Defense Against the Dark Arts (of iMessage Configuration)

Ever since upgrading to iOS 6, I’ve had a problem. The glorious promise of iMessage with its seamless integration of SMS/MMS and Apple’s messaging services between iPad, iPhone and Mac has mostly worked, with one infuriating, deal-breaking exception.

Texts to my phone number go to my iPad and not to my iPhone.

Look, all of this integrated messaging is cool. Being able to have text messages show up not only on my phone but on my other devices is awesome. But they have to at least show up on my phone or the whole thing is a failure.

I’ve researched the problem and found some people with somewhat similar issues, lots of stuff involving jailbroken iPhones (which mine is not), etc. but no clear answers to my exact problem. Several people in forums suggested shutting off iMessage on the various devices, deleting accounts, full-blown factory restore, you name it. All of which were either things I tried and found didn’t work, or wasn’t willing to try due to the amount of time and tedious work involved.

iMessage SettingsSo I began experimenting. There was one distinct problem I could see in settings. On both iOS devices and my Mac, the Messages app was showing both my phone number and email address. But in some cases one was grayed out. Infuriatingly, on my iPad and Mac, the phone number was grayed out and checked, and on the iPhone the phone number was grayed out and not checked. I could easily add or remove the connection of my email address to any of the devices, but my phone number was stubbornly locked into my iPad only. (Or, well, my iPad and my Mac… I guess. Honestly I hardly ever use Messages on my Mac so I haven’t really paid attention.)

I wish I could give a clear account of what came next, but I started tapping various buttons and clicking various boxes with such a fury that it all became a blur. What I do remember is that I clicked the checkbox next to my email on my Mac, which un-grayed the phone number. I was then able to uncheck the phone number, and the email now became grayed out.

So, if I understand correctly, the way iMessage settings work, at least one receiving phone number/email address must be checked at all times, so if only one is checked, it’s also grayed out so you can’t uncheck it. Then, if you check the other one, you may be able to uncheck the first.

That wasn’t working on my iPhone, however. Strangely though (at least as I recall from the aforementioned blur), when I repeated the process from my Mac on my iPad, then took a look at my phone, it was already switched to having the phone number checked and grayed out.

So then I began running some tests. This is where things get muddy, and since all of this just happened a few minutes ago, I still may not have a complete solution. I tried sending a text to my phone number from SLP’s iPhone. Never got it. Then I tried sending a text to my phone number from my iPad and it went to my phone within seconds. Cool. Then I tried sending a text to my email address from SLP’s iPhone, and it immediately showed up on all three of my devices.

Everything then is working as expected except that I did not get the text from SLP’s iPhone to my phone number at all, on any device. It’s hard to say what that’s all about. Are things working now? I don’t know.

Here’s another weird thing to throw into the mix. SLP and I share an iTunes Store account, but we have separate iCloud accounts. I also have a separate iCloud account apart from the iTunes Store account. The iTunes Store account uses my “real” email address, and I have a separate email address I use on iCloud. So that’s all kind of a big mess, yes I know. Anyway, whenever I made these various changes to my configurations, the iOS devices would pop up alerts regarding the change. These alerts also appeared on SLP’s iPhone, even though her Messages settings don’t have any of my account info associated with them.

The bottom line here, for me, is that Apple really has not dealt with the reality of multiple users on the same device, multiple family members sharing an iTunes Store account but needing their own iCloud accounts, etc. They may be trying to deal with it all, but they’re trying to integrate too many things that had developed for too long as independent products. And they’re not having as much success at it as they think they are.

This post began as many others here do, as an attempt to share my solution to an Apple conundrum. Unfortunately in this case I just can’t quite make sense of what’s happening, and it seems to be one of those dark-clouds-on-the-horizon portents of more trouble to come with Apple’s tendency for its ambitions to exceed its capabilities in the realm of networked services.

I just want it to work. Isn’t that the Apple promise?

Follow up: Just after posting this I had our neighbor — who also has an iPhone but of course does not share our iTunes/iCloud accounts — send a text to my phone number, and I got it. So the problem seems mostly resolved. But let’s leave it at this: if you share your iTunes Store account with another family member and you both have iPhones, you might need to send your text to each other’s email addresses instead of phone numbers, if you’re running into the same problems I’ve been having.

Apple’s skeuomorphism reconsidered

I was just looking at the much maligned skeuomorphic interface on iCal in Lion, and trying to decide why it doesn’t really bother me that much. I think I figured it out.

It’s inconsistent with other windows, but the objects on a real desk don’t all look alike. I’ve observed novice computer users, even today, struggle to differentiate windows on a standard computer desktop. They can’t tell which window is active; they can’t tell windows apart; they don’t know the difference between different applications or whether a given app is still running without any windows open or not.

In short: a lot of people still don’t understand the GUI, and never will. And, kind of like I wrote yesterday about Kevin and Robert California, whose fault is that? The user’s, or the interface designer’s?

iCal may look out of place, but there’s no mistaking it in the jumble of overlapping windows, just like there’s no mistaking a particular physical book in a big pile on a cluttered desk.

The arguments for or against skeuomorphism are completely different on iOS, of course, where there’s only ever one app on the screen at a time. But I think the HIG zealots and Magritte maybe need to get over themselves a bit, even if iCal makes all of us want to tear those little bits of paper off.

The Undisciplined Room, Episode 2: How Did We Get Here?


The Undisciplined Room, Episode 2: How Did We Get Here?
If my 2500 words of blog writing weren’t enough for you today, SLP and I also recorded another 92-minute episode of our podcast, The Undisciplined Room.

This time around we discussed our personal backstories, SOPA, the role of comments on blogs, feeling overwhelmed when everything in the world is cutting edge, social media as introvert heaven, and current exhibits at the Walker Art Center. We also introduce what is sure to become a recurring segment, possibly with its own theme song: We Hate Twitter™.

Check it out at our Undisciplined Room website. You can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes!

The art of the concept album

A concept albumI love concept albums. They’re self-indulgent and pompous… two of the best traits a musician can have! (And anyone who thinks punk’s ascension in the late ’70s killed off pomposity in rock music is deluding themselves. Punk is as pompous as it can get!)

Anyway… the topic of concept albums came up in the RPM forums today, and I wrote such a self-indulgent and pompous post on the matter that I just felt I had to cross-post it here. To wit:

I don’t think I’m capable of making an album that’s not a concept album… although the nature of what constitutes a concept album can vary a lot. Let’s see… here’s a complete chronology of my solo albums and EPs since I really got into doing this in 2001.

Concept: All track titles are nicknames a particular friend of mine has had at some point in his life; music on each track corresponds to characteristics of the nickname.

TAI CHI AND CHAI TEA (October 2003)
Concept: Not so much, really, although I did structure the CD as if it were two sides, with a “Tai Chi” side and a “Chai Tea” side, and the track sequence was designed around that. Oh, and there’s a 13-minute, 5-“movement” suite about the Iraq war, to make up for the lack of an overall concept.

Concept: Atari. All of the tracks have Atari 2600 sounds incorporated in them.

Concept: Can it get any more grandiose? The album represents the entire arc of the existence of the universe, from Big Bang to Heat Death. A suite in the middle also represents the entire arc of human existence from cavemen to the present day, in case it wasn’t pretentious enough already. I was so spent by the concept on this album that I went two years without recording anything after it was completed.

Concept: Probably the only thing I’ve ever done without a real concept, but I guess I was trying to capture the essence of all of my musical influences, right down to the second-hand nature of the album’s title.

DIVISION BY ZERO [VOL. I] (EP, August 2007)
Concept: The beginning of an extended autobiographical project. Each track has a year in the title and corresponds to some significant event in my life from that year. This 3-song EP features events from 1973 (my conception), 1976 (not sure, but it involves a new bed, vomit and hospitalization) and 1978 (pizza).

Concept: This was my RPM submission last year. The concept is strange places, or more accurately, places made strange by human activity. Each track is a sonic representation of some of my favorite made-weird-by-people places on earth.

TECHNETIUM (EP, February 2008)
Concept: A one-track, 38-minute “EP”; the characteristics of this minimalist techno track were determined based on properties of the technetium atom. Yeah… I forgot to mention “nerd alert.”

Concept: The Mellotron. Oh, how I love it.

THE BEE LP! (October 2008)
Concept: Bees. All tracks represent something about bees and their behavior.

Concept: This is going to be my RPM submission for this year. Each track title is an anagram of my name. The first letters of each of the 13 tracks, in order, spell out my name. How’s that for establishing some parameters for yourself.

Anyway… my reason for going on at such length here (besides extreme narcissism) is to perhaps give some ideas as to how broad the idea of a “concept album” can be — and how inspiring it can be to dive into a project like this with a specific concept in mind. I find I can be most creative when I have a set of parameters to work within. It gives me a starting point… and a destination.

The chopsticks wrapper has nothing on this

Headset packageFor years, native English speakers have gotten a good chuckle out of the (increasingly rare) old chopsticks wrapper with poorly translated instructions. I, of course, am one of them.

But nothing about the chopsticks wrapper prepared me for the shockingly incomprehensible copy on this XBOX 360 headset package.

Credit where it’s due: I don’t own an XBOX 360, and I didn’t find this headset. It was posted on one of my favorite websites for hotheaded computer geeks such as myself, The Daily WTF. (I was glad to see that someone had also posted the Dell plastic bag safety warning hieroglyphics. I brought home one of these bags from work and have been meaning to scan it and make t-shirts. I suppose those images are copyrighted, but I wouldn’t want to own up to having created them!)