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.

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.

Software Review: Vidify for iPhone

Vidify for iPhone is wonderfully useful automatic video editor for iPhone. At the heart of Vidify is the ability to take several different short video clips and edit them into one professional looking video. Instead of editing the selected clips in your photo library into one continues movie, Vidify uses a proprietary algorithm to take the selected video clips and spread them randomly into one final video.

Vidify_logoThe App’s settings allow for some user input in how the video is put together. The user is able to choose the length of the video, how fast the editing process takes, the inclusion of fades & cross dissolves and the video resolution. The user has the ability to choose color filter effects which include B&W, Sepia, and Warming Filter.  The user can choose from the stock music library or from music residing on the iPhone.  Note that the stock music library is limited to 7 songs that are a 1:30 in length.  Once finished the final video can be emailed, sent to YouTube or shared on Facebook.

What I like about Vidify is I can attend an event and take a lot of short video clips of the event, say a birthday party. Then select the clips I want to include in the video, Vidify then creates one high quality video memory of the event.  The process of editing the video depends on the user settings and the length.  For example I use the high resolution and slowest editing process in the settings, which adds some time to the process.

I like that the user can include songs from my music library, but you always run the risk that if you post the video to YouTube that it could be taken down by the copyright holder of the song.  I attempted upload the finished video to Facebook, via the app’s Share feature, but was denied as the video was deemed to have copyright music.  With that said  the finished video is simply saved to the iPhone’s camera roll allowing the user the ability to further edit the final product in iMovie, which can then be shared to several different services.

The App has a few drawbacks, sometimes the random editing can be not to the user’s liking and my experience has been to “vidify” the group of selected clips several times to get a better finished product.  The sharing sources are limited as noted, I wished there were a share to Vimeo, Twitter and Google+ options.  Lastly, though I know the key to Vidify is its algorithm to produce the final product, I wished the user had the ability to place certain clips in certain spots.

The Vidify App is available in the App Store for $1.99, but as of this post the App is currently free, follow this direct link https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/vidify/id459324677?mt=8

Below are three videos I created with Vidify.

Helpful How To: Backing up and/or Syncing iPhone Contacts to Gmail

ContactSync2I use my iPhone as the source of my contact information. When I input a new contact on my iPhone it syncs to iCloud and is made available on all my devices that connect to iCloud. For example when I save a contact on my iPhone, that contact is now available within the Contacts App on my iMac. It is also available to me via the web interface at iCloud.com.   In addition to iCloud I use Gmail as a secondary email account.

What I have found over time is if I wanted to create an email in the Gmail web interface, not all my contacts were available. I found that I had to manually export contacts from iCloud and overwrite what was present within Gmail. This process has some consequences, which has included wiping out contacts added via Gmail and not having contacts created in Gmail transferring over to my iCloud contacts. Granted Gmail had a merging function in the contacts area, but I found that Gmail was not always merging as I wanted. I tried to find a way to solve this issue and I found the solution.

The solution came in the form of an iOS App called, Contacts Sync For Google Gmail. This app allows for easily syncing Contacts from your iPhone to your Gmail account as well as from Gmail to iPhone.

What I like about this app:[unordered_list style=”star”]

  • 2-way merging of changes made with your iPhone contacts with Gmail Contacts.
  • Syncing of groups created on Gmail to  iPhone.
  • Shows which contacts will be changed as part of the update, allowing for the option to update or not update a contact.
  • Contacts are now saved exactly the same on iCloud and Gmail, providing a viable backup of your contacts.

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The app also allows for variety of settings options to make the App even more robust, which shows the amount of thought that has gone into this App. The App also provides an excellent user guide and a video tutorial that I have included below.

The one item missing from the App is utilization of the Google Authentication App in the “Sign In” process.   Instead the App requires a App specific password process (see http://support.google.com/accounts/answer/1085463?hl=en&ref_topic=1099588) when using 2-Step authentication with Gmail.

Contacts Sync For Google Gmail is available in the App Store for $2.99 as a Universal App for both iPhone and iPad. There is also a OS X version available in the Mac App Store for the same low price.