Basic Mac Troubleshooting Steps

A local member of the Mac User Group I belong was having an issue with his MacBook Pro. The issue was unique and it spawned the idea to share my basic troubleshooting steps I take when my Mac starts acting strange.

My first response to his request was to see if the model had a recall on it. Here is a list of current products sold by Apple with recalls. https://www.apple.com/support/exchange_repair/.

If that is not the issue the standard reset the PRAM/NVRAM, SMC (System Management Controller) Reset and starting in Safe Mode are my next steps.

All of the above explain things that each try to troubleshoot/resolve. I find these are helpful.

My next step in troubleshooting this issue would be to create a new user account on the mac. Below are links to Sierra, El Capitan, and Yosemite

Setting up a new user account may eliminate some unwanted user preferences that could be causing the issue. This is a tried and true step that is recommended by my favorite geeks at the Mac Geek Gab. This is the step I take before completing what is commonly referred as a “nuke and pave” approach.

Next I would simply complete a full restore or “nuke and pave” https://www.podfeet.com/blog/2016/03/nuke-pave/.  I set everything up from scratch with no other apps but the ones that come pre-installed in the OS. I run the device for a few days this way and then one by one install third party applications in hopes that either

I isolate the app that may be causing the issue or that the nuke and pave cleans things out that were causing the issue. With my iOS devices I compete DFU restore.  This article gives a good explanation of a DFU restore. https://www.engadget.com/2011/05/25/iphone-101-what-is-dfu-mode-and-whats-the-difference-from-rec/.  Note that at several Genius Bar appointments I have been given this advice. It has worked to help on several occasions, but that is iOS and we are talking Mac right now.

All of the above things are items that I note that I have tried, because the next step is to take it to an Apple Store or Authorized Repair Store. Telling the rep that you have tried all of the above will help save them some time, even though I find they will try them all anyway. A Genius Bar appointment doesn’t cost anything for them to diagnose hardware. In fact they may with some luck determine what the issue is and what the cost of repair will be.  If you are not close to a local Apple Store I believe Apple may be able to complete this scan over the phone.

Hopefully at some point you will get that unique issue out of the way so you can once again begin enjoying your Mac.

iPhone 7 Bluetooth Audio Stutter Problem

In September 2016, I purchased and iPhone 7 plus. Originally, I had purchased an iPhone 7 as the iPhone 7 plus was out of stock. I have iPhone 7 launch story, one that taught me that I would not waste any more time pre ordering an iPhone. That, however, is not the reason I write this today. My reasons for writing today are related to the Bluetooth “audio stutter” issue I have experienced since day one of ownership.

bluetoothThe Problem

I own a 2012 Ford Fusion that is equipped with a basic Sync system. All my prior iPhones have connected and played audio via Bluetooth since owning the car. The only problem I have experienced previously was sometimes the Ford Sync refuse to pair to the phone via Bluetooth. The fix required turning off Bluetooth on the iPhone and turning it back on. I took part in the iOS 10 Public Beta test over this past summer. During that time, I felt like my iPhone 6s performed the best it ever had in regards to Bluetooth.

Since owning the iPhone 7 plus the experience has been quite the opposite. While listening to my music or favorite podcast via the Ford Sync the audio would randomly stutter or more appropriately, it will garble for a few seconds and then resume to normal. The issue happens quite frequently, which makes listening to audio painful. This has been on ongoing issue since September and has yet to be resolved via an iOS 10 update, restoring my iPhone to new, updating my Ford Sync system, resetting the Ford Sync system and so on.

On Saturday November 19, 2016 I made an appointment to visit the local Apple Store. Through the troubleshooting with the Genius I was asked to “Reset Network Settings”. I was also asked to test my Ford Sync system with another device. In this case I used my wife’s iPhone 7. I completed both tasks, my iPhone 7 plus still experienced the audio stutter problem and my wife’s iPhone 7 did not have the audio stutter problems.

On Tuesday November 22, 2016 I again visited my local Apple Store Genius and it was determined at that time to replace my iPhone 7 plus. After setting the device up as new (running the latest iOS software) the phone still experienced the same audio stuttering.

My Research

In my search of the Internet, I came across this Apple’s Committees Discussion Board thread https://discussions.apple.com/message/31146947?ac_cid=tw123456#31146947. Based on the 27 pages of responses I am not alone in my struggle. In this thread, I discovered numerous vehicle types of various years all the way up to 2017 were having issues. Many of the comments noted taking the same steps that I have and the problem persists.

What I have learned from this thread is that I can prevent the audio stuttering by turning off LTE Data. This is done by going into Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options > Enable LTE and selecting off.  What I also learned was that for the most part those with the audio stuttering issue are primarily to those who own an iPhone 7 plus on AT&T.

This was profound to me, due to the fact that Apple produced Model A1784 as a GSM only model used in the United States on AT&T. This model of phone is not capable of running on Verizon or Sprint as it does not have the CDMA chipset. In fact Model A1784 sports the new Intel cellular chipset, not the previous Qualcomm chipset found in previous generations of iPhones and Model’s A1660 (iPhone 7) and A1661 (iPhone 7 plus). http://www.apple.com/iphone/LTE/

Is it faulty Hardware?

If the new Intel cellular chipset is to blame for this audio stuttering issue, then I believe Apple has a serious issue on its hands. I have a limited data set to prove this as the issue, but given the Apple Community Discussion thread above and my own personal experience, taking LTE out of the equation solves the issue. It could be something faulty in the chip I don’t know. As of this writing, I am in the process of purchasing a SIM free Model A1661 to test my theory.

Is it iOS 10?

Software could always be an issue. To date no update has resolved the issue. Apple stated in the release notes that iOS 10.2 fixed Bluetooth issues, but the fixe failed to correct my audio stuttering issue. Given the Apple Community Discussion thread above had people noting the same issues on Verizon I am wondering if Apple has yet to identify the issue in iOS 10, but if that were true I believe that I would have seen talk about this issue cropping up with the iPhone 6s or later. However, I believe this is not true given many people in the thread have returned their iPhone 7 plus and downgraded back to the 6s plus and report no problems after doing so. One other note is that I have yet to see anyone commenting from any other carrier outside of AT&T and Verizon.

Hardware on iPhones has had some issues in the news lately, primarily related to the battery shutdown (https://www.apple.com/support/iphone6s-unexpectedshutdown/) and touch disease (https://www.apple.com/support/iphone6plus-multitouch/). This leads me to conclude that Apple is not immune to faulty equipment.

Is it AT&T?

This seems to be the most likely scenario. One common item to both iPhone models I have received is that the SIM card has never changed. I also have not noticed a Carrier Settings update on my iPhone in the whole time I have owned it. Could the iPhone 7 plus models shipped towards the beginning of launch have a faulty SIM? I am not sure, but a run to my local AT&T Store may be in order test my theory.

Parting Thoughts:

My issues are certainly not life or death, more along the line of first world problems. I am impressed with the iPhone 7 plus. It has nice battery life; it takes very good photos and is very fast. What I have a problem with is Apple not addressing the issue. I have a case started with a Senior Apple Tech Advisor and until I alerted him to the above thread he refused to acknowledge that anyone was having an issue. I am, as of Friday December 23, 2016 awaiting a call back. Given the Holiday’s here in the States my expectations are low that this will happen in the near term. If software, a new SIM free Model or new SIM card do not solve my problem I am left with a few options:

  1. Continue to leave LTE off. Okay that’s an option, but certainly not the ideal option.
  2. Hope that Apple or AT&T provide a software fix?
  3. Sell my iPhone 7 plus and downgrade back to a 6s or move to the Android Platform.

If it is a hardware issue, I hope that Apple has the “courage” to own up to its issues as Samsung did with the Note 7 and take the phone off the market. Yes this may be a bit extreme and not an apples to apples (pardon the pun) comparison, but a nearly equally misstep in my humble opinion.

If you are experiencing the above issue, please let me know.

Delete Junk Message When in Mail App

Not sure why Yahoo Mail doesn’t allow you to block spam in IMAP, but in OS X’s Mail App you can set the preferences to delete spam upon closing Mail App.

With the Mail App open select Preferences, then highlight the account and choose Mailbox Behaviors and under the Junk option select “Delete junk messages when: Quitting Mail”

Once you close out of Mail App the Junk messages will delete. You can use this setting with other email providers. I use it also have set this in  iCloud.

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Apple’s iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case Review

In December 2015 Apple debuted its iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case.  Originally I thought the design wasn’t good and at the price was not the best use of my cash flow.  There was also a video by Unbox Theory the helped seal my decision.

Fast forward to this past March 2016 and I decided to give the Smart Battery Case a two-week trial run.  Spoiler alert its now April 2016 and I am still using the case.  Let me get straight to the point, which are my likes and dislikes.

Likes:

  • Obviously having the ability to extend battery life is nice. My first few days I found that I didn’t need to charge the case and iPhone for a couple of days.
  • Based on the above I turned on more of iOS’ features that I typically turn off, which does make having an iPhone more pleasurable.  This did result in the case running out of power before the end of the day.
  • The speaker and microphone position really boosted the sound both in and out. Using the iPhone without the case I find that I miss the change in sound position.
  • The case is well built and I can grip the case well. Other than the battery bump the case is no different than the silicon case Apple sells.
  • The Control Center Battery Widget is unique to battery cases and helps to know if and when you should charge.
  • The lightning connector means I didn’t have to buy a different cable. Nothing worse then having to change out all your cables for your gear.

Dislikes:

  • The Smart Battery Case picks up dust and lint pretty easily.
  • The extra battery adds some weight, which is noticeable.
  • The case effects signal strength and I am not sure why. I’ve never had an issue with a case degrading the signal, but the Smart Case does.
  • The case isn’t as appealing design on the eyes. Its almost like Apple said to itself, we need to make some margin so let’s make a battery case quickly.
  • The case is $99.00 US, but it is Apple after all.

smartbatteryMy preference for my phone would be not to have a case at all and to have better battery life.  I fully believe Apple could design an iPhone that could have both, but I am not sure that fits Jony Ive’s mantra of smaller and thinner.

Though there were a number of dislikes I decided to keep the case.  I use the case Monday through Friday, but on the weekends I free it from its battery bumped shell.    If you are looking for better battery and unleash your iPhone’s full capability, then this is pretty good way to go. The case comes with Apple’s standard 1-year warranty and a month in it is holding up like the day I bought it.   In the end I believe it is worth the money and worth having enough battery to get through a normal day.

Regain Access to the Previous Version of Disk Utility in El Capitan

diskutilityiconDo you miss the interface and features of Disk Utility prior to OS X El Capitan? Well, I found a way to get back to it (sort of), but it was by dumb luck. While trying to fix my install of OS X El Capitan. I had erased the hard drive using Disk Utility via the Recover Partition. I then decided to reboot, which of course did not bring up an OS. I then attempted to boot into the Recovery Partition (CMD + R) again.

Upon the successful reboot I was in a version of OS X Mavericks, which then to my surprise showed the version of Disk Utility I had missed since upgrading to El Capitan. I am not completely sure why the Mavericks Recovery Partition came up, but it was a nice discovery.

MacAppStoreI then started to think, if I had a USB install disc of a prior version of OS X I could launch that version’s Disk Utility and regain the features that are now missing in El Capitan. To download a copy of a previous version of OS X simply open the Mac App Store, Click on Purchased and download the version of choice.

Next make a Bootable USB install disc. I decided to make one for OS X Yosemite.  The instructions to create such a disc are as follows:

1. Format an 8GB or larger USB thumb drive using Disk Utility.  The drive name should be Untitled.
2. Open the Terminal App and type sudo /Applications/Install OS X   Yosemite.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia –volume /Volumes/Untitled –applicationpath /Applications/Install OS X Yosemite.app –nointeraction

For detailed instructions I recommend the OSXDaily article, How to Make an OS X Yosemite Boot Installer USB Drive by Paul Horowitz

After the boot disc is completed restart your Mac, hold the option/alt key, select the newly built Yosemite USB disc and choose Disc Utility upon boot.  Its not simple, but at least you can get the old interface back and use the features that have been missing.  To get a list check out 6 Disk Utility Changes in El Captain via Computer World.