iCloud

A Half Day With AppleCare Tech Support

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Last weekend I spent almost half a day on the phone with Apple tech support (AppleCare). The issue? I was trying to switch my iCloud account over from 2-step verification to 2-factor authentication. What's the difference? 2-step verification is Apple's older way to add a bit more security to your iCloud or AppleID accounts and 2-factor authentication is the new way. Six Colors has a great piece explaining all the differences if you want to know more. The important thing to know is this...if you want to start using Apple's home automation system HomeKit, then you need to enable the newer 2-factor authentication. But that wasn't my problem. I was able to switch from 2-step to 2-factor just fine. But once I did switch over to 2-factor I couldn't turn on my iCloud Keychain on my iCloud account (iCloud Keychain is another thing that must be enabled to use HomeKit). When I would try to turn on the keychain, iCloud would ask me to authenticate from another trusted device, but then it would never send the authentication code.

The reason troubleshooting this process took so long was because Apple was trying to keep me from having to delete all of my health data in the cloud. You see, since I wasn't able to authorize turning on my iCloud Keychain the only other option was to reset the iCloud Keychain which would erase my health data from the cloud. So we went through a bunch of different troubleshooting methods like signing out of iCloud on all my devices and signing back in. Then we tried to turn off 2-factor authentication and turn on the iCloud Keychain first, but that didn't help either. Somewhere in iCloud there was a hiccup concerning my iCloud Keychain that we just couldn't clear.

This is hopefully not a problem that a lot of people will encounter, but I am writing this for the "lucky few" that are in the same boat I was in. As long as you didn't have any stored passwords in your iCloud Keychain previously, just go ahead and reset the keychain. In the end I didn't end up losing any of my health data because it grabbed the health data I had stored locally on my iPhone. I'm not sure what error caused all this pain on Apple's end, but once I reset the iCloud Keychain I was able to start using HomeKit.

Oh, and one other thing. Once you setup 2-factor authentication and enable iCloud Keychain on your iCloud account, your Apple TV (if you have a new 4th Generation one and it is signed into your iCloud account) should automatically show HomeKit as an option now. Except in my case it didn't. HomeKit wasn't enabled on my Apple TV until I actually turned on and setup a HomeKit enabled device on my network...then AppleTV showed that it was now my HomeKit hub. Everything I read out there said it was supposed to be automatic once you enable 2-factor authentication and the iCloud Keychain, even Apple said this was the case. But it took turning on a HomeKit device on my wireless network to trigger the AppleTV HomeKit features.

Hopefully my problem was an isolated incident, but just in case I thought I would share what I had to do to get home automation running in my house.

How to stop iCloud Calendar Spam

UPDATE Dec 11, 2016: Apple has updated the calendar app to allow users to report calendar items as spam, which will remove said spam from your calendar and alert Apple with details about the spammer. MacStories has a great article that goes into more details about these brand new features.

Feel free to read my original article below, but with Apple's new fix the temporary fix detailed below is no longer needed...

I had a first this week...I received my first ever iCloud calendar invite spam. What the hell is that you say?

Just what we need, spam in our calendars... 

Just what we need, spam in our calendars... 

Needless to say, I didn't create a calendar item to remind me to go buy Oakley or Ray-Ban sunglasses over the next couple of days. No, I was the victim of calendar spam. It's essentially email spam, but a lot more devious. You see, these spammers have figured out a weakness in Apple's iCloud calendar settings. By default when you are sent an invitation to your iCloud account it is automatically added to your calendar. For someone that isn't used to dealing with corporate calendar systems this is actually a really nice feature because you don't have to understand or even care about what a calendar invite is. That is until you get spammed.

So here is how it works. Somehow some spammer out on the internet has found a bunch of iCloud email addresses. They then send out calendar invites to those iCloud addresses. Not emails mind you, just calendar invites. Because the default settings on the iCloud calendar automatically accepts all calendar invites and adds them to your calendar, this event and any alerts associated with the event just show up on your calendar. If you do anything to the calendar item (accept or decline) you are essentially telling that spammer that they found an active account...so don't do anything. Leave the invite where it is and make a very simple change to your iCloud calendar settings. Here is how you do it:

  1. Go to icloud.com and login to your iCloud account
  2. Navigate to the Calendar App
  3. Click in the settings (gear icon) in the lower left of the screen
  4. Select "Preference" from the menu
  5. Select the "Advanced" tab
  6. Under the "Invitations" section select the "Email to" options (see the screenshot below)
By selecting the "Email to" option you are turning off the ability for calendar invites to be automatically added to your calendar...now you get to choose. 

By selecting the "Email to" option you are turning off the ability for calendar invites to be automatically added to your calendar...now you get to choose. 

To be clear, by making this change to your iCloud calendar settings you are keeping this sort of thing from happening in the future. This doesn't get rid of your current calendar spam. I would suggest just leaving the spam event as-is so you don't alert the spammer on the other end that you are a valid and active iCloud account. With the changes you have just made, all future calendar invites you receive will come in the form of an email now. This does two things. It will give you the option to accept the invite (which adds it to your calendar) or ignore it (and it won't get added to your calendar). The other thing it does is it now exposes any calendar invites you receive to Apple's spam filters which will most likely block these types of invites.

So enjoy your spam free iCloud calendar and let me know if you are in the market for some sunglasses...

Update...a few days after I originally wrote this post an article from The Sweet Setup showed up in my RSS feed and it highlighted a method covered over on tom's guide about how to safetly delete a spam invite. So now, not only can you prevent this from hapenning in the future you can also nuke the spam you already have (and this method doens't alert the spammer that you have done it). Here is how to do it:

  1. Go into the Calendars app and select the "Calendars" button (which is at the bottom of the screen on iOS and at the top left on the Mac)
  2. Select "Edit" (to add a calendar on the Mac select "File" from the menu and then "New Calendar")
  3. Select "Add Calendar"
  4. Name the new calendar something fun like "Spam Sucks", not because you need to but because it might make you feel better
  5. Go into the spam invitiation (or invitations if you are cursed enough to have multiple) and tap "Calendar" above the "Invitation From" section of the invite.
  6. Select the new "Spam Sucks" calendar you just created
  7. Go back to the "Calendars" button in Step 1
  8. Select the "i" next to the "Spam Sucks" calendar
  9. Select "Delete Calendar" at the bottom of page
  10. Confirm that you want to delete the calendar by selecting "Delete Calendar"

Now pat yourself on the back because killing spam is hard work! Hopefully Apple will get on this and fix this loophole that spammers have started to take advantage of, because 10 steps to get rid of calendar spam is 10 steps too many.

Problems Backing up an iPhone to iCloud?

Turning on automatic backups of your iPhone to iCloud is super simple to do and very important, because you never know when you are going to need to restore your phone from that backup. But sometimes things go wrong and there is no apparent reason behind the failed backups. I've recently had to fix 2 separate iCloud backup and sync issues and wanted to share these potential fixes with you.

My iPhone a while back stopped syncing with certain aspects of iCloud, specifically reminders. I tried quite a few things, but finally found one that worked...resetting the network settings on the phone. The networking settings controls things like connections to the cellular network and wifi networks. If your iPhone isn't syncing with iCloud or automatically backing up at night while plugged into power and connected to wifi it might be a networking setting corruption. Luckily there is an easy way to reset these settings. Below are the steps:

  1. Make sure you have a recent local backup of your iPhone (like a backup using iTunes on your computer)
  2. Sign out of your iCloud account. That way, after you reset your network connection settings you can sign back into iCloud and any syncing or backup will start again from scratch.
  3. Go into the settings app, under "General" and scroll down to the bottom and select the "Reset" option. There is a long list of options here, make sure you select the "Reset Network Settings" option (see screen capture below)

Your device will reset now and restart. Make sure you sign back into iCloud once your device restarts. Hopefully after logging back into your device the sync or backup error is now resolved. This technique fixed a couple of issues I was having. My iPhone wasn't syncing reminders from the reminders app and my iPad kept dropping its connection with the cellular network. Resetting the network settings fixed both of these issues for me.

If you are still having errors when trying to backup to iCloud there is one more thing that is a likely source of the problem...you have run out of space on iCloud. While Apple should give you a warning that you have run out of space, that doesn't always happen. If your last backup attempt was larger than the remaining capacity in your iCloud account then you might get a warning saying just that or you might not. The only way to know for sure is to buy extra iCloud storage. For just 99 cents a month you can increase your iCloud storage for 5 Gb to 50 Gb. I have done this for all of my family's devices and for me it is well worth the couple of bucks a month in cost. It is way too easy to use more than 5 Gb of iCloud storage unless you only use your iPhone for the most basic of tasks. As soon as you start taking photos or videos the size of your backups will go up quickly. If you decide you want to buy more iCloud storage, here is how you do it...

a. Go into the "Settings" app and into "iCloud", then into "Storage" and select the "Change Storage Plan" option.

b. From there you can select one of several storage upgrade options, 50 Gb, 200 Gb or 1 Tb. iCloud actually works a lot like Dropbox with the new iCloud Drive functionality in iOS, so having a bit of extra storage can come in really handy.

c. After you select the storage capacity you want to upgrade to you will need to put in your payment information and you should be all set.

d. You may need to go into your iCloud backup (go into the "Settings" app and into "iCloud", then into "Storage" and then into "Manage Storage" and you should see all the devices that are currently being backed up to your iCloud account. Select the device you are having problems backing up and at the bottom there is an option to "Delete Backup."

e. Then go back and try to manually start an iCloud backup by going into the "Settings" app and into "iCloud" and select "Backup" and then the "Backup Now" option. If storage was your issue then you should now be backing up once again to iCloud.

Your 1st Apple ID

I don't know why there isn't better guidance from Apple about this out there, so wanted to write up a quick post about Apple IDs, iCloud accounts and the differences between them. This question comes up when someone new to the Apple ecosystem gets an Apple device and is faced with how best to get setup with this new device. I have been dealing with this on a couple of fronts lately. At work, my employer has finally switched us over from Blackberry to iPhones and now we have quite a few people that are getting their 1st iPhone and this is their 1st Apple product. I've also helped a family member who recently switched to an iPhone and this was their 1st Apple product as well.

What is an Apple ID?

An Apple ID is an account with Apple that is required to do just about anything with Apple. Apple has an entire list of services or features that require an Apple ID here, but some of the big hitters are: - Purchase Apps - Purchase music, movies and TV shows in iTunes - FaceTime - Make iBooks Store purchases - Register with Game Center

If you already have an Apple ID you are most likely just going to want to use the one you already have. Some people like to have a seperate Apple ID for work and depending on your work situation you may want to do it that way. The benefit of just having a single Apple ID is that you get to use all the content you have already purchased with that existing Apple ID. If you create a brand new Apple ID you are starting over with nothing (unless you are going to use Family Sharing but that is a whole other topic). If you need to create an Apple ID go here and follow the instructions. I suggest you do this from a computer if possible rather than an iOS device. Apple doesn't tell you this, but I ran into an issue completing the sign up process and had to call Apple for help. They recommended always creating the Apple ID from a computer if possible. Other tips about creating an Apple ID: - Use an email address you intend to keep for a VERY LONG TIME. Avoid using a cable company email that you may lose if you switch cable companies. I would also recommend you use an email service that offers 2 factor authentication to better protect emails you get from Apple concerning your Apple ID account. - Apple requires you to add a credit card to your account when you create your Apple ID. This is purely for identification purposes. If you have no intent to ever make a purchase with your Apple ID or you are just not comfortable having a credit card on file with Apple, you can remove the credit card once the sign up process is complete. From that point on you can use gift cards to fund the account and avoiod ever having a credit card on file.

iCloud Account

The other type of account with Apple is an iCloud account. An iCloud account allows you do to many of the things that an Apple ID does EXCEPT for making purchases. An iCloud account also does one thing that an Apple ID does not, it gives you a brand new Apple provided email account. So why would you want an Apple ID AND an iCloud account? If you are the only person using the Apple ecosystem in your family and will be for the forseeable future then you probably don't need both an Apple ID and an iCloud account. The only drawback to this approach is that you won't get an Apple email account if you just have an Apple ID. The reason you might want to have both an Apple ID and an iCloud is if more than one person in your family is going to use the single Apple ID for purchases (apps, movies ,TV shows and iBooks). In that case, there is one Apple ID that is used on all devices in your family but each individual family member can each have their own iCloud account, which gives them their own: - Email account - iMessage address (for text messages) - Find my friends account - Game Center account - Safari web site favorites - Contacts - You each get 5 Gb of free iCloud storage - Seperate photo streams

Clearly, if there is more than one person in your family you are going to want seperate iCloud accounts and share a single Apple ID (so you can all use and share what has been purchased). In my case, I have a wife and 3 kids. Each of my kids have their own iCloud account and my wife and I share an iCloud account. We share an account because it is handy for us to share contacts in a single location and have the same family email address that we both access. Some people may not want to do it this way, but it works well for us.

Hopefully that clears things up a little bit. Think of an iCloud account as more of a personal account and an Apple ID like an adminstrator account that gives you purchasing power. Oh, and welcome to the Apple ecosystem!

Going Paperless

If you are looking for a quick answer to the question of how to go paperless, here it is...follow these directions in order and enjoy your new freedom from paper:

  1. Buy and read the iBook titled Paperless by David Sparks (also available in PDF format)
  2. Buy the ScanSnap S1100
  3. As needed apply some of the automation techniques and tools I talk about below

Now for all the fun details! Last fall I was part of small team at work that was looking at numerous technologies to enhance our work productivity:

  • Using iPads to get work done and boost efficiency
  • Collaborative Working Spaces
  • Using Apple TVs and iPads in conference rooms

As part of the iPad part of the study we purchased a ScanSnap S1300i document scanner as well as an iBook titled Paperless by David Sparks and a PDF productivity app called PDFPen for iPad. The purpose of these purchases was to investigate both how difficult it would be to adopt a paperless workflow and what the benefits would be in doing so. Below are the lessons learned from this activity and recommendations for going paperless, specifically for going paperless at home.

ScanSnap S1300i

We chose this scanner for two main reasons, the highly rated software that comes with the hardware and its ability to work on both a Mac and a PC. For home use the ScanSnap S1100 is plenty of scanner for most people. The main difference between the 1300 and 1100 is that the 1100 can only handle 1 page at time, while the 1300 can handle about 15 pages at once. The ScanSnap is a document scanner (pages are fed through a document feeder... as opposed to a flatbed scanner that can only do one page at a time). A dedicated document scanner is absolutely required for going paperless because of how fast it is able to scan multiple pages at once (instead of having to open and close the lid of a flatbed scanner for each page). The other key function needed is Optical Character Recognition (OCR), which the ability of the software to look at the scanned “image” from a document and convert that image into text that can be added to the meta data of the scanned electronic file and used later when performing searches for the document. Without OCR you would only be able to search for the file on your computer based on the title and not the content (words) within the file itself.

Why Go Paperless?

There are many benefits to shifting to a paperless workflow, storing paper takes up more physical space than digital storage and you can’t easily carry all of your paper documents with you all the time (storage and portability/accessibility). There is also an obvious financial benefit if you can significantly reduce the amount of paper used by saving in printer, paper, copier, and document shredding costs. Electronic data is also a more secure way to store and transmit sensitive data as opposed to keeping paper files under lock and key in a cabinet and having to physically mail or fax them to people. To me the biggest advantage to going paperless is the dramatic increase in data accessibility you get if your paperless workflow is implemented properly. While there is certainly a long-term cost savings to dramatically reducing paper usage, in my experience the culture shock associated with going paperless will almost always overwhelm any incentive to move from a paper workflow to digital. However, what I have found with this study is that much of the “culture shock” of going paperless can be alleviated if you follow a sound workflow and adopt a few really powerful tools. Given all of this, the real “carrot at the end of the stick” that will eventually win over the masses to paperless is the ability to always be able to access your data. I’ve found that people don’t completely understand just how valuable this is until you are in a situation where you have the data you need at your fingers and they don’t...then they are immediately sold!

Data Accessibility

Being able to easily search for and access all of your data anywhere you happened to be when you need that data is the killer feature of paperless workflow. There are several pieces that must come together for this to happen though:

  • Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
  • A ubiquitous format to store your documents for long-term that is readable by almost every system and document management application
  • An internet capable central storage location for your digital documents (like iCloud, Dropbox or Evernote)
  • A portable device capable of searching & accessing your documents (like an iPad or an iPhone...come on I’m an Apple geek, you had to have seen that coming)

Findings and Recommendations

As part of this paperless study at work I have adopted a paperless workflow at home as well. While I haven’t been able to totally take advantage of having my work data everywhere I go (for security reasons), I have been able to at least reap some of the benefits, for example:

  1. OCR enables me to find any document on my work computer very quickly
  2. Less time managing my documents and more time spent using them
  3. Cleaner desk surface, its either in a “to scan” pile or its already digital

I have found that for the most part a high quality scanner (like the ScanSnap S1300i ) in combination with a few automation tools (which I will talk about in the next section when I detail my workflow) have taken all of the pain out of going paperless and made it an incredibly efficient and effortless task to maintain. However, buying everyone at work a high quality document scanner is hardly cost efficient. Enter the latest Fujitsu Scan Snap series scanner, the ScanSnap iX500. If your organization is looking to go paperless then this device is a good way to go. The ScanSnap iX500 does all of the OCR computations on its built-in microprocessor, which enables the scanner to be used in a central location by many people without having to be connected to a dedicated computer. The ScanSnap iX500 can be used to automatically scan directly to your mobile device (both iOS and Android apps are available), bypassing the need to use a computer. Granted you would still need to transfer the scanned document securely from your mobile device to your work computer, I don’t see this as too difficult of a task. I have found that most of the daily tasks I am involved with at work are already paperless. So a walk to a centrally located scanner may only be a couple of times a week activity for most.

Going Paperless at Home

My particular program at work has already gone mostly paperless, so for me to really put a paperless workflow through its paces I needed to go paperless at home as well. So every other weekend I took my ScanSnap S1300i home. Now I could have gone really crazy and started scanning all the years of paper I had filed away, but I do have a life. So I opted instead to start going paperless just on the new items that hit our mailbox, desk, family room and kitchen counters from the day I first brought the scanner home. I have a set of 6 hanging "inboxes" next to our desk at home, so we started collecting all of the paper we wanted to keep in those "inboxes" until the weekend for me to bring the scanner home from work rolled around. Then it was time to start the process of scanning my paper and then the REALLY fun part...shredding the paper after its scanned!

My Paperless Workflow

The last item I wanted to share is the paperless workflow that I have adopted and have been sucessfully using for the past several months. The following list of software tools (along with the scanner mentioned above) are what I use in my workflow and are very specific to the Mac operating system. There are Windows equivalent tools out there, but I’m not a window guy so I’m not the best person to talk about Windows tools. In Paperless, David Sparks details these tools as well as their Windows counterparts. The tools I use are:

I basically follow the workflow suggested in the Paperless iBook by David Sparks, which is:

  1. Scan the document with the ScanSnap S1300i, which OCRs the document and saves it as a PDF in a folder on my desktop
  2. A Hazel rule watches for documents that meet a certain criteria and the document is appropriately renamed automatically based on the document contents and date of processing or publication (depending on how I setup the rule)
  3. That same Hazel rule then moves that renamed file into its final location on my computer (typically a folder categorized by mission...so no action taken by me except for the physical act of scanning the document)
  4. Textexpander is used for the cases for which I don’t have a Hazel rule, it quickly renames the file and then I manually move the file where it needs to go
  5. I then use PDFPenPro for Mac if I need to OCR a PDF I receive via other methods or for scanning them myself when I use the MFD (Muli-Function Device) scanner for a particularly large document (and the MFD does not OCR the document)
  6. I then use PDFPen for iPad to access, read and modify/take notes on PDFs

For those not already familiar with these tools:

Hazel is an automation tool that watches for changes to a specific folder and takes any number of different user defined actions on that file.

Textexpander is a keyboard shortcut tool (plus so much more) that can take a specified text string like “;date” and replace it with the current date in a format specified by the user (2013-04-09 for example).

That is pretty much my basic workflow for going paperless. It seems more complicated than it really is. My suggestion...take it one step at a time and only try to bring in one new tool or automation feature at a time and only if you really need it. The uses for all of the tools listed above are by no means limited to just my paperless workflow. I find myself using these tools on a daily basis for many tasks both at work and at home. Also I should mention that I have to turn off the iCloud syncing option in PDFPen for iPad and sync all my documents via the dock connector through iTunes. Many of the PDF documents I use at work, due to the content, is not able to be stored on a non-secure server like iCloud, Dropbox or Evernote so I still manage transferring those documents with a physical connection. Most people reading this blog probably won't have these sensitive data restrictions so you should be able to take full advantage of cloud service like like iCloud, Dropbox or Evernote.

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