Eagle Creek Trail and Cars

I wandered out onto the nearly finished Eagle Creek Trail extension last weekend with my dog, and walked west from 38th and Airport Drive around to almost 34th Street before construction made it impassable.

This stretch of the trail was built on property that mostly belongs to the Eagle Creek Airpark (which belongs to the Airport Authority, a municipal corporation) and the Eagle Creek Reservoir Dam (which appears to be under direct or indirect control of several county, state, and federal agencies).

Most of the fences—let alone any structures—on these parcels are more than 100 feet off the road, but the trail was constructed about two feet away from the curb. I’m not really sure why. And instead of sloping from the trail down to the drainage ditch, they added retaining walls and wooden fences, leaving nowhere for trail users to go in the event of a vehicle leaving the street and entering the pedestrian area.

I shot a little bit of video on my way back home, walking east with westbound traffic coming toward me. Let’s see if you notice anything interesting:

The speed limit on this stretch of 38th Street is 40 mph. See how most of the cars are moving into the left lane and/or slowing down? They’re not doing that for me and my dog. They are slowing down because of the barrels. What do you think will happen when those are gone in a month?

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Messages needs to show me the links

When Apple released OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, they added a bunch of new features to Messages on both platforms. One of those new features was the Details panel, which gives users a ton of functionality; the ability to change the name of a group message, add and remove contacts, turn on Do Not Disturb on a message-by-message basis, leave a conversation, see the location of anyone who has shared it with you, and view a list of attachments (mostly images) shared within the message. All of these features are awesome and make using Messages a ton better than it was previously.

One thing I find myself doing all the time, however, is thinking, “So-and-so sent me a link a few days ago, and I’d like to pass that along to someone else.” Have you ever tried searching for a URL in Messages? It’s never a very productive process for me. It seems like that Attachments section of the Details view could offer a list of links from the conversation. It could also include phone numbers, addresses, and locations; basically anything that the OS turns into a link/button.

Secondly, I find it strange that Apple built that—awkwardly-placed—Safari Shared Links panel, which aggregates links from your social feeds, but they don’t include their own Messages app as one of the options for it to cull content from. I could see that being a huge benefit if you couldn’t remember who sent the link to you, because that would have everything in one place and searchable. I really can’t think of a good reason not to give users both options.

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Apple Family Sharing wishlist

Apple added Family Sharing to iOS and iCloud about a year ago. At the time they announced it, I was really excited to jump right in. Many of the features it added, like shared Reminders lists and Photos albums were things my wife and I were already doing, but it created an opportunity to save some money on App Store purchases, and cut out a few hoops I had been jumping through to get media in places we could both use it without buying twice. The additional features for children seem like useful features, but my kids aren’t old enough to have their own devices (though I’m sure that’s coming sooner than I’d like to believe).

The first year of use has been perfectly fine, but after very little attention during today’s WWDC keynote, I thought I’d sit down and put a wishlist in writing. As far as I can tell, the only benefit for Family Sharing accounts announced today is a family subscription to Apple Music, which seems like a good deal at $14.99 a month for up to six family members vs. $9.99 per user individually.

Many of my wishes don’t involve content, which should make for things that are easy for Apple to implement. I have wondered lately if the company is getting too big to keep track of everything, and if that’s why one year’s big announcement becomes another year’s ancillary feature becomes another year’s forgotten relic.

Shared iCloud storage

This one seems so simple. Apple provides 5GB of iCloud storage per user, which is enough to backup a device or two on an account, depending on how you manage your photos and video. But with more and more things transitioning to iCloud, that storage is—let’s face it—laughable. My wife is far from a power user, and she had to upgrade to the 99¢ per month 20GB plan just to back up her phone and iPad. I made the leap into iCloud Photo Library, and needed  more than 20GB, so I am on the $3.99 per month 200GB plan. I currently have roughly 70GB free. It would be great to be able to share that 200GB between all the accounts in my family. It would also be really nice to not have separate 99¢ and $3.99 charges every month at different times, among all the random others.

Shared Contacts

I’m not sure how this wasn’t included with all the original Family Sharing stuff, but is it that weird to have a Family group in Contacts that allows everyone to have synced versions of common contacts? If grandma gets a new phone, I could change the number in my contacts and have that sync out to all the devices in the whole family.

iTunes Match

I have no idea what’s going to happen to iTunes Match when this Apple Music thing launches. (Aside: The Apple Music website says “Apple Music and iTunes Match are independent but complementary,” so it sounds like it lives on. It seems like Apple Music incorporates exactly what iTunes Match is, so I’m not sure how they are complementary.) Anyway, provided there is an iTunes Match after June 30, I’d like to know why it doesn’t allow my family to listen to my library.

This request is probably one of those things that has to be negotiated, so that may very well be my answer, but the fact that every user on my iMac has their own iTunes library (and thereby duplicates of any songs that we each like) is crazy. Everyone should be able to contribute to the Family library, and stream anything not in their own library from iCloud. iCloud should just manage this stuff. That’s what computers are supposed to do best. There would be nothing stopping iTunes from adding a tag to each song with the username who added it, giving dad a way to keep the kids’ pop music out of his oldies with a smart album.

Some of this stuff just makes sense. Family Sharing has been around for a year now, and there’s been no sign since day one that Apple even knows it exists. Am I the only one using this thing?

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This Apache setting breaks mod_rewrite

I have had this problem on two very different grades of Apache servers now (cheap, shared stuff and a high-end, expensive, HIPAA-compliant box), so I thought I’d post something reasonably search-friendly in case someone else was looking for the answer.

If you are trying to use mod_rewrite the way a normal human would, to rewrite things like host/users/1/ to host/users.php?id=1 or host/page/slug-for-page to host/page.php?slug=slug-for-page, and you have “MultiViews” turned on in Apache, they will not work. Here’s what that setting does, straight from the documentation:

If the server receives a request for /some/dir/foo and /some/dir/foo does not exist, then the server reads the directory looking for all files named foo.*, and effectively fakes up a type map which names all those files, assigning them the same media types and content-encodings it would have if the client had asked for one of them by name. It then chooses the best match to the client’s requirements, and returns that document.

That means the server is effectively guessing what file you’d want them to see if the one they ask for doesn’t exist, which sounds like something I (and damn near everyone else) would 100% never want to happen. I’m not sure why it seems to defaulted on (or alternatively, why so many hosts turn it on themselves). If a page is missing, I want a 404. I want it logged, and I want to know. Period.

If you are like me and would like this to never happen, you can turn it off via Apache config if you have access to that, or you can turn it off in .htaccess using Options -MultiViews.

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Eagle Creek Greenway construction

I wrote a guest post at Urban Indy with some comments and photos regarding the impending greenway extension project going past my neighborhood. I imagine there will be some more as things progress through the summer. The project is slated to be complete by the end of October. I’m especially looking forward to seeing how they get the pedestrian bridge up over I-74 later this spring.

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VCALENDAR file with newlines in DESCRIPTION field

Hopefully if anyone else has this problem, they’ll find this post. If you’re attempting to output some data in a MySQL database as a VCALENDAR file that is viewable in Apple Calendar or Outlook or whatever, an incorrect newline character in any field can make that event not show up (or make the entire file invalid in some applications).

What you’re looking for is an escaped newline character. Newlines are stored in MySQL as \n. You want to escape that character in your ics file, so replace \n with \\n. While you’re at it, it’s a good idea to replace ; with \; and , with \,. There may also be others, but those are the ones I’ve found so far.

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Apple ID doesn’t Just Work

I changed the password on my Apple ID a couple days ago. As a person who works with technology and user management and database design and—albeit cursorily—web security, this is something we preach that people should do with online accounts. Some systems even force you to do it every so often.

I’ve had my Apple ID for a long time. When I created it, I used a password that was short and not particularly strong, and I kept it that way for several years. I’ve heard all the horror stories of web sites being hacked and what happens if you use the same password everywhere, yadda yadda yadda. So, when I heard Apple was making two-factor authentication available, I decided that was probably an account that was worthy of it. I logged in and was forced to change my weak password to something stronger. That was a good idea regardless of two-factor. I’ve changed passwords for lots of services lately, and none of them has been a very big deal.

Here’s a list of all the things I’ve had to do (so far) since changing my Apple ID password. Keep in mind the two-factor things doesn’t kick in for three days, so this is just a straight up password change:

Home Mac (10.8.3):

  • Update my password in System Preferences > iCloud > Account Settings
  • Sign back into FaceTime
  • Input password into Back To My Mac pop-up
  • Input password into Fantastical for iCloud access pop-up

iPhone (6.1.3):

  • Update my password in Settings > iCloud > Account
  • Sign back into iMessages and rebuild my settings (I had lost email addresses attached and the default new conversation email setting).  Note: I also didn’t know about this until someone else asked my why my message came in a different conversation thread.
  • Update my password in FaceTime settings
  • Update my password in iTunes & App Store settings
  • Sign back into Find My iPhone
  • Sign back into Find My Friends

Apple TV (5.2.1):

  • Sign back into iTunes account (twice for some unknown reason)

Work Mac (10.7.5):

  • Sign back into System Preferences > iCloud Settings > Account Details

In the meantime, any of those services I haven’t signed back into weren’t working. Shouldn’t I just be able to put those credentials into each device once? Why does every app and setting need its own sign in? This seems like a horrible detraction to me ever changing my password again, which is a horrible result for web security. I hope Apple cares about this real-life, boring stuff when they prioritize what to work on, because this is just dumb.

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iOS Status Message

This is something I’ve been meaning to write, and hadn’t yet, but this post on Engadget (which I’m sure will be followed by the same info on a million other sites) reminded me of it, and makes me hopeful that it’s going to happen.


In a previous post, I wrote about how Apple could use the Messages neé iChat status message as a way to put a cork in many of the situations where alerts happen on several different devices.

I chatted with several people about that idea, and I still think it’s a reasonable, easy-to-understand solution for the problem. If Apple could implement some fancy-pants, foolproof, Bluetooth/WiFi-driven connection between my phone and computer that doesn’t require any setup and solves all the problems, that’s cool too, but I have a hard time imagining that foolproof part coming to fruition.

As I thought more about it, I actually liked the idea even more. I liked it so much that I decided my iPhone should just have a status. I should be able to set my phone to Away, and it will suppress any and all notifications (not just iMessages) until I’m no longer away. When I come back from away, all those notification can be sitting in Notification Center for me to catch up on. And similarly to iChat having a preference to a) keep status as away, b) set status back to available, or c) ask what to do upon my return to the computer, iOS could do the same when I move to a different location or whenever I unlock the phone again.

When iOS5 was released, it was extremely aggravating that the switch to turn off all notifications was gone from Settings. It was already aggravating enough to have to go thru all those layers of settings to turn it off, but now that’s not even an option. Each app has to be turned off one by one. I have 37 apps with notifications on!

I imagine the iOS status message being on the lock screen, so that it’s easy to turn off and on, and front-and-center whenever I look at my phone. It would be useful to avoid interruptions in a meeting and to avoid being woken up by a friend’s texting binge in the middle of the night. Once Mountain Lion comes out and also has Notification Center, we’ll be getting even more dual notifications, so there needs to be a plan.


If this Do Not Disturb switch for Mountain Lion is an indication of where Apple is headed, I will be really excited to see it implemented in iOS as well.

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iTunes Match

I’ve been using iTunes Match for a couple months now, and wanted to post some thoughts.

The initial matching and uploading process was pretty slow. I can’t imagine how long it would have taken if I was uploading everything like Amazon or Google’s music services. I had around 21,000 songs, and something like 3,000 did not match and therefore had to be uploaded. It took a long time.

After getting the initial process done, I’ve been using it in several places. My actual files have been hosted on a Mac Mini in my living room. Previously, I used Home Sharing (and Shared Libraries prior to that) to play my music on my laptop. To get music on my iPhone, I had to sync with my living room computer, which was a little bit of a pain.

iTunes Match results in several positives compared to that. 1) I can stream music from the cloud on my laptop. My Mini doesn’t have to be running to serve those files out over the LAN. 2) None of my music currently resides on my iPhone, but if I need to play any songs, they’re listed to be downloaded and played. I can also choose to download an entire playlist in one shot, as long as I have time to wait for it to download. 3) My PC at work has iTunes installed, and after signing in with my Apple ID, I am able to stream all my music at work, despite not taking up any hard drive space with my files.

I have also noticed a couple drawbacks. Even though iTunes says it matched my songs, I’ve noticed that some of the “matched” songs playing from Apple’s servers are censored versions of songs I had that were not censored. Mildly annoying, but not really a deal breaker. Update (May 12, 2012): This problem seems to have been remedied. I read in an Apple support forum that it was a known issue, and I’ve noticed over the last week or so that I am getting the right tracks now.

One thing I would like to see added to the service is some kind of podcast sync. I would like for all the podcasts i listen to to be available on all my devices, and I would like my position to be synced. I move from device to device and it would be nice if podcasts could pick up where I previously left off. I’m sure that’s something that will be added sometime in the future.

Overall, I’m very happy with the service, and I’ll definitely let it auto renew for the foreseeable future.

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Fixing Messages for OS X

Now that Apple has released the Messages for OS X beta software, it’s possible to be able to send and receive iMessages on my computers alongside all the iOS devices in our house. It makes it very convenient to be able to continue conversations while moving from device to device, but it also creates a situation where a chorus of alerts come from all corners of the house.

I’ve come up with an easy, simple plan for Apple to remedy this. It goes back to something that’s existed since the early days of instant messaging programs: the status. If you’re from the instant messaging generation, you know what I’m talking about. The IM status was the original Twitter; a place to let your friends know what you’re currently doing or post a short funny joke. This plan could give it an important encore.

If Messages is running on my Mac, and my status is Available, any iMessage I receive should only alert me on my Mac. The messages should still go to my other iOS device(s), but without an alert.

If Messages is not running on my Mac, then everything should function on my iOS devices as it does currently.

The glory of the system shows itself when Messages on my Mac is set to away. The messages continue to go to the Mac, but the alerts are turned back on for all my iOS devices. This all seems pretty elementary, but once you couple this setup with the ‘Set my status to Away after the computer is inactive’ setting in the Messages preferences, you’ve basically covered any situation where you walk away from the computer. If your phone rings or you need to run to the store, you pick up your iPhone and leave and a few minutes later, your computer sets Messages to away. Apple’s iMessages server is notified [I’m sure Apple would ask for permission to receive your Available/Away/Offline status], and your alerts automatically kick back on, where you can hear them in your car or out walking the dog.

That would narrow the off-the-grid grace period down to whatever the arbitrary inactive time is for OS X. I don’t know if this interval is tied to the screen saver, some other setting, or the whims of the OS, but it wouldn’t be hard to create an explicit setting for it if necessary. Regardless, it seems significantly better to me than what we’ve got with the beta version of the software, and it seems much easier to implement than any high tech bluetooth proximity systems or other overly complicated solution I’ve been able to dream up since it came out.

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