Did Siri or dictation stop working for you on your iOS device? Try this.

Did Siri or dictation stop working for you on your iOS device? Try this.

I noticed a few days ago that both Siri and keyboard dictation stopped working for me.  However, they both would still work in my car (over bluetooth).  This initially led me to believe that maybe my iPhone 6+’s microphone was starting to fail.  I launched Voice Memos, and recorded a new memo, and that worked fine.  Plus, I’d had conversations with family recently, so I knew my mic was still working.  I figured it must have been something in the new 8.3 update, so I did a full-reset and restore in hopes that starting “fresh” would squash the gremlin.  It didn’t work.

This one had me stumped for a few days, and then after some GoogleBinging I remembered that the iPhone (6+, in this case, though this has been true for a while) has multiple microphones, and I distinctly remember Apple mentioning in one of their keynotes that the iPhone 6 /+ will use different microphones to pick up audio, depending on the situation.  I already knew my main mic (for voice calls and memos) worked, but what if Siri and dictation used a different mic?  And how do I test it?  As luck will have it, there is a simple test:

How to test your iPhone’s alternate (secondary) mic:

  1. Launch the Camera app
  2. If necessary, touch the ‘flip camera’ icon to use the FaceTime camera (selfie cam)
  3. Start recording a video of yourself talking
  4. Stop the recording, go to your camera roll, and watch the video
  5. If you don’t hear any talking, or you hear a bunch of static, your alternate mic is BROKEN

My video was full of garbled static… thus, my alternate mic was broken!  Lucky for me, the phone was still under warranty, and AppleCare took care of it.  This perhaps brings me to the moral of the story: if you plan on keeping your devices for longer than a year… get the extended AppleCare!

Just in case it was unclear above, here is how to test your main microphone as well:

  1. Launch Voice Memos
  2. Record a new memo
  3. Watch the read-out as you record, you should see voice ‘waves’ appearing as it records
  4. Stop the recording, play it back, and make sure it sounds good, clear, and without static

Happy debugging!

Nest having problems staying connected to your Apple Airport Extreme? Try this.

I recently got a new Apple Airport Extreme wireless router.  It performs great, but for some reason my (1st generation) Nest thermostat starting having trouble staying connected to my network.  If you google ‘Nest connection problem’, you get a rabbit-hole of forums and complaints that include various hacky anecdotal fixes.  Well let me add one more, as I have found a solution to my particular problem.

If your Nest Learning Thermostat is having trouble staying connected to your Apple Airport Extreme (or any other dual-band router), try this:

The Apple Airport Extreme (I believe, by default) operates on both the 2.4 ghz and 5 ghz bands (B/G/N, and N/A/AC bands).  It combines both of these bands under a single network name (aka ‘Broadcast SSID’) so that, regardless of the device, they all connect to the same network name.

I have found that this is problematic for the Nest.  It thinks it is connected to the network, when in fact it is not.  The Nest won’t even report any errors, it just won’t appear to be online, even though it thinks that it is.

The solution I have discovered is to separate the 2.4 ghz network from the 5 ghz network, and have them broadcast under separate SSIDs.  This setting can be accomplished through the Wireless settings pane of the Apple Airport Extreme app (for OS X or iOS), via the ‘wireless options’ button and subsequent sub-menu.  Simply check the box for a separate 5 ghz SSID broadcast name.  Here is a (slightly outdated, but the general steps are essentially the same) guide to help walk you through the process: Creating a Dedicated 5GHz AirPort Network

I separated my networks under different SSIDs (a ‘low’ for the 2.4 band, and a ‘high’ for the 5 band), and I forced the Nest to connect to the new ‘low’ SSID (the 2.4 ghz network).

My Nest is now connection-problem free, and is back to working like a charm.  Whether this is an Apple problem, or a Nest problem, I am unsure… I’m just glad everything is back to normal.  Happy Nesting!

OS X 10.10 Yosemite DNS and Bonjour not working? Here is a fix!

OS X 10.10 Yosemite DNS and Bonjour not working? Here is a fix!

Ever since I upgraded from the Yosemite Beta to the final release, certain things have not been working.  In particular, I could not browse to any network printers, NAS devices, or even see my Aiport Extreme from the Airport Utility.  My wifi and internet were working, just nothing on my local network.  I knew something was up with Bonjour, and by extension, my internal DNS (discoveryd service, new for 10.10 Yosemite) for my particular machine.

After 2 days of frustration, I’m happy to report that I fixed this.  Here’s how:

Launch the ‘Console’ app, and look in the logs and hopefully you’ll see many entries for variations of this error:

discoveryd Basic DNSResolver  dropping message because it doesn’t match the one sent

specifically (for my machine in this moment of time):

11/4/14 12:54:06.002 AM discoveryd[2158]: Basic DNSResolver  dropping message because it doesn’t match the one sent Port:0 MsgID:0

After much searching on the internet, and many plist deletions, etc. nothing worked.  So then I tried this:

System Preferences -> Network

At the top of that preference pane, there is a ‘Location‘ dropdown.  It was set to ‘automatic‘.  I clicked on that, and created a new location called ‘Home‘ (you can call it whatever you want, really).  Then my wifi connection reset itself, and EVERYTHING started working again.

2014-11-04_01-14-58_01

Creating a new network location must have fixed some errant config file somewhere that was causing DNS and/or Bonjour lookups on my internal network to fail.  All is good now.

I can now browse for all bonjour devices, see my airport extreme, etc.  Everything works.  How lame and frustrating is that???

I hope this helps somebody!

Geektool (geeklet glet) update for Yahoo weather icons, 2014 edition!

Yahoo France made a small change to their icon source URLs, putting them on secure servers.  My old script command will work, but you need to change the URL to https vs. http:

curl --silent "https://fr.meteo.yahoo.com/united-states/california/aliso-viejo-12796580/" | grep "obs-current-weather" | sed "s/.*background\:url(\'\(.*\)\') .*/\1/" | xargs curl --silent -o /tmp/weather.png

Original post here.

Restore from a Drobo FS to your mac, over the network, using OS X Lion

I recently had my iMac Hard Drive completely fail. It would boot to the white/grey screen with the Apple logo, put a progress bar underneath, and then just spin that spinning spinner forever, never actually booting. Very scary! Although I am concerned that I might have to replace my HD before my Apple Care runs out, what I wasn’t concerned about was whether I lost any data.  I knew I had a backup, and that it would be easy to restore from this backup!  Or so I thought…

I had been backing up my iMac via Time Machine, over the network, to my Drobo FS Time Machine partition/share that I had previously set up.  So thus, I knew I had my data backed up, but what I didn’t know is what a nightmare it would be to actually do a restore from this network backup.

As it tuns out, it’s actually a pain in the ass, unless you know the secrets to unlocking the mysteries of Time Machine, and the Drobo FS.  Here is what I had to do, I hope this helps somebody someday:

INSTRUCTIONS:

Launch into Lion’s (in my case, OS X 10.7.4) Recovery partition (hold down the option key after turning on your Mac via the power button, then select the Recovery Partition), or alternatively, boot from the OS X Lion USB Stick or DVD, whatever you have access to (for Snow Leopard 10.6.x, this will probably have the same instructions, so this should work for SL as well).

Next, ignore the main menu options that pop up, and instead run Terminal, via the Utilities menu at the top menu bar (very top of screen, near the middle).  In Terminal, you have to do a few steps (use the following Terminal commands as templates, substituting your own data as necessary):

  1. We have to create a volume on the disk drive that OS X’s Recovery/Restore software can ‘see’ (otherwise known as a ‘mount point’):
    mkdir /Volumes/TimeMachine
  2. Then, we have to mount the network share to this newly created volume, so that it appears as a ‘local’ disk to OS X:
    mount -t afp afp://YourDroboFSAdminUserName:YourDroboFSAdminPassword@IPAddressOfDrobo/YourDroboTimeMachineShareName /Volumes/TimeMachine

    Using the above template, my command wound up looking something like this:

    mount -t afp afp://admin:password@192.168.1.150/DroboTimeMachineShare /Volumes/TimeMachine
  3. Finally (and this may be Lion only, so try with and without), we have to mount the actual image of your Time Machine backup to make its contents readable by OS X’s Restore process:
    hdid /Volumes/TimeMachine/yourMacsTimeMachineFile.sparsebundle

    Using the above template, my hdid command looked like:

    hdid /Volumes/TimeMachine/mainImacTimeMachineBackup.sparsebundle

If you don’t know the name of your sparsebundle file (required for Step 3 above), from the same Terminal window, you can just switch into the /Volumes/TimeMachine directory you created (“cd /Volumes/TimeMachine”), and after completing Step 2 above, you can type “ls” to list all the files in that newly mounted directory.  Your sparsbundle file should be there, so make a note of its name for Step 3.

After you complete the above steps, you can quit the Terminal application, and then launch the ‘Restore From Time Machine Backup’ option from the main menu that Lion originally presented to you.  Click ‘continue’, and choose your Time Machine backup (which may take a second or two to show up, but not much longer than that).

From there, you are on the long road to recovery, and you can enjoy watching that ‘Restoring’ progress bar for the next few hours.

Enjoy!

Microsoft Excel clears clipboard contents on launch? Here’s a fix.

Is Excel blowing out your clipboard on startup?  You know, you copy some really important data to your clipboard memory, then you launch Excel, try to paste, and nothing is there!  Really annoying and completely destroys workflow.  Here is a possible fix (for those of you who install Adobe’s creative suite of tools).

These are quasi-specific to Excel 2007, but might be relevant to other versions:

  1. Launch Microsoft Excel
  2. Click on the main ribbon button in the upper left or similar menu for other versions, and click ‘Excel Options’
  3. Click on ‘Add-Ins’ on the left-hand side
  4. Near the bottom, see the ‘Manage:’ drop-down, and choose: ‘COM Add-Ins’
  5. Find the Adobe Contribute COM add-in, highlight it, and click ‘Remove’ on the right-hand side
  6. Completely close down Excel, and re-launch it.
  7. Celebrate!

So there you have it…. Adobe’s gremlins at it again… in your computers, screwin up ur programzzz.

OS X Lion Retail Impressions

My first Lion OSX Retail install (from the Mac App Store) went pretty smooth.  At first, my bootcamp partition wasn’t mounting, because MacFuse gave a generic ‘could-not-mount’ error (71).  Luckily I came across this blog post to fix it (I know it says Snow Leopard, but the fix works for Lion as well).  After that, my bootcamp partition was mounting again, and all that remained was for me to download Java (required by Adobe CS5’s updating service), and re-sync my Apple Magic Trackpad, that had somehow been kicked out of my system.   The only visible bug left is an occasional NTFS-3G complaint about the Bootcamp partition not being available fast enough, but that is no biggie.  So far, everything else is fine…  So onto the impressions:

On first note, I’m pretty satisfied.  Lion feels snappier.  That could be because the mouse speed is maybe turned up a notch by default, but so far, Lion feels like a much faster cat than Snow Leopard.  The eye candy transitions are something you’ll need to get used to, especially if you are on a big screen.  Try going back and forth to full-screen in an app that supports it… It’s almost nauseating.  Regardless, they are smooth, and the speed is appreciated.  By now, the major new features have been done to death, and my impressions are not much different than the general consensus:

  • mission control is a slightly more useful exposé
  • launchpad is a tacked-on iOS gimmick that doesn’t feel right in OS X… yet
  • yes, the scrolling takes getting used to – I refuse to revert to ‘old’ scrolling just yet
  • yes, there are more gestures for that trackpad than ever, and it’s going to be interesting trying to learn them all (good luck)
  • the continue-where-you-left-off application state saving is interesting, but borderline annoying and will probably get a lot of porn-surfers in trouble if they close windows quickly and just walk away (lol)

Despite these 50/50 type features (half good, half bad), there is a LOT in Lion to love.  The best feature?  The new gestures for the Magic Mouse!  Double-finger swipe left or right to change spaces.  In the new Safari, use a single finger to swipe left and right for back and forth for navigation.  You can literally ‘peak’ at the last page you were at, forwards or backwards.  That is cool stuff, and this new Safari feature completely blows other browsers out of the water.  I realize it is not limited to Lion, but it’s still a great introduction to what Apple is thinking, and where things are going:

Peeking at the last page
Peeking at the last page

Other cool features?  The in-line spell-checking is simply amazing.  That’s an iOS feature that is more than welcomed.  Also, like iOS, hold down a key, and get presented with all the variations of accent notation for that letter.  Awesome!:

In just a few minutes, I’ve discovered a set of features and a feel I already cannot imagine not having again… so it makes the $29 price tag more than justified.  I get the impression that Lion will grow on me even more over time, as I learn about all the hidden gems that Apple loves planting in their new releases.  Heck, just to learn all the new trackpad gestures is going to take me months probably.  It isn’t all roses though…

Here is one thing I didn’t like:

Feels like 1984…. Is that irony?
Feels like 1984…. Is that irony?

Apple is continuing it’s crusade against color.  I mean, look at that.  It’s boring… it’s sterile…. it’s soooo….. Apple?  Strange that they would choose such a drab design for something so essential.  I love the icons…. but bring back the color Apple!!  Which brings me to gripe #2…. certain things (such as the Finder navigator above) have a look that reminds me of Linux.  That’s not a good thing.

Other than that, I’m happy to be getting to know this new big cat.  Let’s hope it doesn’t bite me in the long run.