More on the Termius upgrade
#364 Henry, Tuesday, 19 June 2018 2:02 PM (Category: Apple)
(Tags: ssh ipad iphone)

Termius got back to me, asking about an environment variable - LC_ALL. I don't have that environment variable, but it did give me a line of experimentation, and I worked out what is happening.

I use the bash shell. I have two settings that control the command line history.

In .bashrc, I have

shopt histappend

and in .bash_profile, I have

HISTSIZE=10000

These options combined give me large amounts of command line history. When I start a shell, it loads .bash_history into memory, all 10,000 lines of it, and appends each command to the list in memory, truncating as it goes. When I exit the shell, it appends the memory list to .bash_history and then truncates it to 10,000 lines. My .bash_history is 10,000 lines after all these years.

I renamed .bashrc, exited the shell, and started the shell again. My .bash_history got truncated to the default 500 lines. And Termius now had a 5 second delay. So I emptied .bash_history completely, tried Termius again and now I had no delays. I loaded my original 10,000 line .bash_history from backup, tried Termius again and now I had the 120 second delay again. I tried it a few more times and it works consistently.

So Termius is doing something with .bash_history. The longer the file, the slower it is to start. I'm a bit concerned about this. I keep thinking about security.

I detailed all this and emailed it Termius. Got a reply almost immediately. They had found the problem. They have a new feature in the new version of Termius, called autocomplete. They load the shell history into memory of the app. They had problems with this, but they have fixed it and are testing the fix now. A new version should come down the pipeline shortly.

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Termius upgrade
#363 Henry, Sunday, 17 June 2018 11:40 AM (Category: Apple)
(Tags: ipad iphone ssh)

I have used the iPhone/iPad app Termius since December 2014 to ssh to work and home. It's an essential part of my daily life. I've never had a problem with it, it's worked very well. I've been very happy with it.

A week ago, Termius got a major upgrade that included refreshed UI, with gestures that can replace arrow keys and other things. I admit that I cringed when I saw that it was a major upgrade to version 4.0.0. I'm never happy to see important apps have major upgrades.

I have long said that all software will be upgraded to the point where it is no longer useful for its original purpose.

So when I went to use Termius the first time after the major upgrade, I ran into a problem. Trying to ssh to home no longer worked. It froze after connecting. I could tap things and gesture as much as I liked and then it seemed like something I did triggered it and it started behaving normally. I wrote to their support, but they couldn't reproduce it and asked for more info.

I spent about four hours testing it. It's not gestures. If I connect to my home server, and to my user, it will connect and then freeze for about 90 seconds. If I have my username and password stored, it will timeout at 90 seconds. If I manually have to enter my username and passord, it will timeout at 120 seconds. I tested both methods many times while trying to change things at my end. After the timeout, it will work normally. I tested it with other servers, no problems. I created new users on my server, and it worked, no problems. It's something to do with my user. I blew away my .ssh directory and restarted sshd and it continued to freeze. I checked that my .bashrc and .bash_profile weren't echoing anything, but no. I can't see what the problem is.

I need this to work, so I bought Shelly, another term/shell app. It works exactly like the old Termius worked, without any problems sshing to my server and user. It appears that the new Termius has a problem with something with my user, but old Termius and Shelly do not. I documented all that I could and sent it to Termius support. I don't think anything will happen, because it's clearly my problem not theirs. If their app works with all the other servers I ssh to, and it works with other users on my server, just not my regular one, then the problem is very specifically with me. I don't expect them to find a problem, or fix it. It's far too specific.

However, I still need to ssh to my server, and now I have Shelly and can use that and continue my work. So it's all good.

However, I fully expect that all my apps will change in time and stop working for me the way I do things, and I will have to switch sideways. I'm grateful that iPhone and iPad apps aren't super expensive. And I'm grateful that every time an app has stopped working for me, alternatives are available.

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Home DNS
#362 Henry, Sunday, 10 June 2018 8:43 PM (Category: Network)
(Tags: dns ads cordcutting)

I run my own DNS caching server at home. Two of them, one primary, one backup. I have my own home network in it, and then it caches the rest of the Internet. For a long time, I have also used zones to over-ride some domains and point them to 127.0.0.1. One of these is doubleclick.net. It's pretty good, because any calls to doubleclick.net will result in 127.0.0.1, and any attempt at connection will fail. This has worked really well for years, and I have eight really awful domain names set like this. It avoids some tracking, lots of ads, and reduces network traffic.

Recently, I've been experimenting with cord-cutting and have been subscribing to streaming services for TV. I have a Roku and an Apple TV. I installed the PBS app on the Roku, but every time I went to view a program, the app just crashed. Google soon gave me the reason - I am trapping doubleclick.net in DNS and PBS depends on it and will crash. I altered my DNS server and allowed doubleclick.net just so I could watch PBS. I watched The Great American Read, about books.

But holy hell, did that open up a mess of garbage. My iPad started to show ads where they had never been before. Web browsing got ugly. Doubleclick.net opens up to so much garbage. I had enough tonight and blocked it again. PBS no longer works, but I can live with that if it lets me shut out all those ads.

I have installed an antenna and can pick up local digital free-to-air TV and that gives me four channels of WHRO which effectively gives me most PBS, so I'm not missing out on too much.

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Big Apple ID shuffle
#361 Henry, Saturday, 09 June 2018 12:38 PM (Category: Apple)
(Tags: apple appleid)

This is a very long post about Apple IDs. I wrote it as a summary for me, so I could remember what I did and why, and if I need to re-do things, I can come back here.

I started with one Apple ID (so I thought) for all my devices and all Anne's devices. We were sharing. It reached the point where it was too difficult to continue. Over a six-week period, I separated my devices and Anne's devices, and got to a point where we are getting full benefits from our Apple devices and we are both happy.

I had a couple of small failures and these cannot be resolved.

This is how it all happened.

Ancient History

Back in March 2005, I created an account with Apple, using my home email address. It was just an account so I could buy a Mac Mini. In May 2007, I bought an iPod and registered it with Apple using that same email address. By this time, the iTunes store was open and my email address was used to buy music. I think about this time, that email address became an Apple ID and was my key to my Apple account. I don't think it was called an Apple ID at this point.

In July 2009, I signed up for a MobileMe account, $99 for a year of MobileMe with 2G storage. This gave me a new email address, a me.com address. So now I had two different email addresses registered with Apple. I think I had two different accounts by this time. One was H@myhome.com and the other was HA@me.com. Next year, Apple was calling these email addresses Apple IDs. I guess by this time I had two. I didn't use the me.com address much. I used the other one mostly for app and music purchases.

I kept my me.com subscription going till 2011. Somewhere in there, we bought a Mac Mini for Anne and set it up with her own Apple ID and that was a me.com address too. Call this one AA@me.com. So now we have got three email addresses and three Apple IDs in play.

In June 2011, Apple announced iCloud. Both our me.com addresses acquired equivalent icloud.com addresses. And we didn't have to pay $99 a year for them. And then I kind of just forgot about the me.com and icloud.com addresses. We didn't use them for anything. And now we have five email addresses and three Apple IDs in play.

I bought a used iPad 2 and used the H@myhome.com email address for the Apple ID. Once Anne got her first taste of an iPad on a trip back to Australia, she did not want to let it go. I ended up buying one for her there and leaving it with her in Australia when I came back. But so I didn't have to pay for apps twice, I used my Apple ID in Anne's iPad. This is where things started to go wrong.

The years went by and we replaced our Mac Minis, and used my H@myhome.com Apple ID on all of them. I got an iPhone and newer iPads, and used the H@myhome.com Apple ID on them. Anne got a newer iPad and then an iPhone, and I continued to use the H@myhome.com Apple ID for everything.

I forgot about all the other addresses and Apple IDs.

Middle Ages

When Anne got an iPhone, I had to do some differentiation so she could get messages and Facetime and we could keep ours apart. It was kind of possible to do something about merging Apple IDs back then. I remembered Anne's email addresses - AA@me.com and AA@icloud.com - and somehow added them to my Apple ID. Her Apple ID got subsumed into mine, and her two email addresses became aliases for my Apple ID email address. That let us keep the messages and Facetime separate. I'm still not sure what that was all about, but it worked, but it was just one more step down the wrong path.

The Mess

Skip forward to 2018 and I have a bunch of devices with my Apple ID, and Anne has a bunch of devices with my Apple ID and we are sharing everything and it's really ugly. I was using ownCloud for calendar and contacts, and Anne was using a different ownCloud for calendar and contacts and it all just wasn't working well. We weren't using iCloud for anything, not backups, not syncing, it was all just too ugly.

We ended up with five email addresses, and two Apple IDs, but we were only using one Apple ID and two of the email addresses.

Breaking Up

By 2018, it was all too hard and it was time to break us apart. Apple had Family Sharing by now, and it looked like it worked really well. I did a lot of reading to work out the best strategy. I had a lot of experimentation to do.

Anne went back to Australia for a month so I got a chance to experiment.

First, I created a new Apple ID for Anne. Call this one AB@icloud.com. I took her old iPad Mini and switched it to the new Apple ID. None of the apps or data was deleted. That was my first worry, but it worked just fine.

Back to my devices. We were going to be using iCloud a lot, and the free 5G iCloud space we had each was not going to be enough. I signed up for the 200G storage space at $4 a month. I went for the 200G size because it can be used for Family Sharing.

I turned on Family Sharing, and invited Anne's new Apple ID to join, and then accepted the invitation on her old iPad. So far, so good. I then turned on a whole bunch of services on my iPhone and iPad and MacMini and MacBooks, and got them to sync to iCloud and backup to iCloud. That all worked nicely, did not bleed across to Anne's old iPad. It worked very nicely. Sure blew past the 5G storage limit. I went to about 10G. This was nice. All my photos on my iPhone were automatically sent to my iPad and MacMini. Same with the iBook documents. Now I understand more about iBook storage. When I recently upgraded to a new iPad, if I was doing all this iCloud syncing stuff, I would not have lost any documents. Now I know better.

Some of the iPhone settings must have applied to Anne's iPhone too. Every new photo she took in Australia would appear on my devices back here. I left them alone, did not want to delete anything.

Once all my devices were stable and working and syncing nicely, I went back to Anne's old iPad. I started syncing to iCloud on her new Apple ID. All went well. So I did it to her Mac Mini. Holy hell. Anne does a lot of creation stuff. She will create projects and scan things and make PDFs and acquire PDFs and she drops them all on the Desktop. Every time I have to do a cleanup, I will create a new dated folder on the Desktop and shove the latest crop in there. This keeps the Desktop clean and faster. All the stuff on the Desktop and in Documents got synced to iCloud. 15G of it. I had to upgrade her Mac Mini too, and it jumped about three upgrades to the latest version of High Sierra.

It took a week but eventually her old iPad and her Mac Mini were stable, synced and backed up. It was really nice. In total, between my data and backups, and Anne's data and backups, we used about 50G of the Family Sharing storage. I had a week of stability, I had everything back home separated, and the only things not done were Anne's current iPhone and iPad. I had to wait till she flew back here before I could tackle them.

I did an export from Anne's ownCloud calendar and contacts and imported them into her new iCloud Calendar on Contacts. Had to do that on her Mac Mini. Needed to do a little cleanup. Then I created a Family Calendar and added the details of our coming trip to it. I could see it on my devices, I could see it on her converted devices. This was one of the main reasons for going through all this - separate contacts and calendars, but access to a shared one.

Final Steps

First night back, I did nothing. Too late.

Second night back, I tackled her iPad. I switched it to her new Apple ID, turned on iCloud syncing and backup. It worked. Nothing was deleted, she lost nothing. Her photos on the iPad were automatically synced up to iCloud and then down to both her Mac Mini and old iPad. Then I upgraded to the latest iOS and let it settle. Nice. No problems.

Only thing was, she couldn't get any messages or Facetime on the iPad. The key that others used to message or Facetime her was the phone number, and that was still set to the iPhone. That had to wait till I did the iPhone.

Third night back, I tackled her iPhone. I switched to the new Apple ID. Her phone number disappeared from my Apple ID and switched to her new one. Her friends could continue to message and Facetime her. Phew. I added that phone number back to Message and Facetime on her iPad.

Then I turned on syncing and backup to iCloud on her iPhone. Nice. Took a while, but it all worked. Upgraded the OS to the latest version and she's all set. Almost.

So by this point, we were successfully split. Anne has her Apple ID and I have mine. We have Family Sharing so if we buy an app, we both can share it. We have separate contacts and calendars, but access to a shared calendar. Everything is synced and backed up.

I needed to deal with Anne's photos that had synced to my devices before the split. I made sure I had a backup of them, and deleted one on my iPhone. It disappeared from all my devices, but did not disappear from Anne's. I checked with a couple more, and left it an hour just to be safe. Gone from mine, preserved on hers. So I cleaned them all off my devices and all was well.

There were two remaining issues.

First Fail

Anne's original two email addresses - AA@me.com and AA@icloud,com - were still attached to my Apple ID. These were used as alternative ways for Anne's friends to message and Facetime her if the phone number didn't work. The phone is a US phone number, and Australians sometimes couldn't send messages to it. But now they were on my Apple ID and not Anne's and if people tried to send to them, it would show Undelivered.

I went to Apple ID Management and those two email addresses were listed as ways to reach me. The question mark beside them showed that they were considered as aliases to my Apple ID. I could not delete them, I could not move them. I tried to do something about in lots of ways on different machines, but all attempts failed.

I put in a support request to Apple last night, explaining what I wanted. I had a reply waiting this morning. They said to make a support phone call. I did that this morning, and the Apple support person did screen sharing and I showed her what it was and what I wanted. Nope. Can't do it. Those two original email addresses are now aliases to my Apple ID and cannot be changed or deleted. Way back when I was merging her original Apple ID with my Apple ID, they became aliases and immutable. So that's my first fail. If Anne's friends find that they can't message or Facetime her, they will have to switch to the new Apple ID email address.

Second Fail That Turned Into A Success

Then came my second fail. On iPhone or iPad, if you go to Settings, Apple ID at top, iCloud, right down the bottom is a section called Mail. That's where you can set up official iCloud email. All Anne's devices have this set to her new Apple ID email - AB@icloud.com. Hers are all set up properly.

Mine is not set up right. I can't use my Apple ID because it's not an iCloud account. But it is set up to use one of my aliases, and that happens to me Anne's original email address - AA@me.com. I don't want that.

What I need is another alias for my Apple ID, an alias that is an iCloud email address. I had to research where this is done. I went to icloud.com and logged in. Selected Mail. Clicked on the little gear symbol at bottom left. Selected Preferences, clicked on Accounts at the top, and then there is an option to add an alias. I selected that and was able to enter an alias. I was able to enter a whole bunch of aliases and each was rejected. There's a lot of people with my name trying to grab names. In the end, I selected my regular name and added "real" at the front. That was acceptable, and it got set up. Great.

Then I had to add that alias to my Apple ID. There's a lot of steps to make these things work right. So back to appleid.apple.com, log in, and Edit my details. Anne's two aliases are still there. But I can add one more. I think there is a limit of three aliases. This "real" one will be my last one. I added the email address and Apple sent an email to it with a code. I logged back in to iCloud, picked up the email and got the code and added to the Apple ID website. And it was all good.

Final step was to change my devices so that the new alias is the preferred alias to use for iCloud mail. Back to my iPad, and I am interrupted and asked if I want the new alias to be used for Messages and Facetime. Sure. Back to the original task and go to Settings, Apple ID at top, iCloud, right down the bottom to Mail, and then select the new alias as my preferred email. And it took it.

So now that's all set up. I have Anne's two aliases out of use. I can't delete them. But all my devices can use my new alias.

I still have that second Apple ID and can't merge it with my primary. I could delete it, but don't really want to. Maybe Apple will allow merging of Apple ID one day. In the meantime, I will keep it active.

Leftover Apple ID

While I was going through this exercise, I wondered about the already taken names that I was trying. One was too specific, and I couldn't believe that someone else had taken it. I checked my security history document, and saw that I had that original Apple ID and those two email addresses - HA@me.com and HA@icloud.com. I had created them in 2009, and then forgotten about them. That Apple ID and email adresses still existed. I had the password and answers to security questions, so I logged in to it on icloud.com. It's valid. It's still working. But I can't really do anything with it.

Can I merge my regular Apple ID and this other one? Every thing I read says no.

Maybe one day Apple will allow merging of Apple IDs. In the meantime, I will keep it safe.

I was able to add the email address to Mail as an extra account, and that worked. Instantly I had 50 messages arrive. Half were from Apple - security messages starting in 2011 and continuing to today with my recent login. The other half were from my brother in 2015. He had invited me to subscribe to some shared iPhoto albums. I accepted the invitation and got to see the photos, three years too late.

Success

In general, the operation was a success. I separated our accounts, got to share what needed to be shared, and got access to full iCloud features and benefits. There were a couple of minor unresolvable glitches, but we have workarounds for them.

All in all, success.

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Replacing the MacBook Air battery
#360 Henry, Friday, 08 June 2018 11:25 PM (Category: Apple)
(Tags: apple macbook battery)

The battery from OWC arrived in the mail.

MacBook Air Battery box

These batteries are really thin. They make the MacBook as best they can, then measure the spare space inside the case and come up with a framework containing a bunch of really skinny batteries. However much they can fit in, that's the battery power available.

MacBook Air battery

The box included the two tools I needed to get the case apart, and the battery out. It was pretty easy to open it up and remove the battery. I made one mistake, I forgot how the battery looked when it was connected to the motherboard. I couldn't get it back on when done. I had to bring the OWC video back up on another screen and see how the connector was attached. Once I saw that, I could clip it on properly. Then I screwed the battery down, and put the case on. The case felt as if it was bulging on the left side, so I took it off again, undid the battery and reseated it all again. I screwed the screws back in the order that the video suggested. When done, it still felt a bit bulgy on the left, but it all screwed done nicely, so maybe it just needs some time to adjust.

Flipped it over, turned it on, and the MacBook booted up and the battery had a 12% charge. So far so good. At least I didn't blow it up.

Then came the lengthy battery calibration. I had to charge the battery to 100% and then leave it charging another two hours to make sure it was at 100%. Then set all the Energy Saver settings to off, and let it run down to zero. That took a long time. Once it was down to near zero, the MacBook shut down by itself. I had to leave it draining for another five hours to make sure it was down to zero. Then charge it up to 100% again, put the Energy Saver settings back to normal, and then I was done.

It works. The MacBook is full of life again.

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