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.

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.

How to Remove Devices from the List of iMessage Text Forwarding

After selling my iMac and buying a MacBook Pro recently, I was left with the iMac as a device on my iPhone to forward  text messages in iMessage. I could turn it off, but I couldn’t find a way to remove it from the list of devices.

I tried signing out of iCloud and deleting the device from the web interface of iCloud, but neither resolved my issue.  After searching Google (as one does) I found an article from MacWorld by Glenn Fleishman.  It required changing your iCloud (or Apple ID) password.

But there’s an answer, found in discussions online among users with similar troubles: Change your Apple ID password, and the phantom devices disappear. Whether you’re using password-only, two-step verification, or two-factor authentication with your Apple ID, changing the password can mean re-entering it and going through a code-based verification step in a lot of places. But it will also solve this problem.

The answer is quite easy, but not well thought out by Apple.  It is actually rather annoying to have to change a password to remove a device.  I hope a future update corrects the oversight by Apple.

 

Life: MoviePass

What is MoviePass?

MoviePass is a subscription service that allows subscribers to see a movie every 24 hours for a monthly fee. I subscribed for one full year and I saw 67 movies. My monthly subscription price was $35 a month, but I was able to get the first month at the introductory price of $20. I spent a total of $405 or $6.05 a showing.

How does it work?

MoviePass subscription works similar to a Gym membership. After the 30-day contract free introductory period, customers agree an annual contract, that if terminated before the end of the 12-month period an early cancellation fee is charged. Monthly payments are auto debited from the customer’s account set up with MoviePass. A MoviePass Credit Card backed by Discover is provided. The card is only usable when activated via the MoviePass App on your iPhone or Android device.

To activate the card, the subscriber selects a movie via the App; follows the steps on the phone and purchases a ticket from the kiosk or box office using the card. The card is active for only 30 minutes and the App uses the location setting on your iPhone or Android device to determine your location in relation to the movie theater. If a subscriber is too far away from the theater the card will not activate. I found it best to be within 100 yards proximity of the theater and a have decent data signal.
moviepass2

Additionally, once signed in, the App is tied to the phone for which it installed. A subscriber can’t sign in to the App on another phone with the same account. A subscriber trying to sign into a phone that has recently had the operating system restored or has a new phone must call to customer service to reestablish the account on the phone.
With MoviePass you are able to see a movie every 24 hours. For example if you see a movie at 3:05 in the afternoon subscribers have to wait until 3:05 the next day before being able to activate the card. There is no limit on the number of movies a subscriber can watch, but subscribers are not able, as of this writing, to purchase tickets to 3D Movies. Once activated the card is granted a spending cap. I once attempted activating the card for a regular showing, but could not purchase a 3D ticket due to the spending cap.

The Pros and Cons

Pros:

Theoretically a subscriber could view a movie every day a week or on average 30 a month for a cost of $35 a month. As I mentioned earlier I saw 67 movies over a span of 365 days or one every 5.45 days. Needless to say I got my money’s worth.

The card works anywhere Discover Card is accepted. Because the cost is paid up front; using a kiosk to purchase the ticket can be fast and convenient.

Most subscribers frequent theaters with rewards programs, thus rewards pile up fast. Regal is the large chain in my area and about every fourth or fifth movie I would earn a free popcorn or soda or a movie ticket. On several occasions I used my rewards card, received a free popcorn ticket and used the Regal App to get a discount on the Soda.

Cons:

It is difficult to see a movie every 24 hours. In most cases I would go to the last showing in my area, which was at 9:45pm, but could not get up the next day and see a movie in the afternoon. Half way through my membership MoviePass changed to the 24 hour time limit, which slowed my movie going habits considerably.

I had to restore my iPhone several times over the past year and eventually I was put on the naughty list by MoviePass, which required me to send a screen shot of my IMEI number from my iPhone before I was able to regain access to the MoviePass App. It made me feel like a criminal.

The App has only been updated once in the 12-months of using MoviePass and is poor at determining my actual location. I live close to a city in Idaho called Meridian. However, for months the App thought I was in Meridian, MS. I had to have alternate movie App installed to find movie times and called customer service to activate my card. This was later fixed, but it took several months and I am not sure if it is fixed completely.

The App regularly fails to show the times of movies playing at the largest theater in my area. To this day any time I want to view a movie at the Edwards 22 in Boise, ID I have to call customer service to activate my card. Again MoviePass customer service made me feel like criminal for calling in to get my card activated. “Are you sure there is a regular showing of that movie?” is not what I want to hear 30 minutes before show time.

If you have a theater that takes online reservations, forget about getting a reservation for a good seat. MoviePass requires you to be near that location and you are limited to the time you can purchase.

My Conclusion

At first I thought MoviePass was a great value, but MoviePass changed its terms from a movie a day to a movie every 24 hours, which curtailed my movie going habits. The value I was getting out of MoviePass the past few months was one movie a week, thus I was essentially breaking even and for the most part recent movie releases haven’t been all that stellar.
The App is quite frankly the worst I on my iPhone. Uninstalling the App and reinstalling it, restoring your phone or getting a new phone eventually puts you in the dog house with MoviePass. At one point they threatened to cut off my use, but still charge me because they felt I was not using the service within their terms. I was only basically seeing a movie every six days, but they made me feel like I was seeing six a day and was robbing them of money.

My recommendation:

MoviePass is not worth the commitment. To get value out of MoviePass, like with a gym membership, a subscriber needs frequent movies often. Working five days a week limits my viewing abilities. I typically go to movies on Friday and Saturday, but to get value out the services under the 24-hour prerequisite required a commitment I was not willing to sustain over a long period of time. Finally, despite the number movies to view, the quantity of quality movies are lacking, which results in fewer movies I would actually pay top dollar to see.