kitchen table math, the sequel: Apple

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


I need to come up with something cheerful for Christmas/Chanukkah, so...

Working on it.

Since I have nothing cheerful to say at the moment, I'm going to take advantage of the fact that I am sitting in front of my computer in a state of complete and total derailment.

Making now a good time to complain about Apple.

Here is my complaint.

What is going on with Apple?


My iPad 2, one year old, is broken. Not broken, glitchy. Soon to be brokenThe screen goes yellow at random times, and the music app turns itself on and reads The Odyssey out loud or plays one of the Celtic women singing in Welsh (which is embarrassing when it happens in public -- the Celtic women singing in Welsh, not The Odyssey). Recently, when I tried to transfer the photos I'd taken on my iPad to my iMac, iPhoto didn't recognize iPad and didn't sync. Then after a while iPhoto did recognize iPad and did commence syncing, but a message popped up saying it would take at least 3 hours to transfer all the photos. (Three hours?) I didn't have 3 hours, so I had to press Cancel.

I'm sure more surprises are on the way.

The Genius bar guy says the first step, before they sell me a refurbished iPad 2 for $250 (since my iPad just went out of warranty), is to reinstall the operating system.

But since reinstalling the operating system will wipe out all the "data" on my iPad, I need to back it up first, but, of course, backing up my iPad is a quasi-no go because my iPad is broken or breaking.

Also, and this is another whole level of woe: when I do manage to connect my iPad to my iMac, I can't tell whether my iPad is or is not backed up because I don't know where Apple puts my data.

Where are my photos & screen grabs?

Where do they go if and when they do get backed up?

I remember a time when I didn't have to wonder about these things. If I synced my camera to iPhoto, it was obvious where the photos went. They went directly to iPhoto, one by one; I could see each one as it transferred, plain as day.

Now the transfer process is mystifying. There's "Photo Stream" (what's that?) and Cloud (do I have a special iPhoto address in the Cloud where I can go and find all my stuff?) and "Last 12 Months" (where is Last 13 Months?).

Some of these entities seem to have the same photos in them as the other entities, but then again maybe not.

Also, in addition to Photo Stream, Cloud, and Last 12 Months, my iMac seems to put downloaded, synced photos into a folder called "Camera Uploads," which has no discernible relationship to iPhoto.

And: there are at least two different "Camera Uploads" folders on my iMac, not just one.

Some photos go to one Camera Uploads folder, other photos go to the other Camera Uploads folder. I don't know why. The upshot of having at least 5 different places downloaded photos can go is that I can't figure out any simple way to check whether all the photos I'm trying to download have actually been downloaded and put some place where I can find them.

So I don't know whether it's OK to go ahead and reinstall the operating system and lose all the data on my iPad.


My iPhone 4, also one year old, also just out of warranty, is dead.

It is dead because yesterday my neighbor came over to help me finally install the meditation tape she gave me lo these many months ago (which I obviously, desperately need, unless Katharine's source is right, and I'm taking my life in my hands wading into the meditation thing) and things went awry.

I needed help installing the meditation tape because I have never been able to install any software updates on my iPhone (there've been a gazillion software updates in just one year, it seems). I have never been able to install any software updates because I have too much data on my iPhone.

My neighbor was able to ascertain that the too-much-data I have on my iPhone consists primarily of iTunes songs, which was annoying because I have never, ever, not once, listened to an iTunes song on my iPhone (I use my old Shuffle, or did before all this started). Also I didn't even know the songs were on my iPhone, but there you are.

So we started trying to move songs off the iPhone and onto the iMac to clear up space for the software updates, and when we did that we encountered the same difficulty I always encounter when I attempt the Transfer of the Meditation Tape: Apple tells me one of my devices isn't allowed to hold the tunes (all of which I purchased directly from the iTunes store myself, with my credit card, with my name on it, but never mind) and tells me I have to authorize one or the other of the devices now or Apple won't let me proceed, at which point I always lose my nerve. Which device am I supposed to authorize? Which one has the most songs? I don't know, and I don't know how long it will take me to find out, either.

So I always press Cancel at this point. My neighbor, however, was determined, and she persisted....and, sure enough, we discovered in short order that tunes were getting erased, not synced or transferred.

The first one to go was '8 Mile' by eminem. Fine. I can live without eminem in my life.

But the next recording in line for obliteration was "Beer for My Horses," and that gave me pause. I like "Beer for My Horses." I plan to listen to "Beer for My Horses" one day again, possibly after I've switched to Windows; I don't want to delete "Beer for My Horses" from whatever device it's on now; and I don't want to re-purchase "Beer for My Horses," either, seeing as how I've already paid for it once.

So then my neighbor tried something else and at some point, as we tried not to erase all of my iTunes songs, we learned that my iTunes songs and my iTunes account are connected to a Verizon email address I don't recall ever having, although I did have the foresight to write down the password. Unfortunately, Apple no longer recognizes the password, and neither does Verizon.

(That was today's undertaking: a Service Chat with Gema, I think it was, at Verizon. Two service chats, actually. A few short hours later, Gema and I learned that in fact I do not have an email account for, but I did have one once.)

update 12/20/2012: Apple does not recognize my birth date, either, not even when I put in the month and the day without the year as the Genius bar guy said to try.

Anyway, my neighbor and I ascertained the presence of a Mystery Email Address in my iTunes account, and at that point, for some reason, my iPhone stopped having an operating system and refused to "Restore" the operating system when my neighbor tried to restore it.

That wasn't the end of it, either.

After the operating system Failed to Restore twice in a row, the Apple ghost in the machine said the iMac might be broken (no doubt) and advised us to go find a "Known-Good Computer" and try again.

So my neighbor took my iPhone to her house to plug it into her Known-Good Computer while I called Katharine & got the low-down on my possible future Depression from unmonitored meditation.


This afternoon I called Apple about my phone.

Getting the operating system put back on my phone will run me $150 plus postage.

Also, it took the Apple person at least 10 minutes to figure out where the Apple store in Ridge Hill is.

I finally had to look it up on the web and give her the address.

Then she told me the Ridge Hill store isn't "Authorized" (or something) and I spent another five minutes trying to find out what, exactly, was or was not "Authorized" about Ridge Hill and why it mattered.

The answer turned out to be that when an Apple store is only somewhat authorized, meaning it's an "authorized dealer" or some such but not a real Apple store run by Apple (the Apple store in Grand Central is real, in case you're wondering), then the Apple person on the phone can't make an appointment at the Genius bar for you.

You have to call them yourself.


Trying to salvage some part of my day, I asked the Apple person, while I had her on the line, if she could fix the situation.

She sent me to Apple ID, where I was supposed to find listed as an alternative email I could then delete, but it wasn't there, so I asked whether she could look into it, and at that very moment the Apple ID page crashed. An email came through to the Apple people telling them so.

The Apple person asked if I wanted to try again in a few hours.

I said sure.


My laptop locks up alllllll the time.


Daniel Ethier said...

I can help a little with the backup question. When you do a sync, the backups are saved in a database. But you can't just go there and pull out a file. But there are tools ...

Backup extractor, and some more specific tools are available at

I have some directions at my web site for my app:

you could adapt those to getting some of your files out of whatever your most recent backup was.

I hope that helps!

Mike G said...

My wife had Apple problems. She went to genius bar. They were very nice and efficient. But couldn't solve problem.

Seemed to be 23-year-old musicians who were "comfortable" with Apples and armed with a list of procedures.

Then we found a local guy who does freelance Apple repair. Legit computer guy who does this all day. Fixed problem in 1 hour. Works like new.

If you lived in Boston, I'd give you his name. But perhaps someone similar in your hood...

Laura in AZ said...

Good grief...

I'll keep my iPad 1! It's still working fine - even though my 14 year-old tends to hog it most of the time. LOL

When my old G4 Mac (2002) died when our "Smart Meter" blew out, we took it in to a local Mac shop (Not an Apple store) and they were able to repair it. I'm sure there's a similar type store in your area that could help you out.

I have heard of similar problems with "The Cloud," which is why I have avoided it like the plague. I keep everything backed up on my computer. (Don't know how long Apple will let me do it - but I'll do it as long as I can). Sure it takes up room, but I can see everything and can add/delete items from my devices as I want without a problem.

Hope you get everything straightened out Catherine!

Catherine Johnson said...

Thanks you guys!

Ed is on the case.

Scratch that, Ed has BEEN on the case all day long. What an ordeal.

He finally had to give up and make an appointment with Genius bar ---- NEWS FLASH: you have to make separate appointments for separate devices, which Ed failed to do.

We were sitting across from a lady whose iPad is also 1 year old and also broken --- and she said everything breaks now. The Genius bar people were inclined to argue the point -- one of them went into a whole long riff about everybody being on PCs, so Apples are so different that when they switch to Apple they just don't know how to do things, etc. all the while completely ignoring the fact that the other lady and I were sitting there with one-year-old devices THAT WERE BROKEN. Seriously, he was trying to "RESTORE" operating to both devices, and both devices had hardware malfunctions, and hardware malfunctions after one year have nothing to do with PC users having trouble making the Big Change.

Also, I've had Macs for ----- 10 years now?

I've had Macs for so long I don't remember how to use PCs. That's how long I've had Macs.

The other lady wasn't having any of it, either. She said her original iPhone -- she got the first one that came out -- still works today. She can't use it because AT&T dropped it, but it works. Meanwhile her new phone and her iPad are kaput.

I'm worried Apple's not going to function without Steve Jobs.

The good news: I have a new phone, and I didn't pay $150 for it.

The bad news: 108 of my iTunes songs are gone. We tried all the tricks the Genius bar told us to try and finally gave up.

I don't even know which ones they are, so maybe I won't miss them.

Catherine Johnson said...

The acid test is going to be when we finally reinstall the operating system on the iPad (before shelling out the inevitable $250 for a refurbished iPad) .... will my iBooks & more importantly my iBooks annotations come back?

We'll see.

Anonymous said...

I don't think absence of Jobs is the problem, the foundation for the issues you're seeing was laid before he died.

For what it is worth, there are folks who work at Apple who are frustrated with the same issues. It's possible that the house cleaning earlier this fall, plus some other changes, might help eventually. We'll see.

Glen said...

I can't be of much help with your specific devices from out here in California, but I have some thoughts that may help a little in the long run.

In my household, we use Mac, Windows, Linux, iPhone, Android, iPad, Kindle, Sansa Clip (mp3 player), Gmail, and who knows what others every day.

I've run through so many hardware/software platforms over the decades that they are all a blur, and I've developed a policy to deal with it: I do whatever I reasonably can to avoid getting locked in to a platform.

I do my scrivenings in plain text or HTML instead of Microsoft Word so that I'll still be able to use them twenty years from now. My pictures aren't loaded into iPhoto's hidden database but are plain jpgs in a folder (and backed up to several other folders). My music isn't an iTunes database connected to a single music store but is a bunch of ordinary MP3s in a folder. I listen to them on a Sansa Clip, which is treated as an ordinary USB hard drive by my Mac and my PC. Instead of having these songs "managed" by iTunes, I manually drag them around from folder to folder. I always know where they are, and Apple can't helpfully reach into my computer or music player and delete songs it's sure I really don't deserve to have.

I don't let my email address be at the domain of some paid service provider such as verizon or comcast, nor do I use Apple Mail. I have my email address at Gmail so if I decide to change service providers or my Mac gets stolen or I switch from iPhone to Android, I can just reconnect to the Web from any device.

Glen said...


Some of what I do is only possible for a programmer, but a lot of it is available to anyone. When I need a "cloud" I make my own on a rented server, but if I didn't, I'd probably use DropBox. Just maintain a "let's just be friends" relationship with your device or platform or vendor, and always have your bags packed in case you need to leave in a hurry. Resist the temptation to put yourself at the mercy of Hotel California systems that offer to serve but that you can never leave.

I can't always adhere to this principle, but when I don't, I still do my best to prepare an exit plan. I may have commitment issues but, for example, if I wanted to create a lot of book annotations of lifelong value, I would be most comfortable with something paper- or HTML-based or written by me using cross-platform tools, somewhat comfortable with something PDF-based, and quite concerned about something iBook-based. For fewer annotations and a short time horizon, though, iBook wouldn't worry me.

If this isn't helpful, sorry. My approach sacrifices features and convenience, but you may find that it creates some resilience and peace of mind as devices crash, vendors go bankrupt, products are discontinued, technologies evolve, and platforms become prisons one upgrade at a time.