Posts

Location Services and Moving House: Not Always as You Expect

About two weeks ago, I moved house from York to a barn near Stratford-Upon-Avon. When I open apps like Weather, Maps, etc.; the phone should know that I’ve moved and position me accordingly, showing me nearby roads, and giving me local weather.

This is the case when I’m outdoors, as my iPhone gets its location from cell towers, but not when I’m home. I still see the weather for York, and when Maps – or Google Maps or Waze – shows my current location, it still shows me in that city. But it’s not always the case. Sometimes, I get local weather; but I’ve never yet gotten my location correctly on either maps app indoors.

Location services use a combination of three elements to determine where you are: cell towers, Wi-Fi and GPS. When you’re outdoors, cell towers can give a precise location by triangulation; the same is the case with GPS. But Wi-Fi base stations are also used to give location information, and there’s the rub. My Wi-Fi base stations – an Apple AirPort Extreme and AirPort Express (the latter to extend the range of my network) – have been recorded as being in York, and, even though I’ve been in The Barn for more than two weeks, their location hasn’t changed.

So I set out to find how I can change their location, and discovered something interesting. Apple uses crowd-sourced Wi-Fi location services, provided by Skyhook. I discovered that I could change the location for my AirPort base station by finding its exact position, then entering its MAC address via a form on the Skyhook web site. I did this, but only for one of my base stations. I discovered that, depending on which room I was in, I might get the local weather, or I might get the weather in York.

But it’s even more complicated than that. My AirPort Extreme creates two networks, one at 2.4 gHz, and another at 5 gHz. Each of these networks has a different MAC address. So I realized that I needed to enter both of these MAC addresses, as well as those for my AirPort Express. My guess is that when I entered one of the MAC addresses last week, to update its location, I didn’t think of entering the other; and I didn’t think that I need to enter the MAC addresses for both base stations, thinking that only the one creating the network needed to be changed.

To find a MAC address of an AirPort base station, open AirPort Utility (which is in your /Applications/Utilities folder), then click on a base station. Hover your cursor over the base station’s name, and a pop-up menu will show its MAC addresses. You can’t copy these addresses; you’ll need to type them in the form.

001.png

The MAC address is the bit that begins with 20: in the example above. You only need to note the last two, unless you connect a computer to an AirPort base station via Ethernet.

So I went through the process for all four networks: two on each base station. For the AirPort Extreme, the Skyhook form told me the following:

Note, the access point will be moved approximately 6 meters from its current position.

This shows that I did, indeed, enter both MAC addresses for that base station, and the new position I selected was very close to the old one. But for the two networks on the AirPort Express, it said:

Note, the access point will be moved approximately 209145 meters from its current position.

I did, indeed, move about 150 miles, or, apparently, 209 kilometers.

So part of my problem was the fact that different devices could connect to different base stations. Oddly, when I was in the room with the AirPort Extreme, my apps showed me as being in York; when I was elsewhere in the house, I got local weather. This is the biggest conundrum of all; how my phone can have two locations at once. I would expect that there just be one location that the phone sends to different servers to tell its location, but this isn’t the case.

A few minutes after I made the change to the Skyhook database, my iPad was showing local weather, but my iPhone was showing the weather in York. On my iPad, Google Maps showed my correct location, but Apple’s Maps still had me in York. A few minutes later, I was back in York on both devices.

There’s a bit of black magic going on here, and time will tell if my devices will get their correct locations in the future. But the first step when moving is certainly to make the changes in the Skyhook database to get the process started.

People don’t move often, but there should be some way to simplify this process. Perhaps Apple should have a web page where you can connect to update your base stations’ location, or it might even be a feature built into AirPort Utility. But there should be a better way.

Share this article:Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn

Bug in Mountain Lion Mail Still Sends Replies Using Incorrect Accounts

I originally posted this about a year ago, and the problem still persists in Mail on OS X. So if you have problems sending mail that’s been filtered into folders, this explains why; you’ll need to check each message before sending to make sure it’s using the correct outgoing email address.

I’m on a few email mailing lists, and I’ve noticed that Mail, in OS X 10.8, has been doing something odd. Generally, if you have multiple e-mail accounts, when you reply to a message, your reply uses the same account the message was sent to. But I’ve been finding that Mail does not correctly choose the account if messages are filtered into folders; messages bounce because the selected account is not a member of the mailing lists.

There is a setting in Mail’s Composing preferences where you choose which account to use for new messages, but this shouldn’t affect replies.



The problem only occurs when mail is filtered into folders, which I do for mailing lists. If messages are in one of my inboxes, replies use the correct email address, the one that the message was sent to. But if not, they use the default address which is set in the Composing preferences, as shown above.

So, if you filter emails into folders, and have multiple accounts, you need to check every single e-mail you send as a reply from any of those messages. You can do this by looking at the From popup menu when you’re sending or replying to an e-mail. But this is a very serious annoyance, and I hope this gets fixed.

Share this article:Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn

Fujitsu Scanner: My Second Device Fails With Same Problem as First

I wrote not long ago about some terrible customer service from Fujitsu regarding a recently acquired S1500 M scanner. I got the scanner replaced finally from the Apple online store here in France, and it turns out the replacement has exactly the same problem.

I’ve narrowed it down to color scans: the scanner can automatically detect color and black and white, and scan accordingly. Since most of the scans I did the first time around were black and white, it only showed up occasionally, but I’m seeing exactly the same thing now: the colored lines you see below.


scanner

Fujitsu’s technical support told me this was a hardware problem; so what’s odd is getting two units with exactly the same problem. This suggests that there’s a whole series of bad scanners out there, and I’m not really tempted to get another only to have the same problem.

I’ll contact Apple soon – after I’ve finished scanning my accounting files, in black and white – and see what they want to do. But I’m disappointed that this scanner, which has gotten excellent reviews, has a repeatable problem like this.

Share this article:Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn

AirPort Express Setup Failure: Is 2012 the Year of the Lemon?

I haven’t been doing well with tech hardware this year. I think I’ve had to return more devices that failed on installation this year than any year before. The last one was just last week, and it looks like I’ve got another one now: a new AirPort Express Wi-Fi device.

This should be simple to set up. In fact, when you plug it in, and open the AirPort Utility, it looks like it’s only going to take one click to do so. I want the device to extend my network, so my Wi-Fi is better at the far end of my house from where my AirPort Extreme is located. But no luck. When I tried, I saw this dialog, informing me of an “unexpected error” (as if any errors are “expected”:

ScreenSnapz002

I tried resetting the AirPort Express to factory settings, a half-dozen times, in fact, but no dice. So this goes back to Amazon for an exchange. I’ve also got a new AirPort Extreme, which I was in no hurry to set up, but which I think I’ll try today, just in case.

This is getting tiring. I’ve spent way too much time trying to get faulty devices to work this year. Last year it was an iMac and a Mac mini, and this year it’s been small devices that have been DOA. Quality control seems to be slipping among many companies, Apple included.

Update: Interestingly, I set up the new AirPort Extreme, and tried setting up the AirPort Express extending its network; it works fine. So is there an incompatibility between the new AirPort Express and the older AirPort Extreme (it’s an 802.11n model, a couple of years old)? If so, there certainly shouldn’t be.

Share this article:Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn

When Good Customer Service Turns Out to Be Really Bad

We’re all used to bad customer service; too much so, in fact, that we’ve come to accept it as the norm. So when customer service is good, it can be surprising; when it’s really good, it can put a smile on my face.

But sometimes, what seems like good customer service may actually be the contrary. Here’s a tale about a recent experience I had with what seemed to be good customer service, but turned out to be crappy.

I recently decided to try to go paperless. I have to keep ten years of accounting documents, which is a couple of big boxes worth, and I’m planning a move in the coming months; it seemed like a good time to scan all those documents and shred them.

Using information from two books – my fellow Take Control author Joe Kissel’s Take Control of your Paperless Office and David Sparks’ Paperless – I decided to acquire a Fujitsu S1500M scanner. This is a wonderful device, which has a paper-feed, scans both sides of paper you place in it, OCRs it and creates searchable PDFs. I got this last Wednesday, and started using it on Thursday, scanning hundreds of pages of invoices and bank statements. At the end of the day, some of the pages had colored vertical lines on them; nothing too serious, but annoying.

Friday morning, I started scanning more, and the vertical lines showed up after about 30 pages, and were increasingly visible. I called Fujitsu’s tech support number, and spoke with a very helpful woman who asked me to send samples of the bad scans. She got back to me quickly, said that it was a hardware problem, and that Fujitsu would replace the scanner; the next day! This was a good thing, because I had been planning to scan all weekend, and get this project out of the way before Christmas.

Well, the next day came, and no scanner arrived. Monday came, and still nothing. Tuesday was Christmas, and Wednesday there was nothing either. I tried calling Fujitsu a few times on Wednesday, and there was no answer; only a message in German. (I’m in France, and their support center is in Germany.) I sent an email, and got no reply (whereas the week before, I got replies in less than a half hour.) Thursday morning – today – I tried calling again, and there was still no answer.

I had bought this scanner from Apple’s online store*, and I called them and explained what happened. They immediately set up a replacement, though, unfortunately, it may take a week for it to come. But the person was very helpful and understanding, and I frankly feel a lot more comfortable working with the Apple Store than with a vendor directly; they have a lot more interest in keeping customers happy (especially since I buy most of my Apple products from them directly).

So what happened? What seemed to be top-notch customer service was just pretend? Did they really intend to send me the scanner the next day? I did get an email from DHL confirming that it was sent, but with no tracking number, I have no idea when it was sent, or when the delivery was scheduled. The fact that Fujitsu’s tech support team seems to be on vacation for the holidays is inadmissible; I don’t expect them to work on Christmas day, of course, but taking a week off – if that’s indeed the case – seems to suggest they only care about their customers when it’s convenient for them.

I like the scanner; it’s very efficient, and it’s going to save me a lot of time. And I’m sure the problem I have is not a common one. But I’ll think twice before buying anything else from Fujitsu, because of what they put me through.

* I would have bought the scanner from Amazon, and gotten next-day delivery, but it’s about €30 more expensive there. I guess I should have paid more, because Amazon is very efficient regarding returns and replacements.

Share this article:Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn

The Stupidity of Apple’s Lion Installer

This hasn’t been my week. I got this video freeze problem with my new Mac mini, and decided that reinstalling Lion would be the best way to determine whether it’s an OS problem or a hardware problem. I have the option to return the computer for an exchange in the first two weeks, so I figured I’d try this. But little did I know just how much of a pain it was.

Since you don’t get a DVD with new Macs, the only way you can reinstall Lion is via the Mac App Store, or the Recovery Partition. Of course, I thought I was smart, when Lion first came out, by putting it on a USB stick, so I could use this for any reinstallation I may need. Alas, when I tried to launch the installer, I was told that it would not work on my Mac mini; presumably the firmware requires something later than 10.7.0.

So, booting from a clone of my startup volume, I launched the App Store and went to download the “update,” which is shown in my Purchases list. That took about two hours, but, when it was completed, the installer was nowhere to be found. When I went back to the App Store application, Lion was listed as “Installed,” so I couldn’t re-download it. Same thing on my MacBook Air, of course, so I was stuck.

So I booted the Mac mini by pressing the Command and R keys, to launch the Recovery Partition. Apparently, mine was borked, so I had to wait a half hour for the computer to download whatever it needed to get to the next step. Then, I launched the installation, and it is now downloading all of Lion; for another, it seems, more than 3 hours. And, when I’ve finished that, I still won’t have an installer, and will have to get one somewhere else, so if I have problems, I don’t have to go through this whole process again.

Frankly, I hadn’t realized how stupid this process is. I can understand the interest of selling Lion through the Mac App Store, but not even providing a boot disc with a new Mac means that any time you have a problem, you have hours of download time. And, since the installer self-destructs after installation, you’ll have to do the same thing if you need another copy of it. (Though the next time there’s a Lion update, I’ll first download a full installer before downloading the update via Software Update.)

I have a fairly fast Internet connection – I get around 650 KBps downloads. But imagine someone with a slower connection, for whom the download will take 6 hours, 8 hours, or even more. Assuming you need to reinstall Lion on a work computer, you’ve lost a day’s work.

Apple conveniently sells a USB stick with an installer, but even if I had one of those, it wouldn’t boot my Mac mini, unless it has the latest version of Lion. And if there’s a future firmware update, it’s possible the $49 USB stick won’t boot either.

I’m appalled by the short-sightedness of this process. Sure, they save on DVDs, but the hassle it causes to users is astounding. I hadn’t realized just how complicated this process was, and, again, having copied the installer to a USB stick, I thought I was safe. How wrong I was.

Update: a developer friend pointed out that you can re-download the installer from the Mac App Store. You need to go to your Purchased list, hold down the Option key, and click on the name of the item. That will take you to its page, where you will see an Install button. You can then click that to download the installer again. I’m doing so now, and will save this one in case of future problems. Thanks Thomas for pointing this out.

Share this article:Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn

Mac OS X Lion Freezes – Is iTunes the Culprit?

I recently posted an article about Lion video freezes occurring with my new Mac mini. There were clear error messages, showing that this is related to the previous Lion video freeze problem I experienced.

Since then, I’ve a couple of other freezes, unrelated to video. And looking at the logs at the time they occurred, it looks as though iTunes is the guilty party, and, in particular, the usbmuxd process, which is a daemon used for communicating with iPods and iOS devices. My guess is that, with Wi-Fi updating, these devices remain “mounted,” as far as iTunes is concerned, and that, at times, iTunes looks for them and can’t find them.

I had a freeze this morning, but my music was still playing in iTunes, so I connected to the Mac mini via ssh. I was able to perform a number of operations, showing that, while the computer was frozen on a GUI level, this was not the case at the lower level. After about seven minutes, the Mac mini “unfroze,” and everything went back to normal.

At the time of the freeze, a number of messages were written to console logs:

11/22/11 11:42:15.758 AM com.apple.usbmuxd: _SendAttachNotification (thread 0x1012ea960): sending attach for device 5c:59:48:92:eb:ae@fe80::5e59:48ff:fe92:ebae._apple-mobdev._tcp.local.: _GetAddrInfoReplyReceivedCallback matched.
11/22/11 11:42:15.989 AM usbmuxd: _AMDeviceConnectByAddressAndPort (thread 0x102f81000): IPv4
11/22/11 11:42:16.482 AM ath: _AMDDeviceAttachedCallbackv3 (thread 0x101acd960): Device ‘AMDevice 0x102b73fe0 {UDID = XXX, device ID = 86, FullServiceName = 5c:59:48:92:eb:ae@fe80::5e59:48ff:fe92:ebae._apple-mobdev._tcp.local.}’ attached.
11/22/11 11:42:16.482 AM ath: _AMDDeviceAttachedCallbackv3 (thread 0x101acd960): Device ‘AMDevice 0x102e1d840 {UDID = XXX, device ID = 86, FullServiceName = 5c:59:48:92:eb:ae@fe80::5e59:48ff:fe92:ebae._apple-mobdev._tcp.local.}’ attached.
11/22/11 11:42:16.482 AM iTunes: _AMDDeviceAttachedCallbackv3 (thread 0x11f92f000): Device ‘AMDevice 0x7fcfa64775a0 {UDID = XXX, device ID = 86, FullServiceName = 5c:59:48:92:eb:ae@fe80::5e59:48ff:fe92:ebae._apple-mobdev._tcp.local.}’ attached.
11/22/11 11:42:18.028 AM AppleMobileDeviceHelper: _AMDDeviceDetached (thread 0x19c32c0): Device ‘AMDevice 0x8df3bf0 {UDID = XXX, device ID = 85, FullServiceName = a4:67:06:45:79:cd@fe80::a667:6ff:fe45:79cd._apple-mobdev._tcp.local.}’ detached.
11/22/11 11:42:18.230 AM AppleMobileDeviceHelper: _AMDDeviceAttachedCallbackv3 (thread 0x19c32c0): Device ‘AMDevice 0xbc62dc0 {UDID = XXX, device ID = 86, FullServiceName = 5c:59:48:92:eb:ae@fe80::5e59:48ff:fe92:ebae._apple-mobdev._tcp.local.}’ attached.
11/22/11 11:42:44.522 AM com.apple.usbmuxd: _SendDetachNotification (thread 0x1012ea960): sending detach for device 5c:59:48:92:eb:ae@fe80::5e59:48ff:fe92:ebae._apple-mobdev._tcp.local.: _BrowseReplyReceivedCallback got bonjour removal.
11/22/11 11:42:44.522 AM ath: _AMDDeviceDetached (thread 0x101acd960): Device ‘AMDevice 0x102e1d840 {UDID = XXX, device ID = 86, FullServiceName = 5c:59:48:92:eb:ae@fe80::5e59:48ff:fe92:ebae._apple-mobdev._tcp.local.}’ detached.
11/22/11 11:42:44.522 AM iTunes: _AMDDeviceDetached (thread 0x11f92f000): Device ‘AMDevice 0x7fcfa64775a0 {UDID = XXX, device ID = 86, FullServiceName = 5c:59:48:92:eb:ae@fe80::5e59:48ff:fe92:ebae._apple-mobdev._tcp.local.}’ detached.
11/22/11 11:42:44.522 AM iTunes: _NotificationSocketReadCallbackGCD (thread 0x10dd71960): Unexpected connection closure…

Note that I have replaced my device’s UDID by “XXX.” The device in question is my iPod touch; it’s the same UDID that shows up in every message.

So, is iTunes Wi-Fi syncing causing freezes? Anyone else seeing this?

Update: I’ve had about one freeze per day, and the last few freezes show GPU debug info in the Console logs, as described in this post, so I think it’s safe to rule out iTunes as the guilty party.

Update 2: It turns out that there is something wrong with the video card – since I get GPU debug logs in Console – but also, perhaps, a problem with the SSD. Apple is exchanging the Mac mini for a new one, and I should have the replacement in a week. In the mean time, it freezes several times a day…

Share this article:Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn

Lion Video Freeze Happening Again with New Mac mini

I recently replaced my iMac with a new Mac mini, and I had forgotten how annoying the video freeze problems under Lion had been. Today, trying to view a Flash video on a news site, I had a freeze, exactly like what I had with the iMac and Mac OS X 10.7. The Lion updates had resolved the issue with the iMac, but the errors I see with the Mac mini are exactly the same type. Console logs show the following:

11/20/11 1:34:40.000 PM kernel: ** GPU Debug Info Start **
11/20/11 1:34:40.000 PM kernel: 0x00006741
11/20/11 1:34:40.000 PM kernel: 0x0000008f
11/20/11 1:34:40.000 PM kernel: 0x00000001
11/20/11 1:34:40.000 PM kernel: 0x00000018
11/20/11 1:34:40.000 PM kernel: 0x0000a880
11/20/11 1:34:40.000 PM kernel: 0x00000001
11/20/11 1:34:40.000 PM kernel: 0x00000001
11/20/11 1:34:40.000 PM kernel: 0x00006741
[etc.]

(It’s worth noting that the above messages are almost exactly the same as what I saw on the iMac.)

OK, this is enough. I’m starting to get very frustrated, not only because of this problem, but also because of Apple’s letting me down regarding another problem with the iMac. I’ve very seriously considering doing as some of my friends and colleagues have done and downgrading to Snow Leopard…

Update: It turns out that there is something wrong with the video card – since I get the GPU debug logs in Console, as well as the occasional video artefact – but also, perhaps, a problem with the SSD. Apple is exchanging the Mac mini for a new one, and I should have the replacement in a week. In the mean time, it freezes several times a day…

Share this article:Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn