be located anywhere you want (in my case, on my E:\ drive).

This may sound complicated but it’s not. That page does such a clear job of explaining it that I was able to get it set up in just a few minutes, and working right the first time. I now have 129 gig free space on my C:\ drive.

I won’t say this is a life saver for me, but it’s saved me from an expensive upgrade.

 

Dealing With Traffic; Marc Maron; Horace and Pete

I have written (too?) many times about how soul-crushing the traffic in Manila is. There are many reasons, not the least of which is a ridiculously inadequate and poorly managed public transportation system, poorly trained and corrupt traffic enforcers, the FX and jeepney drivers who do whatever the hell they want, fuck everyone else, and too many people on the road who either just don’t know how to drive properly or have a total “fuck everyone” attitude once they get behind the wheel.

My house is less than 10 kilometers away from the office.The drive in either direction can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours on any given day.

drivingmorefun

When I’m driving in the car alone, I have my iPhone hooked up to the car stereo. I have a 128 gig iPhone and 100 gig of that is music, well over 10,000 songs. (I could fit a lot more but I prefer the 320 kbps bit rate.) I could get by with less. I load new albums onto my phone every week but when I’m stuck in traffic and stressed out, I tend to want to hear comfortably familiar albums over stuff that’s new and basically unknown. But the downside is that listening to the Allman Brothers Band Live at Fillmore East for the 9,000th time doesn’t really occupy my attention. So I sit back, light a cigarette, crank the music louder, file some traffic report with Waze, but I can still get to feeling frustrated and stressed.

Then one day it hit me. Podcasts. They’re not new. They’ve been around for more than a decade. And they’re really working. If it’s a good podcast, if the conversation is interesting, then I’m wrapped up in it and not noticing the minutes tick by. I sometimes  get upset if I reach my destination before the show has finished.

If you look in the iTunes store or in any other source, there’s millions of different podcasts, covering just about any conceivable topic.

The one that I’ve been following for years is What The Fuck with Marc Maron. The back story here is interesting. Maron is a 52 year old stand-up comic who went for decades without much notable success. Then he started interviewing people in his garage. His podcasts contained long rants about whatever was going on in his life but also amazingly insightful interviews with other comics. He has this way of drawing people out, getting them to talk about their lives and their own creative process and as a comedian himself with decades of ups and downs, he seems to know exactly the right questions to ask.

maron

The result is that each episode of WTF is downloaded anywhere between 500,000 and a million times. And while it was his Robin Williams episode that initially brought him a lot of attention, in recent times his guests have included Keith Richards, Elvis Costello, Ethan Hawke, William Friedkin, Michael Moore, Lorne Michaels and … President Obama. Obama actually came to Maron’s garage and sat for a one hour interview.

WTF is so popular that Maron now has a TV series on IFC, a half hour sitcom called “Maron”, a fictionalized version of his life that initially might have been too close to comfort to Louis C.K.’s show but has significantly improved with each new season (the fourth season starts soon). The supporting cast includes Judd Hirsch as his father, Sally Kellerman as his mother and a host of other comics making cameo appearances. A number of the episodes were directed by Bobcat Goldthwait and those tend to be my favorites.

Last week Maron published his 700th episodes. Episodes because for some reason there were two of them. The first one featured a 90 minute interview with Julia Louis-Dreyfuss. The timing may have been due to the 5th season of Veep kicking off, but the interview touched on most of her career, especially the early days.  The second episode was an almost-two-hour interview with Louis C.K., entirely devoted to the creative process behind C.K.’s groundbreaking Horace and Pete.

A ten part mini-series that (so far) is only available as a download from C.K.’s web site (get all 10 episodes for $31), completely financed out of C.K.’s own pocket (to the tune of $5 million), it was announced – with zero promotion or fanfare – only via emails to the people on his mailing list. No explanation of what it was about, no mention of how many episodes there would be or when the next ones would be released … and probably most importantly nothing like anything he’d done before.

horace-and-pete-title-card_1920.0.0

He did it this way because he wanted to be completely independent. It represents such a radical departure that he didn’t want to risk anyone else’s money on it and he didn’t want any network or distributor giving him notes on what they thought it should be.

It isn’t a comedy, although there are comedians in it and there are moments of humor. It is set in a downscale Brooklyn bar that is 100 years old and always owned and run by the same family. It’s very theatrical – just two sets (the bar and the apartment upstairs) – and many of the episodes had an intermission.

[small spoiler in the next paragraph]

Louis C.K. plays Horace and Steve Buscemi is his brother Pete. Horace had done something terrible that ripped his family apart to the extent that his son doesn’t talk to him. Pete has severe mental problems and is dependent on medication that won’t be manufactured for much longer because of the side effects.

Get it? Terrible people in horribly depressing circumstances. It’s been compared to Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill but C.K. cites the Mike Leigh film Abigail’s Party as a particular inspiration.

The rest of the cast? Alan Alda as Uncle Pete, a foul-mouthed bigot who makes Archie Bunker seem like Bernie Sanders. Edie Falco as the sister who may be dying from cancer. Jessica Lange, Aidy Bryant, Steven Wright, Tom Noonan, Laurie Metcalf, Colin Quinn, George Wallace, Amy Sedaris, Burt Young, David Blaine. And featuring new music from Paul Simon.

There’s been a lot of nonsense press in the wake of the show. C.K. went on Howard Stern and said that he’s millions in debt as a result but that was an exaggeration. Even if he didn’t get enough downloads yet to pay the production costs of the show, it will eventually go to DVD and Netflix and other outlets and is guaranteed to at least break even. There are those who didn’t watch the show who reported that it was cancelled after ten episodes but that was nonsense as well. Ten episodes told the whole story exactly as he wanted to tell it.

C.K. sees the show as tragedy and it’s almost unrelentingly depressing. The ending, when it comes, seems simultaneously inevitable and abrupt. And I simultaneously hated the show and was mesmerized by it. What I’m struggling with is that tragedy, in the classical sense of the term, is said to have to be about kings and queens and gods, people in high places who are cast low, not about ordinary people. In more modern times, perhaps these stories can be seen as metaphors for the human condition, but I’m struggling to find the metaphor here.

I’m feeling that I’ve seen some great acting. And some pretty strong writing. I just don’t know what it all adds up to. I honestly don’t know what to make of it – except that it struck such a deep chord for me that I’m still thinking about it.

I watched it alone the first time and I really want to watch it again now that I’ve had the chance to give it some thought. I don’t know that it’s the kind of thing that I could put on for my wife or my mother. I know that some people will find this total nonsense, incredibly boring or ridiculously depressing.

Me? I’m just thrilled that in these days of the Marvel Comics Universe someone is trying to do some actual adult entertainment. Someone is taking real risks. We need a lot more of this, at least I do.

 

Tech Tip: Freeing Up Space on Your Hard Drive

Note that my desktop PC runs 64-bit Windows 7.  This tip may or may not be useful for people running Macs.

My C: drive is a solid state drive.  The suckers are expensive compared to traditional drives and come in much smaller sizes.  Mine is 224 gigabytes.

I’ve got things set up so that only programs go on that drive.  I’ve moved my Documents folder over to my E: drive so when I’m saving files, by default they’ll go there instead of on C.  Some programs save data to the C:/Users/xxx folder without asking, and with many you don’t have the option to choose another drive. Lazy programming, I call it.

Anyway, I noticed today that my C: drive was running out of space. I do have a lot of programs installed but even so, I didn’t think I possibly have 210 gigs worth of programs sitting there.  I searched through the drive manually (I know there are programs to help with this but I don’t have any).

What did I find?  The back-ups for all of my various iOS devices were eating up more than 80 gigabytes of the 224 gig drive.  And that was including back-ups for devices I had long since sold off.  iTunes doesn’t know you’ve sold something off and no longer need the back-up; you have to manually delete the back-up yourself.

You’ll find the folder in YourName/AppData/Roaming/Apple Computer/MobileSync. iTunes won’t let you move the back-up to another drive and the individual backup folders have “helpful” names like b0d32fecd8d1fb3c8c4efb152f1dc243a2f27798.  At least they have timestamps on them, so I figured I could safely delete the old ones.

I have 4 active iOS devices – my gf and I each have an iPhone and an iPad.  Fortunately iTunes doesn’t back up everything – that would have destroyed my hard disk.  Even so, the back-up for my 128 gig iPad (which has about 80 gigs of stuff on it at the moment) takes up 20 gigs.  On the other hand, the back-up of my gf’s 64 gig iPhone took just 600 meg.

I now have just 4 back-up folders there, one for each device, each device newly backed up in the past hour.  The total file size has gone down from over 80 gigs to 33; more than 45 gigs of space freed up.

I could “archive” these to another drive and then “restore” them if and when needed.  But then every time I go to sync, (which I do almost daily) iTunes will think there’s no backup at all and do a new one and the deleting/archive process takes a little bit of time. I’ve recovered enough space on my C: drive for now, so I’ll let them remain. I’ve got 65 gig free now – also because the last time I created a new Lightroom catalog I wasn’t paying attention and that ended up on my C drive, but that was easy enough to fix.

So anyway, if you’ve ever sold off an iPhone or iPad, find the backup folder and see how much space you can recover this way.

iOS 6? Maps & Passport Are Jokes, Right?

I keep running into annoying little problems with iOS6.  No deal-breakers but still.

(image from here)

First off, if this is a topic of interest to you, then you’ve probably already read elsewhere that Apple’s new Maps application (which replaces Google Maps) seriously sucks.  (And if this is not a topic of interest to you, then you probably stopped reading by now.)

First of all, they released it with key cities in the US and Europe fully fleshed out but Asia isn’t really done yet.  You can get the usual road maps and satellite maps but not with the richness of detail that Google’s maps have.

The search in the map function is BRAIN DEAD.  When you type in an address, Google could figure out I’m in Hong Kong and give me Hong Kong search results first.  With Apple’s Maps app, it gives me zero results for Hong Kong, lots of results in the U.S.  So I have to type in “Hong Kong” each time – still no little list to choose from but so far it has taken me to the right spot once I hit “enter.”

Now, there’s a sort of half-baked solution to this.  Bring up Google maps in Safari and you’ll be asked if you want to add this as a button to your home screen.  Sure, why not?  So you have the button looking like an app, you tap the button and it opens Safari and brings you right to Google Maps.  EXCEPT that Google Maps doesn’t have permission to use Location Services, even if Safari does, and there’s no way that I can see to enable it.  So it can’t interact with the iPhone’s GPS, can’t show you your location, can’t track your movements.

UPDATE:  @aublumberg helped me find the solution.  First I had to reset all location warnings on the phone.  Still didn’t work.  Then I rebooted the phone.  This time when I brought up Google Maps in Safari via the icon on the home screen, Safari and then Google asked for permission to use my location, which I granted, and now it’s working fine.

Also, all day long today, when I was on Hong Kong island, every time I checked Apple maps, the map was flipped around, with South on top and North on the bottom.

Also, the map for Wanchai is really weird. Zoom in to a certain amount and it shows you car parks, which is helpful. But that’s the only detail you get aside from street names – car parks.   Zoom in all the way and you’ll get hotels.  And every construction contracting company.  Really.  The corner of Luard and Jaffe has Sunrise Interior Design and Decoration Ltd. and E-stone Contracting Company.  No bars. No restaurants. No shops.

Let’s go over to Central.  Of course, there’s the Apple store.  In the wrong location.  Let’s see what’s in the area of Des Voeux Road near Pottinger Street.  There’s Yu M Susan Dr Dental Surg.  There’s Cantalever Investment Co.  That’s it.   Oh wait.  There’s Queen’s Theatre.  Which was torn down years ago.  It is seriously bizarre and unforgivably useless.

My next beef is with the much-publicized new Passbook app.  You bring it up for the first time and you get a little screen explaining how this is a nice little place to keep your boarding passes, movie tickets, store discount cards and coupons all in one spot.  At the bottom is a link to take you to the section of the app store for the companies that are cooperating with this.  For me, the page doesn’t load (and I’m signed into iTunes with a U.S. account).

No matter because Gizmodo has put together a list of what is there so far and it’s all but useless for most of the world.  Here’s the complete list:

  • Fandango Movies
  • Live Nation
  • Lufthansa
  • MLB.com At Bat
  • Sephora to Go
  • Ticketmaster
  • Walgreens
  • Mlb.com At the Ballpark
  • Target
  • United Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Shop Your Way
  • Belly Card

Wow.  Certainly seems as if this was launched before it was ready.

(Still waiting for the Passbook page in the apps store to load.)

I suppose I should just be happy that the upgrade went smoothly and that my phone didn’t get borked in the process.  But the Google Maps thing really bugs me because I used it a hell of a lot.   I’m sure Apple will improve it in time.  Maybe in a year from now it will be the best map application ever.  But why launch it now, when it’s the worst?  What happened to Apple’s fanatical quality control and attention to detail?

 

Apple's Hong Kong iTunes Store Screws Up Its Chinese

All the Apple fans I know were deliriously happy when Apple finally opened a Hong Kong edition of its iTunes store.  Previously all HK had was the App Store.  Now we can rent and buy movies and buy music locally and legally without having to jump through hoops of fire to do so.

Apple did mess up one bit though.  According to Cult of Mac (quoting from the Wall Street Journal), in those places where the store is listing Chinese music using western characters, they’re using romanized Mandarin words rather than Cantonese.

For example, the popular Cantonese pop song titled “Autumn Wind, Autumn Rain” would be written and pronounced as qiu feng qiu yu using Mandarin pinyin. Though there is no broadly accepted official system for rendering Cantonese using the Roman alphabet, a transliteration for Cantonese speakers would be closer to cou feng cou yu.

If you’re not in Hong Kong, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “So what?  BFD?”  But in Hong Kong, it is a big fucking deal.  It’s not just that Apple is selling Canto-pop with Mandarin names.  People in HK are unhappy about many things these days and one of them is any business that seems to be catering to Mainlanders at the expense of locals.  This means that shops that have signs in Simplified Chinese rather than Traditional often find themselves the targets of protesters and boycotts.  Any sales or privileges targeting Mainland Chinese and excluding local people also get met with a similar reaction.  All of this stuff is extremely well publicized – in the news media as well as on social media.

This sort of carelessness always leaves me stunned.  And yet … most people in western countries who have never traveled to Asia (and some who have) don’t even realize that a difference exists, that there are more than one Chinese dialect or writing system.  And yet, one would think, that a global company like Apple would be savvy enough to hire people who know and understand these differences.  Except that ignorant managers can’t make informed decisions when hiring, can they?

 

iTunes Match Says No Cloud For Me

Apple launched iTunes Match yesterday.  It costs US$25 a year.  They have a library of millions of songs and the idea is that if you have a song in iTunes that’s in their library, regardless of if you bought it from iTunes or got it in some other way, the song is always available to you via the cloud or iCloud in this case.  The idea is irresistible to me, the notion that any song I’ve got in iTunes at home I can get at while not at home even if I don’t have it physically on my phone.

Right now it’s for US customers only, which is not an issue for me since I have a US iTunes account.

But ….

It scanned my library and told me I’m not eligible.  It says you can’t have more than 25,000 songs not purchased from iTunes in your library.  I’ve got 65,000 songs in mine and I’m guessing that only a hundred or so were bought from iTunes.

You might think they might offer some options here, that maybe I could choose to select or exclude songs from their cloud but no …..

Hacked iTunes Accounts For Sale in China

I caught this on TVB last night and found more details on the web today.  Apparently 50,000 iTunes accounts – specifically logins and passwords – are currently for listed for sale on Taobao.com.  These are said to be from the U.S. and China iTunes stores.   What can you do to protect yourself?  The answer is simple – change your password.

2 More Ways iTunes Sucks

One week after posting in Apple’s support forum about my -50 error in syncing my iPhone, still no reply.

And tonight I found this in iTunes:

Really Steve?  One of the greatest albums of all time by almost anyone’s standard and you felt that you had to censor the title?  You can display the title in the cover art but not in the text?  Our children need to be protected from the word “Bitches”?   It’s sad.