Lessons Learned

I use an external drive with my Mac to supplement the internal storage. I have been using the external drive primarily to store my Photos Library and iTunes Library, but I have a lot of other files there also. (Here’s an article about putting your Photos Library on an external drive.)

I bought a new 1TB External SSD to replace the mechanical 1TB drive I had been using. I figured this would be a nice speed-up, and more in line with what my Mac is capable of.

SSD next to 3.5 inch External drive
The SSD is Small

From the photos on-line when I ordered the SSD, I expected it to be larger — about the size of a regular 3.5″ external drive. It is much smaller. It’s about the size of a stack of four or five credit cards. This would be a great thing for travel.

I knew that I should format a new SSD with the newer APFS format for use with MacOS (currently 10.15 Catalina). So, after reading up on that, I fired up Disk Utility, selected APFS, and hit Format. I immediately realized my mistake. I was formatting my original external drive with my data on it, not the new one! It only took a few seconds to lose everything on that drive.

Lesson Learned: Make Very Sure Which Drive You are Formatting!

The good news is that I had a backup. (You have backups, right?)

Lesson Learned Previously: Always Have Backups

After initially trying to restore from backup using Carbon Copy Cloner, I ended up just copying the files to the new SSD using the Finder. But I didn’t have enough space on the drive and deleting big files and folders didn’t seem to make any difference in the amount of free space. I finally found that Carbon Copy Cloner had created some invisible space hogs on that drive called Snapshots.

Lesson Learned: If Deleting Files Doesn’t Increase Free Space, Look for Snapshots

Snapshots can also be created by Time Machine.

Lesson Learned: CCC Creates Snapshots which you can remove from within CCC.

Once I got rid of the snapshots, I was able to restore everything to the new drive easily.

Now I wanted to make some changes to help prevent similar accidents in the future. I give my drives unique descriptive names. I also wanted to give my hard drives unique icons. Any external drive I attach normally shows up with the same generic icon. If they all look alike, it makes mistakes like formatting the wrong drive more likely. I used icons that physically resemble the drives they represent, but you can use pictures of your cat, or whatever images you like.

I found this article explaining how to change the icon of drives. I ended up finding a lot of nice icons at Deviant Art. Often, the icons or images you find online are not in the correct format for MacOS. I used Image2Icon to convert them. You can find it on the Mac App Store, but I already had it via SetApp.

Since subscribing to SetApp, I always look in there first for any unique Apps I need. I usually find something that does what I want.

So, now my drives have unique icons like this:

Icons

Lesson Learned: You can and should give your external drives unique icons.

Besides external hard drives, you can also assign special icons to thumb drives or camera cards. Again, that seems very helpful in keeping them straight in your mind.

However, I have found that the procedure of pasting a new icon onto the icon of my hard drives does not work for some drives.

I found that for some drives, you can paste the icon file, but for other types of drives, you must copy and paste an actual image. If pasting the icon file doesn’t work, you can open the icon image using preview, make a selection, copy that, and paste that into the icon in the drives “Get Info” window. That seems to work.

I’m still finding that I can’t change the icon of partitions on an APFS partitioned drive. If anyone knows how to do this, please leave a comment. Thanks.

Digitizing a Book

Recently, I digitized some historic school yearbooks and I want to share some tips on how I did that. It was less work than I thought, and it went pretty fast due to some automation. There is certainly more than one way to do this, but this worked for me.

My goals going in were:

* Good Quality Images
* PDF Output with Searchable Text
* A Separate Image in the final document for each page in the book 
* Automate as much as possible

I used a DSLR camera to photograph the pages. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on the photography aspect, although it is important. You want a lot of light coming from an angle. I used off-camera flash, with a wireless flash trigger. The camera and the flash were on tripods, and the yearbook was on a low coffee table. The camera was looking straight down onto the book. There are many camera settings and lighting settings that will work.

My Camera Settings

I wanted to be able to go through the entire book and not have to do anything else except turn a page and click the shutter. A wireless remote for your camera helps, although for the last book I digitized, I couldn’t find my remote and did it manually, with a 2-second delay to prevent camera shake. That was not too bad.

I taped some rulers to the table to keep the book firmly in the same position so it wouldn’t move between shots.

To save time, I photographed two facing pages at a time, on one image. These were separated later in software. There was plenty of resolution for this to still yield a quality image.

I set my camera to record JPEG images rather than RAW, because they are smaller and easier to deal with, and because I knew I had the exposure correct and wouldn’t need to adjust it in software.

Software Tool Kit

Affinity Photo 
Renamer 
PDFpen  
SetApp  (Renamer and PDFpen are available in SetApp) 
Workflow

I brought the camera images onto my Mac. Then I used the Affinity Photo App to separate and crop the images of the individual pages. I used two main features of Affinity Photo: Macros and Batch Jobs.

First I recorded a macro. I selected an image about 1/4 of the way through the book. I recorded a macro in which I cropped and rotated the left side of that image as a single page. I saved that macro as something like YBCropLeft. Then I repeated the process for the right-hand image, and saved that macro as YBCropRight. But I didn’t save any changes to any images yet.

Because of the way a physical book lies on the table, the ideal crop for all pages is not identical. To mostly compensate for this, I went through this process twice for each book, once for the first halt, and again for the second half. Each time I picked an image about half-way through that half of the book as my prototype for recording the macros. The first prototype was 1/4 into the book, and the second prototype was 3/4 into the book.

Now I used the Batch Job feature of Affinity Photo, which is in the menus at File:New Batch Job…
I dragged all the images from the 1st half of the book into the sources pane. I selected the YBCropLeft macro (and Applied it). I clicked “Save as JPEG” and picked a new, different folder for the output files.

When you run the batch job, you’ll be amazed at how quickly it processes all of those files. The resulting files will still have the same names that came out of the camera, e.g. IMG_1234.jpeg. But, now they are cropped to the left side only.

Affinity Photo doesn’t give you any naming options for the output of a batch job. This is where Renamer comes in. I used Renamer to quickly add an “L” to the end of all the output file names. So, for example, IMG_1234.jpeg became IMG_1234L.jpeg. This is so we can keep them straight and don’t have two files both with the same name.

Now, repeat the batch job, this time using the YBCropRight macro. Put the output into another new folder.

Again, use Renamer. This time, rename all the right side files to have an “R” at the end, so the names will become something like IMG_1234R.jpeg.

So, now, we repeat the entire process for the 2nd half of the book. Record two new Left and Right macros. Run two new batch jobs, sending the output to yet another pair of empty folders. Rename them to L and R as appropriate.

Now, copy all the R files and the L files from both halves of the book into one big folder. There shouldn’t be any duplicate file names. “L” happens to alphabetize ahead of “R”, so, the left side of each image will be alphabetically just ahead of the right side of that image, which is exactly what we want.

Now, if you had any oddball pages that didn’t fit the pattern, go ahead and digitize them, and contrive a file name so that they fit in the correct spot. For example, you might name the image of the front cover something beginning with “A”, so it will be in the front, and the back cover something like “Z”, so it will come last. If your book has a centerfold or map insert or similar, copy it separately and name it something that puts it at the appropriate spot in the alphabetical list of images. Or, you can just wait and insert it into the PDF at the appropriate place.

Now is the time for PDFpen. Open PDFpen and open a blank, new document. In a Finder window, select all the images (I had hundreds of them, one per page, and drag them all to the empty PDFpen document window. PDFpen will just slurp all those into one big PDF. The free Apple App Preview might be able to do this step also, but it didn’t seem as robust about it as PDFpen.

Proofread the document, making sure the pages are all in the right place and are all right-side-up, etc. PDFpen makes it easy to drag pages into the order you want, if they are incorrect for some reason.

Save your work.

The feature that we really needed PDFpen for is OCR (Optical Character Recognition). This will allow turning a bunch of pixels into searchable and selectable text in your document. For some reason, PDFpen hides this powerful feature with a weird User Interface quirk. If you look at the Edit menu in PDFpen, you will see OCR Page. But, we want to go ahead and OCR the entire document! That option isn’t visible unless you press the Option key. Then you will see the OCR Document item under the edit menu.

Go ahead and do that. It takes a few minutes, depending on size, and gives a “bing” when it is done.

Save your work again. This is your final, searchable PDF document.

Still no Meetings

Although some things have open up, we still feel that the risk of in-person meetings outweighs the benefits.

At this writing (July 20, 2020), COVID-19 is more prevalent in our community than ever, and our members are mostly in the age group most at risk.

MacMAD is extending the paid membership of all members month-to-month until we begin to have in-person meetings again.

Helping Someone Remotely

How can you help another computer user from a distance? I am going to show you a super easy way to help another Mac user using software that came with your computer.

Sometimes we get questions about computer problems from friends and family. It would be so easy if we were in the same room and could see and interact with their screen. But if they are far away, or in 2020, staying isolated because of Coronavirus, how do you help them?

If you and the other person both have Macs, and you can send and receive messages using the Messages app, then the answer is just a click away.

The Messages App

To connect to your friend’s computer, we are going to use the Messages App (formerly known as iMessage). This application comes with every Macintosh. It isn’t obvious, but the humble Messages app has a superpower. It can remote control a computer screen.

It might be good to first verify that you can send and receive messages to and from the remote computer. You must be connecting to your friend via their email address, which should be associated with their Apple ID.

If you see the blue text bubble(s) when messaging your friend, the next steps should go smoothly. If you see green text bubbles, or can’t send and receive messages at all, see the Difficulties section below.

To begin screen sharing, make sure that the correct friend’s conversation is highlighted in the Messages window. Then, select Ask to Share Screen from Messages’ Buddies menu.

Ask to Share Screen menu item

This will cause a message to appear in the upper right of your friend’s screen asking them to allow screen sharing:

Accept Screen Sharing

When they click Accept, they will get one more message:

Click Accept to allow remote control

For troubleshooting with a trusted friend, it is usually easier if the recipient allows you to control their screen as well as observe it. Control is the default.

Once they click Accept, screen sharing will begin.

Either party can end screen sharing. Remember that if the computer restarts, or if you quit the Messages app, screen sharing will end and need to be restarted.

I have successfully talked some very inexperienced computer users through this process on the phone. They only have to be able to see when they receive a text message, and then click Accept twice. After that, you will be able to help them.

You’ll probably be talking to your friend on the phone to get this started. When screen sharing starts, it also starts an on-line voice conversation. You should be prepared to end the phone call when this happens to prevent echo, feedback and confusion. You will still be able to speak to each other via the computer (if both computers have microphones and speakers — most do).

Difficulties

If this is not working as expected, check the following:

  • Both computers must be running MacOS
  • Both computers must be connected to the Internet
  • Both parties must have an Apple ID
  • Check that the email addresses being used for communication are listed in System Preferences/Apple ID under Name, Phone, Email in the Reachable at section. If not, they can be added there.

Trouble Shooting

No, no weapons here. Unless you count our individual capable minds when it comes to solving problems. Computer problems. More succinctly, hardware that gives our operating system problems. First, a little back-ground.

I use my iMac Pro and MacBook Pro mainly for creating and editing video. FCPX and DaVinci Resolve Studio are my software tools of choice. Anyone involved in editing video knows it requires serious computing power and external hardware in the form of external RAID storage (48TB LaCie Big Disk). And to get the color perfect, a calibrated high end monitor (Flanders CM250) which requires an I/O interface (AJA Io 4K Plus). For great audio, 2 Focal monitors are controlled by a Universal Audio Arrow I/O device via Thunderbolt 3. I also have an external hub for the many ports I need for video and audio (CalDigit TS3 Plus). Sometimes, these pieces of hardware can have hiccups when interfacing with Mac OS. Rarely, but it happens, as it did for a few weeks lately.

The Problem. I leave my iMac Pro on overnight. A few weeks ago, when I would first try to wake the computer from it’s much deserved rest, I noticed that the machine was starting from boot and I got a message that it had shut down because of a problem. They never tell you what the problem is, we long for the day!

Now some would probably look to the OS or poorly written software as the first probable culprit but that line of inquiry would take a lot of time and I could see me on the phone with Apple for hours as my blood pressure peaks to an unhealthy crest. Checking hardware is easier and would most likely, in my mind, expose the problem. First I had to make sure the corresponding software for each piece of hardware was up to date and compatible with my OS. Easy peasy, all was good. So every evening I would disconnect each external device but one, and wake up to see if the machine was sleeping, or dead. If sleeping and fine (they were), I then connected two of the devices in every combination. I wish I could tell you the mystery was solved, but the results were ambiguous at best. With only one of the devices connected at a time, all was well. But when I started to combine hardware in two’s, the results were erratic and showed no clear path to the solution. I had resigned myself to either putting up with the inconvenience or shutting it down each evening in a proper fashion. Then I looked over at my RAID box and saw the little 1TB SSD connected to it on it’s 2nd Thunderbolt port and sitting atop of it, hidden by the box of tissue yet on top of it. I forgot to mention it above just like I forgot about it in the chain of hardware in my workflow. I use it mainly for quick drag ‘N drop backup of individual files as I work through the day. I thought, “That can’t be the problem, can it, this little drive”? Of course it could, and it was. It’s been one full week without a crash since I unmounted the drive (it is still connected though, weird) I’m not sure why, though I think it has to do with the fact that it’s a Thunderbolt 2 device connected via an adapter to the RAID box via Thunderbolt 3.

What have I learned? Well, a few times I was sure it was the most expensive item (LaCie Big Disk) in the chain that was causing the problem, and some of the testing seemed to point to it but there was always a morning where the result refuted the conclusion. So watch out for confirmation bias. In the end it was the littlest and most inconsequential item that caused the issue. Also, patience and thoroughness are two prized qualities of the troubleshooter. Without it, well, you may need to stock up on your blood pressure meds.

iOS Classes – January & February 2020

I am frequently asked if I am going to conduct an iPad/iPhone class. Because of the member interest, and the significant changes in iOS 13, the operating system, I will be conducting iPad/iPhone classes in the new year. All classes will be held at One Senior Place in Viera.

Classes will be held on seven consecutive Mondays, from 6 to 8 pm, starting on 6 January 2020 and concluding on 17 February 2020. As in the past, classes will be free to all MacMAD members who are paid up through 1 March 2020. For all others the fee will be $50 per participant.

Among other things I will be covering are:

  • Activity views (which replace Share sheets and are for more than just sharing)
  • Enable Dark Mode on your mobile device
  • Using the new Find My app
  • Make the most of improved text editing tools
  • Use Siri and Shortcuts to do even more than before
  • Use accessibility improvements, including voice control and mouse support
  • Discover the capabilities of Apple’s upgraded apps–including Files, Mail, Maps, Messages, Notes, and Reminders
  • Use Screen Time to make better choices about when and how you use your device
  • Work with the updated iPad Home screen, Dock, and on- screen keyboard
  • Learn about the new iPad multitasking capabilities, including more ways to split the screen, use multiple windows, and drag & drop between apps
  • Browse the web with ease using the desktop-class Safari for iPadOS
  • Use the significantly updated Camera and Photos apps to take photos and videos, apply camera effects, and organize your media
  • Make sense of the Lock screen, Home screen, and Control Center and customize them to meet your needs
  • Search with Spotlight
  • Switch between apps and use Handoff to transfer your work
  • Navigate the App Store
  • Understand Family Sharing
  • Manage your data–both on your device and in the cloud
  • Make calls and use FaceTime and Voicemail
  • Organize your Wallet and use Apple Pay
  • Protect your privacy
  • Improve your battery life

Seating will be limited. If you are interested please call (321) 751- 6771 to reserve your place. Dennis Crowley

Setting Up a New iPhone

I want to document the process I went through recently when I sent my iPhone in for repair. That’s a similar process to getting an entirely new phone. There were some unexpected issues you should be aware of. This is going to be pretty long, so here’s some key points first.

Important Points

While you still have your old phone, whether or not you expect to get a new one soon, make a backup of your phone. If your phone unexpectedly fails, or is lost or stolen, you will have to get a new one. You can backup your phone to your computer or to iCloud. If you specify a password for the backup, you will get a more complete backup than if you do not. I recommend using the password. Write it down.

If you are using two-factor-authentication (2FA) login for any sites, create backup codes to access those sites. Look at your authentication apps (e.g., Google Authenticator, 1Password and Last Pass Authenticator) and make a list of all the sites you are using with those apps. Your 2nd Factor information may not be restored to your new phone. Make sure you know how you will sign on to your sites without it.

If any of your sites use text messages or phone calls as an alternate 2nd factor for login, consider assigning another phone number, such as your spouse’s phone for these, since if you are without your phone, you can’t receive those messages.

Make sure you know your Apple ID username/password, your iPhone’s passcode, and the password to your latest iPhone backup. Write them down. Your Apple ID credentials are the same as you use for iCloud logon.

Your Old Phone

If you are sending your iPhone away, out of your control, for any reason, including repair, or sale or trade, you should follow Apple’s Instructions here. Your phone should then be a blank slate, just as it was when it was brand new, with none of your personal data in it. Be aware, that if you have an Apple Watch, this will render your Apple Watch completely useless until you pair it with another iPhone. (Is this true for cellular model watches also?)

Remove the case from your iPhone if it has one. Remove the screen protector, if any.

Remove the SIM card from your old phone. Save it. You will need it for the new/repaired phone.

Received the New/Repaired Phone

I had backed up my iPhone to my Mac. When I got the phone back, although it was the same phone (I recognized minor scratches on the back), it had a new serial number from Apple, and for all practical purposes, it was a different phone.

The process below will be different if you are restoring from iCloud, or if you make any of several choices differently than I did, but this will give you an idea.

This process was longer and more complex than I would have liked. I had to enter multiple passwords multiple times, and deal with confusing dialogs, but I got done eventually.

Begin by installing the SIM card into the phone.

Next, power on the phone. Enter your language and country when prompted.

I chose “Set up Manually” since I had no other iOS device present.

Enter your WiFi password.

You’ll see a message “…It may take a few minutes to activate your phone”.

You’ll click through the Data and Privacy notification screen.

Next, setup touch ID or face ID, depending on your phone model.

You must create a passcode. You can re-use the passcode you had before. I chose “custom alphanumeric code” for greater security.

Enter the passcode twice. (To prove you really know it, and entered it correctly.)

Restoring Apps and Data

The phone presents you with the following options:

  • Restore from iCloud Backup
  • Restore from iTunes Backup
  • Move Data from Android
  • Don’t Transfer Apps & Data

I selected Restore from iTunes Backup, and connected my phone by USB to my Mac.

An irrelevant and distracting dialog pops up on the Mac.

“New Network Interface” Dialog

Cancel that to see the meaningful dialog behind it. As of MacOS Mojave, the actions below take place in iTunes. In MacOS Catalina, it is expected to take place directly in the Finder.

New iPhone Dialog
Enter password for the Backup

I selected my most recent backup to restore, and had to enter the password. Even though I had saved the password to my keychain when I created it, I still had to enter it manually here. Don’t forget your backup password, or remember where you saved it.

Restoring took about 12 minutes

The phone restarts automatically after the restore, and you are presented with multiple popups.

Cancel the network popup, again.

On the iPhone, press Home to upgrade, and enter your passcode on the phone (your iPhone passcode).

This was the one place where things actually went wrong in this process for me. After a progress bar, the Apple logo appeared on the iPhone. After a long wait, iTunes said Syncing TV Shows to “Jamie Cox’s iPhone” (Step 4 of 4), and Waiting for items to copy. I was looking at a 100% progress bar for many minutes. (I only had a couple TV episodes on my phone.)

I gave up waiting and clicked Done in iTunes. The phone wouldn’t power down with a long press on the side power button. (This was an iPhone 7) This proved to me that it really was hung, and would never have finished no matter how long I waited. I held Power and Volume Down for a reset. I then unplugged the phone from USB. When the phone started up, I had to enter my iPhone passcode. I was then at the Update Completed screen on the phone.

Things are back on track now where you should be if the phone doesn’t hang.

General New iPhone Setup

At this point, you will be prompted to enter your Apple ID password. You may also receive this security prompt on the Mac:

Apple ID Allow Dialog

After clicking Allow, on the Mac, you then get a 6-digit code which you need to enter on the iPhone. (If you have two-Factor Authentication enabled on your iCloud account.)

Then agree to the Terms and Conditions screen.

Then you see the Location Services screen. (I chose Enable Location Services.)

Now, you will see the Welcome to iPhone Screen. Choose Get Started.

Now, finally, you are at the iPhone home screen, with icons loading.

On the Mac, you may get a couple more popups. First, asking if you want to add your phone number to iMessage and FaceTime. (I clicked Yes.) Second, notifying you that “Your Apple ID and phone number are now being used for iMessage and FaceTime on a new iPhone.”

At this point, I put the case back on my phone.

Re-Pairing the Apple Watch

Initiate pairing by moving your phone close to the watch. Let the phone’s camera see the pattern on the watch face.

I selected Restore from Backup, to get my watch back to where it was previously.

You’ll have to agree to the Apple Watch Terms and Conditions screen on the iPhone.

Then enter your Apple ID password on the iPhone. (For me, the steps in this sections failed the first three times. I then restarted both the iPhone and the watch. After that, it worked.)

After your Apple ID is verified, you will get to the Shared Settings screen. Tap OK.

You will be asked to create a passcode for your watch. (I used the same code I had before.) You must enter it twice.

You may see the Heart Health screen on the iPhone. Tap continue.

You may see the Apple Pay screen on iPhone. Tap Continue. Then you will have a chance to enter credit cards or set them up later in the Apple Watch App. (I chose to set them up later.)

You’ll see the SOS and Fall Detection screen. Pay attention, this could be important later. I enabled Fall Detection. It can save your life later.

What Wasn’t Restored

All my credit cards were missing from the Apple Wallet after the restoration, both on iPhone and Apple Watch. However, my loyalty cards and passes were still present in Wallet. Apparently Credit Cards are not stored in the Apple Watch or iPhone backups, even when the encrypted backup option is selected. This is probably a security measure by Apple.

As I mentioned before, my Two-Factor Authentication information was not restored in Google Authenticator or Last Pass Authenticator Apps. So, I could no longer generate codes for those sites I had been using with those apps. The 1Password app still had all my passwords as well as 2nd factor codes for those sites which used those. Your mileage may vary depending on your version of 1Password and how you sync it.

My Home Kit devices remained set up in iPhone as before, no problem.

If you had installed a configuration profile, such as the Spectrum WiFi access profile, it isn’t restored, and you will have to follow the instructions from the provider to get it installed on your new phone.

Your WiFi credentials are not restored. You will have to re-login to your favorite WiFi networks.

You will have to re-pair your Bluetooth devices, such as headphones, speakers, and car stereos.

Entering Passwords

During the restore process, you will have to enter passwords or passcodes at least 10 times, assuming you don’t make any mistakes, and everything goes perfectly.

  • iPhone Backup Password 1 time
  • WiFi Password 1 time
  • iPhone Passcode 4 times
  • Apple ID 2 times
  • Watch Passcode 2 times

Before you start, make sure you know your existing passwords, or what you want them to be, and write them down in a safe place.

Conclusion

So, I hope this overview of the process of getting a new iPhone was helpful to you. This process seems like it is longer and more difficult than it should be, but knowing it in advance should help. Please leave a comment if this was useful, or if you see anything wrong or anything I left out.