1,451 Crash Logs

iOS, like any operating system, stores crash logs when something goes wrong. For my two main iOS devices – my iPhone 5s and my iPad Air – I have 1,451 crash logs. For the iPhone 6, which I’m returning (I’m still waiting for Apple to send someone to pick it up), I have 567 crash logs. That’s in just one week of use.

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When you sync an iOS device to your Mac using iTunes, the device copies crash logs to your disk. You’ll find them in your home folder, in Library/Logs/CrashReporter/MobileDevice, where there is a folder with the name of each of your devices.

It obvious that users don’t see all of these crashes, but they are still crashes. Here are some of the most recent crashes:

Date: 2014-09-26 23:36:27 +0100
Exception Code: 0xbaad9047
Reason: Couldn't register com.apple.mobilemail.gsEvents with the bootstrap server. Error: unknown error code (1100).
This generally means that another instance of this process was already running or is hung in the debugger.

Date: 2014-10-02 15:07:41 +0100

Exception Code: 0xfaded322
Reason: Watchdog: Thermal not updating, backboardd 0.002312s last successful ping: 1310u0 1210m0/1 [...]

Date/Time: 2014-09-29 09:00:05.066 +0100
Launch Time: 2014-09-26 10:53:01.792 +0100
OS Version: iOS 8.0.2 (12A405)
Report Version: 105

Exception Type: EXC_RESOURCE
Exception Subtype: CPU
Exception Message: (Limit 50%) Observed 76% over 180 secs
Triggered by Thread: 1

Most of these crash logs are about 450 K, with more than 250 MB of logs for each of my two main devices. I don’t know if the crash logs are deleted from the devices after syncing, but if they continue adding up, that could eat up a lot of free space.

Is Apple Trying to Do too Much Too Quickly?

I recently wrote about Apple’s string of bad luck, with bad press, a bad keynote stream, the U2 album spamming fiasco, and, above all, the iOS 8.0.1 update that bricked a lot of users’ iPhones. If I were to go back in the archives of this website, I’d find other, similar articles about blunders when a new OS was released requiring an update quickly for some embarrassing problems, or when hardware issues that shouldn’t have happened plagued many users. (Remember AntennaGate?)

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as much of my work depends on Apple’s product cycle. When there is a new version of OS X or iOS, I, along with many of my colleagues, have lots of articles to write. When there’s a new version of iTunes, I update my Take Control of iTunes book. It’s great to have new things to write about, but the annual release cycle is becoming problematic for many reasons.

I’ve increasingly had the feeling that Apple is finding it difficult to keep up with all these releases, and that quality is slipping. This generally isn’t the case with hardware – no, the iPhone 6 doesn’t really bend, unless you apply a lot of pressure to it – but rather with software. Bugs abound; shoddy releases are followed by broken updates. On the latest episode of The Committed podcast, Ian Schray, Rob Griffiths and I were discussing the fact that Apple just released the OS X Yosemite GM Candidate. Back in the day, the golden master was the final build that was sent to the company that pressed CDs or DVDs. There was never a “GM Candidate,” but just one GM release. I think it was with OS X 10.9 that Apple issued a GM, followed by a GM 2; this is something that should never happen. Final should be final.

Right now, with iOS 8, the Health app was delayed on release because of some unspecified bugs. iCloud Drive doesn’t seem to work very well on iOS, and it’s caused problems because it’s not available on Mavericks; anyone turning it on on their iPhone or iPad will find that they cannot access their documents on their Mac. (Though, by some oddity, there is a Windows version of iCloud Drive, which apparently works.) iOS 8 is buggy, crashes a lot, has Wi-Fi issues and more. And Family Sharing, according to some of my colleagues, is problematic as well. (I’ve not tested it yet.)

Back in 2007, Apple had to delay the release of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard because it needed more developers to work on iOS. You get the feeling today that something similar is happening: that the company simply can’t scale to handle two operating systems released around the same time.

On Daring Fireball yesterday, John Gruber said:

“From the outside, it seems like Apple’s software teams can’t keep up with the pace of the hardware teams. Major new versions of iOS aren’t released “when they’re ready”, they’re released when the new iPhone hardware ships. On Twitter the other day, I suggested that perhaps Apple should decouple major iOS feature releases from the iPhone hardware schedule. That’s probably untenable from a marketing perspective, and it might just make things more complex from a QA perspective. But something has to give.”

The problem is that, now, iOS and OS X are inextricably linked. A number of iOS features aren’t available, at least not fully, because OS X 10.10 Yosemite isn’t out yet. Being married to a release cycle based on hardware, not software, makes sense for iOS – certain features of the mobile operating system depend on new hardware features in iPhone and iPads – but it makes less sense with OS X, which does not have an annual hardware update cycle.

Yes, something has to give. Apple is great at showing us how wonderful our world will be with new products, but they’ve been less successful lately at delivering on their promises. It’s time for Apple to take a step back, slow down, and get things right, instead of just getting things shipped.

The New Mac Pro Collects Dust

I’ve loved my Mac Pro since I got it back in June. It looks cool, it’s fast, and it’s really quiet. But I’ve recently noticed a smell in my office; a burning smell, the kind you get when you turn on a light bulb that’s been off for a long time. Yesterday, I picked up the Mac Pro – something I hadn’t done in a while – and saw that there was a lot of dust collected outside the vents on the bottom. I leaned over the top of the Mac Pro, and breathed in the air coming out the top, and it did, indeed, smell a bit of burning dust.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 3.47.36 PM.pngI took off the cover, and held it by my window, then blew through the vents from the bottom to the top; a lot of dust came out. I’m going to get a can of compressed air, and try and give it a good cleaning. Any dust that goes in the bottom may accumulate inside the “unified thermal core,” and that would be what smells a bit.

The problem with the Mac Pro is that it sits flush on a desk or shelf. Dust settles on flat surfaces, and having the vents directly on a flat surface means that this computer will likely pull in more dust than, say, an iMac, where the vent is on the bottom-right of the display, a few inches above your desk.

If you have a Mac Pro, you might want to look at the bottom vents, and see if they’ve got dust around them. I could blame Titus the Cat, whose hair is certainly everywhere in the house, but, since he doesn’t go on my desk, I’d say it’s not really his fault. The design of the Mac Pro is such that it’s going to pick up any dust on your desk, and slowly pull that dust inside the computer.

It’s Not Just Pop Music That’s Over-Compressed

Much has been written about “the loudness wars,” the trend for music to be over-compressed. This isn’t the kind of compression one talks about when discussing, say, MP3 files; this is audio compression, or dynamic range compression, which reduces the differences in loudness in a song so the entire song can be louder. When a song is over-compressed, it JUST SOUNDS LOUD with no nuance. (I’ve written an article explaining how this works.)

This is very common among pop music, in part to make it sound “punchier.” But it’s starting to creep up in other types of music. I received a new album by the string quartet Brooklyn Rider last week. I went to start playing it this morning, and it nearly blew my speakers; my amp’s volume had been set at a normal level for the last music I had listened to, which was an album by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

I was very surprised at the extreme volume of the first track I listened to, so I opened it in Fission, my audio editor of choice. Here’s what I saw:

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The waveform shows volume, and when you see the volume hitting the top and bottom of the waveform, that’s compression; it’s also a sign of clipping, which can introduce distortion. It’s very odd that this album is so loud. Granted, it’s a sort of crossover album; it’s designed to try and break out of the standard classical music mold, and I applaud Brooklyn Rider for their music. But I think they’ve made a very big mistake allowing the album to be produced this way.
I looked at the second track:

Fission002.png

More excess compression. I looked at others, which were just as compressed. But not all tracks are; for example, here’s the final track:

Fission004.png

That looks normal; the way music should look when it’s not overly compressed. There are highs and lows; loud sections and softer sections. But there are none of those sections where all the music is clipped.

I won’t listen to pop or rock music that’s over-compressed, and I certainly won’t listen to classical music that’s produced in the same way. This just shouldn’t happen for a recording of a string quartet.

The Grateful Dead Get High-Res; But They’re a Bit Confused

As more and more vendors and artists try to jump on the high-resolution bandwagon, it’s clear that a lot of them are confused. Take this example of the Grateful Dead. Yesterday, the band send out an email saying that they now have “High Definition Dead.”

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And they are offering high-definition – or high-resolution – files in “AAC and FLAC.”

Oops. It’s not AAC, but ALAC, or Apple Lossless, as you can see when you go to their website:

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Okay, so it’s only one letter, but it is an example of the confusion around these file formats.

But there’s something else: they make a distinction between Apple Lossless files and “HD FLAC” files. They could provide high-resolution files in either format; both Apple Lossless and FLAC support the 24-bit 192 kHz format they are offering. And to confuse things even more, the Grateful Dead have long sold CDs in the HDCD format; they’re the only artist or label I’ve ever seen selling these. These are hybrid CDs that “encodes the equivalent of 20 bits worth of data in a 16-bit digital audio signal by using custom dithering, audio filters, and some reversible amplitude and gain encoding,” according to a Wikipedia article. (I’ve never understood what this is, but it sounds like some sort of lossy compression used for the extra bit depth.)

You won’t find many of these CDs; this may be, in part, because Microsoft bought the format from its original creator, and most likely has some arcane licensing rules for it.

In any case, the Grateful Dead always highlight the fact that their CD releases are in HDCD format, and now they’re talking about “high definition Dead” downloads; this will only confuse people.

Why I Returned My iPhone 6

As I recently wrote in a Macworld article, Why I’m returning my iPhone 6 (well, maybe), Apple’s latest phone just doesn’t work for me. When I wrote the article, I was still on the fence, but this morning, I’ve returned the iPhone 6.

I found it interesting that a large number of commenters to the Macworld article agreed with me. I thought I would seem like a curmudgeon, but I’ve been hearing from many people by email, and on social media, that they, too, just don’t find the iPhone 6 to be to their liking.

The only reason is its size. My iPhone is a very personal device, one that I carry with me most of the time, and one that is a link to the world, whether by phone or text (which I actually use very little), or by email, Twitter and other services. For me, the iPhone allows me, in part, to not be at my desk all the time. As a freelancer working at home, I like the freedom I have to not work set hours, and having the iPhone in my pocket means that if something urgent comes up, I can be notified, and get back home.

I used the iPhone 6 for a week; I went back to the iPhone 5s on Friday, to see if I really liked it better. And I did. This may be because of its familiarity; it’s a comfortable size. I can hold it comfortably in one hand, and do most of what I need with just one hand. The iPhone 6, however, felt alien, as though it was just not the right size for my hand. Granted, iPhones have always been smaller (I don’t consider the taller display of the iPhone 5 and 5s to be that different from previous models), so the iPhone 6 was very new. But it just wasn’t right for me.

I’ve always bought unlocked iPhones, and I’ve bought them from Apple, so I have the option of returning them within 14 days. I appreciate Apple’s return policy that allows me to try out a new device. I’ve never returned any Apple products for this reason before; I’ve exchanged defective Macs, but never sent back something I simply didn’t like.

In the latest episode of my podcast, The Committed, our guest, Christina Warren, asked if I wouldn’t feel tech lust not having the latest iPhone for a year. I don’t think I will; it’s a wonderful device, but there’s nothing really compelling in the iPhone 6 that I’ll miss, other than the ability to have 128 GB, so I can store more music on my device. Sure, the display is a bit nicer, the camera a bit better, but if the device isn’t comfortable to use, then what’s the point?

This will be the first time I’ve kept an iPhone for two years. I’ll certainly upgrade next year, to the iPhone 6s or 7, whichever model they release. I may not have a choice next year, and may have to choose a larger iPhone. But I think with the number of people who still want a smaller model, Apple is likely to offer three sizes with the next iPhone. We’ll know in a year.

How To: Prepare an iOS Device for Return, Exchange or Sale

If you ever need to erase an iOS device completely, to return it (as I’m doing today with my iPhone 6), to exchange it, or to sell it, it’s a simple process, but you need to make sure you do it correctly. You can’t just wipe the device in iTunes, using the Restore function; that will still keep it linked to your Apple ID.

2014-09-29 11.14.12.pngGo to Settings > General > Reset, then tap Erase All Content and Settings. You’ll see a dialog asking if you’re sure you want to do this; if you are, go ahead. The device will erase everything but the OS, and you’ll see the welcome screen that you saw when you first set it up, or first installed the latest version of iOS.

But there’s another thing you need to do. In iTunes, go to the iTunes Store, then to your account. In the iTunes in the Cloud section, you’ll see a Manage Devices entry. Click Manage Devices, then check to see if your iOS device is listed there. Reseting it should delete it from the list, but it may not. Since you can only have ten iOS devices linked to your account, you may be near that limit, if you have a couple of Macs, an iPhone, an iPad, and a couple of devices for your spouse, partner or children. If you find your device there, click Remove.

That’s it. You can now return, exchange, sell or give away your device.

Just Sitting: The Zen Practice of Shikantaza

Once or twice a day, I sit facing a wall in my home[1]. I just sit. I sit for twenty minutes, a half-hour, sometimes more. But I just sit. I sit and think not thinking; I do that by non-thinking.

This is the Zen practice of shikantaza, or “just sitting.” You sit, cross-legged if you can, and let your mind alone. When you stop thinking, you reach a point of non-thinking. It’s one of the typical paradoxes of Zen that makes your brain try and twist around those words, “not,” “non-” and “thinking” to figure out what they mean.

Unlike other forms of meditation, shikantaza doesn’t involve concentrating on an object, such as your breath or a mantra. It is “objectless meditation,” where you focus on everything you experience – thoughts, sounds, feelings – without attaching to any of them. When you get there, you know what it is.

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“Once you have adjusted your posture, take a deep breath, inhale and exhale, rock your body right and left and settle into a steady, immobile sitting position. Think not-thinking. How do you think not-thinking? Non-thinking. This in itself is the essential art of zazen.”[2]

I’ve been practicing meditation off and on for about 25 years. After following the Tibetan tradition for a while, I drifted among other forms of practice, notably Theravadan insight meditation, before settling on Zen. There are many different schools of meditation, and even in Zen, there are two main currents: Rinzai and S?t?. It is this latter, S?t? Zen, founded by Eihei D?gen in the 13th century, that feels right to me. It’s the one whose main practice is just sitting.

But you don’t need to follow any school to meditate, or sit, as we say in Zen lingo. In recent years, mindfulness, or a secular form of sitting meditation, has become mainstream, notably as a tool to reduce stress. Many studies have shown that meditation of any kind is good for the brain. Even if you don’t want to follow a path of meditation, or a particular tradition, just sitting for a few minutes every day can be a wonderful way to get back in touch with reality and recharge your brain. You can use just sitting to ground yourself, to take a few minutes away from the vortex of the world around you.

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The New Maria Callas Remasters: Good or Bad?

The other day, I posted about the new box set of Maria Callas’ Complete Studio Recordings being available for download on the iTunes Store. I had a few exchanges with Andrew Rose, of Pristine Classical, which restores historical recordings, and Andrew said that he thought the Callas remasters were not good. He told me he was writing something for his newsletter, and granted me permission to reproduce it here.

Here’s what Andrew Rose has to say about these remasters.


There’s been a surprising amount of fuss about a new Maria Callas box set recently. Music and tech blogger and Macworld writer Kirk McElhearn noted its appearance on iTunes – “This is the first big classical box set I’ve seen on iTunes sold as a set” he wrote on Facebook this week. I’ve also seen it popping up on music websites – on Qobuz, for example, the music is being promoted with a picture of a box set, but it’s actually being offered across individual albums in various formats up to and including ultra-hi-resolution 24-bit 96kHz lossless downloads.

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Learn about LaunchBar’s Six Superpowers in My Latest Book: Take Control of LaunchBar

Updated for the recently released LaunchBar 6.

I’ve been using LaunchBar for nearly as long as it has been around on the Mac. It’s the first utility that I install on every new Mac; with LaunchBar installed, I can get on with everything else I need to do.

LaunchBar has superpowers. It won’t give you the power to cloud men’s minds or climb the sides of buildings, but it will turn you into a Mac superhero. Anyone can master LaunchBar’s basic uses: launching applications, opening files, searching the Web, and more. But this book will teach you the six LaunchBar superpowers so you can work far more efficiently on your Mac. Yes, six; if you had the previous version of Take Control of LaunchBar, you recall there were five superpowers, but the wonderful developers at Objective Development added a sixth superpower to version 6 of the app.

And, LaunchBar 6 sports a great new interface:

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Learn how to use LaunchBar to carry out nearly any Mac task more efficiently. To help you develop a mental map of all that LaunchBar can do, I explain LaunchBar in the context of its five superpowers — key LaunchBar techniques that no Mac user should be without.

  1. Abbreviation search. The primary way you select things in LaunchBar is by typing a few letters associated with the item you want to find. LaunchBar is smart (so the abbreviation doesn’t have to be obvious) and learns from what you type (in case it guessed wrong the first time).
  2. Browsing. Sometimes you don’t know exactly what you want to work with until you see it. Abbreviation search won’t help there, but you can browse folders, recent documents for an app, clipboard history, snippets, and more.
  3. Sub-search. Too many results in a list to browse? Try a sub-search, which is an abbreviation search limited to a list of search results.
  4. Send To. Want to open a PDF in PDFpen rather than Preview? Or attach a document to a new email message? You can send anything on LaunchBar’s bar to another application, folder, action, or service.
  5. Instant Send. For those who want to save the most time, Instant Send is the fastest way to put a selected file or bit of text on the bar, ready to open in another app, move to a folder, send to a Google search, look up in Dictionary, and more.
  6. Staging. This lets you select multiple items in LaunchBar–even if those items are in different locations–and then act on them all together.

LaunchBar 6 has loads of great new features: a new look; live feedback for searches, calendar events, reminders and more; calculator history; access to emoji characters; text transformations; and usage statistics to help you understand which superpowers you’ve mastered, and which you need to learn more about.

But LaunchBar does much more. You can do more than 1,000 things with this simple utility. Let LaunchBar’s superpowers save you from a lifetime of Mac drudgery: get Take Control of LaunchBar for just $10. Check out this comic for a concrete illustration of LaunchBar’s five superpowers.

Read how much publisher Adam Engst learned from editing my book.

Don’t have LaunchBar? Buy it from Objective Development.

Hear (and see) me discuss the book with Chuck Joiner on the MacVoices Podcast