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★ Sometimes It’s Better to Just Start Over With iCloud Photo Library Syncing

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Early this week I noticed that I wasn’t able to use the Instant Hotspot feature with my iPhone XS. That’s the feature where you can leave the cellular hotspot turned off in Settings, but enable it on-the-fly from a Mac when you connect via the Wi-Fi menu. These “Personal Hotspots” show up at the top of the list of available Wi-Fi networks, in their own special section of the menu. My Wi-Fi menu no longer listed my iPhone, only my iPad. If I went into the iPhone’s Settings app and enabled the Personal Hotspot manually — i.e. turned it on and left it on — my iPhone’s hotspot was listed as a regular Wi-Fi network on my Mac, and when I connected, it worked just fine. So the hotspot worked, but the magic Instant Hotspot feature wasn’t working.

I tried rebooting the Mac and iPhone, of course. No dice. I reset network settings on the phone. No dice. I then noticed that my iPhone’s name (Settings → General → About → Name) had been changed to “iPhone”. Not even “John’s iPhone”, which is the default when you set up a new iPhone. Just plain “iPhone”. I changed it back to my custom name. Rebooted the phone again. Still no Instant Hotspot. And then eventually the device name was changed back to “iPhone” again. Weird, right? This was all on the release version of iOS 12.0.1, by the way.

I had a trip to New York coming up, and wanted to fix this. I did some searching on the web and eventually stumbled on a thread that suggested signing out of iCloud and then signing back in. This makes some sense, because all of these Continuity features go through iCloud. So I did that on the iPhone, and, long story short, that seemed to fix the issue. After one more reboot of the phone, Instant Hotspot was working perfectly.

A side effect of signing out of and back into iCloud is that it seemed to reset my iPhone’s photo library sync state. It didn’t delete my photos, but once I was signed back in to iCloud, the Photos app was trying to re-upload my entire library (over 28,000 photos 1,100 videos) back to iCloud. I don’t think it was actually uploading them — I think that’s just the word Photos uses to indicate what it’s doing — but rather checking each of the photos on the phone against each of the photos in my iCloud library.

It got through most of them fairly quickly, but the last 4,500 or so were effectively stuck. This process was proceeding really slowly. Profoundly slowly. I kept the phone plugged in last night and checked every hour, and it was only processing about 15 or 16 items per hour. I let it run overnight and it only moved from 4,183 remaining items to just over 4,000.

Effectively, I think what happens is that when you turn off iCloud Photo Library, it leaves all the photos and videos on your phone in your local library. When you turn iCloud Photo Library back on, it has no idea which of the items in your local iPhone library are duplicates of items in your iCloud library, and so it has to check them one by one. Whatever algorithm it’s using for this is slow as molasses.

Adam Engst wrote about a similar problem on the Mac earlier this year:

I was seeing some strange problems on my 27-inch iMac running macOS 10.13.3 High Sierra. Messages wasn’t getting or sending messages, Wi-Fi calling wasn’t working, and after upgrading to 10.13.3, I was unable to enable auto-unlock with my Apple Watch. To solve these problems, I turned iCloud off and back on. Despite the iCloud preference pane throwing an ominous error, the problems did indeed disappear.

However, there’s a nasty side effect of turning iCloud off and back on: iCloud Photo Library needs to re-upload all your photos. It does this in order to compare the library’s contents to the synchronization “truth” at iCloud. Fair enough, except that this process can take days, depending on the size of your Photos library and the speed of your Internet connection. Bad Apple! We don’t see that sort of poor performance with Dropbox or Google Drive, and this behavior is both unnecessary and driving people away from iCloud Photo Library.

That’s pretty much exactly what I was seeing on my iPhone.

What surprised me about this isn’t just that it’s so dreadfully slow, but that iCloud Photo Library has gotten amazingly good in the last few years. It’s not just very reliable, but very fast. I took a lot of photos using three different iPhones (my old iPhone X, and my review unit iPhones XS and XS Max) while writing my XS review last month. And I worked on the review on two different Macs. Every photo and video I took on every iPhone synced to all the other devices in a matter of seconds every single time. iCloud Photo Library made the whole process ridiculously easy.

Wiping and restoring my entire iPhone seemed like overkill when the only issue I was having was photo syncing. So my next idea was to delete all the photos from my phone and start over from scratch with iCloud Photo Library.

So here’s what I did, and it seems to have worked. First, I eyeballed all the recent photos and videos I’d shot using my iPhone and double-checked that they had all already been synced to iCloud. They were — I could see all my recent shots on my other devices.

Next, I disabled iCloud Photo Library on my iPhone again. You do that by going into the Apple ID section of Settings (where your name is shown at the very top of the root level) → iCloud → Photos and turned off everything. When it asked if I wanted to download a copy of the photos and videos from my iCloud library I declined.

Next, I wanted to delete every single photo and video from my iPhone. To my knowledge there is no easy way to do this on the iPhone itself. (There are a lot of tasks like this that are easy on the Mac thanks to Edit → Select All that are painfully tedious on iOS.) I connected the iPhone to my Mac with a Lightning cable and used Image Capture to delete all photos and videos from my phone. Image Capture just treats the iPhone like a regular camera. Image Capture crashed three times during this process (I’m still running MacOS High Sierra 10.13.6, for what it’s worth), but after the fourth run the iPhone had no photos or videos left.

Then I re-enabled iCloud Photo Library on the phone, and about 20 minutes later, everything was back to normal. My iPhone reported exactly the same number of photos and videos in my library as on all my other devices. Most of those items are still just placeholders, even as I write this, but they’re filling in steadily — which is exactly how iCloud Photo Library works when you start syncing a large library to a new device.

So if you temporarily turn off iCloud Photo Library and turn it back on, it might be easier to just delete all your photos from your iPhone first, and let them all sync back from iCloud.

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Belfong
9 days ago
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Happens to me a few times.. good to know..
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✚ How and when do I carve out time to read distraction free?

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September and October have been good to us readers this year. I have a pile of brand-new books that I can’t wait to dive into.

Yesterday I tweeted about how if you’re also diving into a new book (or 5) then you might be interested in how to build your own, alternate index of notes and ideas. Having your own index is, to me, a game-changing strategy for reading and studying any non-fiction book. (See also: My approach to learning and taking action.)

In response to my above tweet, I was asked how and when I’m able to carve out time to read.

Well, the way to make time for reading is the same way you make time for anything else. You pick a time (schedule it) and then you show up.

  • I wake up an hour before my kids in order to make time for my workout and to read.
  • After the kids go to bed and I have tidied up the house, I try to read for at least 15 minutes before doing anything like watching a show or working on other projects.
  • Before going to bed I read for 20 – 30 minutes. This is usually fiction (if I read non-fiction business or finance books, then my brain gets going and I can’t wind down for sleep).
  • Saturday and Sunday afternoons we (usually) have quiet time during my youngest son’s nap. While my older two are doing their quiet activity, I will usually read for a bit.

To be candid, I don’t read nearly as much as I’d like to. And I have two things I want to adjust in my daily rhythm to make more time for reading and studying. One of them is to switch to audio books rather than podcasts when I’m driving in the car. The other is to make more space for reading at the start of my work day and in the afternoon. I’d like to at least double the amount of time I spend reading each day.

However… right now I am focused primarily on a new workout routine (which is something I hope to write about soon), and I have about three more weeks to go before I feel that my new workout habits will begin to settle in and become easier to follow through with.

I try to only focus on one big area of change in my life at a time. And since I’m focusing on my health right now, I’m not worried about changing my reading habits just yet. I will wait until I’ve hit a stride with my new workout routine and thus can give my energy to focus on building a new reading routine.

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Belfong
9 days ago
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Good tip. My problem is that I needed an uninterrupted time in order for me to enjoy my book but these days, it is hard to find 40-80 minutes stretch.
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Exclusive: WhatsApp Cofounder Brian Acton Gives The Inside Story On #DeleteFacebook And Why He Left $850 Million Behind

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W hatsApp cofounder Brian Acton, 46, sits in a cafe of the glitzy Four Seasons Hotel in Palo Alto, California, and the only way you’d guess he might be worth $3.6 billion is the $20 tip he briskly leaves for his coffee. Sturdily built and wearing a baseball cap and

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Belfong
22 days ago
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Elon Musk Is Sued by S.E.C. in Move That Could Oust Him

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Matthew Goldstein and Emily Flitter, reporting for The New York Times:

At issue is Mr. Musk’s declaration on Twitter last month that he had “funding secured” to buy out the stock of the electric-car maker. The prospect created a firestorm on social media and in the markets that sent Tesla’s shares soaring.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in New York, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused Mr. Musk of committing fraud by making false public statements with the potential to hurt investors. The suit seeks to bar Mr. Musk, who is also Tesla’s chairman, from serving as an executive or director of publicly traded companies like Tesla. Such a punishment is one of the most serious remedies the S.E.C. can impose against a corporate executive. […]

The S.E.C. said Mr. Musk “knew or was reckless in not knowing” that his statements were false or misleading. “In truth and in fact, Musk had not even discussed, much less confirmed, key deal terms, including price, with any potential funding source,” the S.E.C. said in its lawsuit.

I don’t know if he’s going to be forced out, but there’s no question he did exactly what the S.E.C. says he did. There’s no nuance to it. He committed securities fraud in a tweet.

Link: nytimes.com/2018/09/27/business/elon-musk-sec-lawsuit-tesla…

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Belfong
23 days ago
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It's bizarre that a stupid tweet can bring down one of the most famous and brilliant CEO and yet, tons of bizarre tweets cannot bring down a President of United States.
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★ Max Krieger’s Twitter Threads on Design

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A few nights ago I stumbled upon an excellent thread on Twitter by Max Krieger on the design of Sony’s ambitious but ill-fated Metreon complex in San Francisco. If you’ve ever been to Moscone for a conference, you know the Metreon — it’s the big weird mall across the street from Moscone West.

I found several things interesting about this:

  • Twitter threads can be annoying at times, compared to reading a regular old article. But when done well, they’re engaging. Krieger is a natural at the format — breaking all his thoughts into tweet-sized chunks and including plenty of photos illustrating his points. And Twitter clients are good at displaying multiple images in a carousel.

  • Krieger used the thread to promote his Kickstarter campaign for a puzzle game he’s making. As Ben Thompson noted, this is a great marketing idea. It looks like a cool game, and it’s 85 percent funded with less than a week to go. I backed it simply to thank Krieger for these terrific design threads.

  • Cabel Sasser mentioned that Krieger had previously done a similar thread on Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland. I love Tomorrowland, so I wanted to read that one too.

  • I searched for “max krieger tomorrowland thread” in my favorite search engine, hoping to find his tweet starting that thread. Instead, the top result gave me something even better: a collection of five design threads from Krieger — the new Metreon one, Disney Quest, EPCOT, Tomorrowland, and The Cheesecake Factory (which Krieger describes as “a fully immersive ‘postmodern design hellscape’ themed dining experience”) — on a website I somehow hadn’t heard of before called Thread Reader. Thread Reader does just what you think it does: it collects Twitter threads on a single web page. It’s exactly what I wanted.

  • Twitter and the good old fashioned World Wide Web can still be great.

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Belfong
234 days ago
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Interesting to learn about Thread Reader website!
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Yes, the Future

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Remember how I wrote a while back about how games with microtransactions are inherently ruined, because the desired player state is not engagement and satisfaction, but purchasing?

Here we go.

A presentation given to gaming companies was leaked (by someone terrified by our dystopian future, I assume). Here's the setup:
The paper's slide-deck and signed papers (with corrections) were leaked to the web by an unknown source, with bits of information (names, brands) redacted. It has too much information to be dismissed off hand for being a prank.

Yeah, it's definitely not a prank.

Here's a link to the full presentation (don't read it in the dark), but let me extract a few particularly sleazy moments for you.

Previous dynamic pricing models caused backlash because customers viewed selectively increased charges as unfair. Our [pricing] models go under people's radars by disguising dynamic prices as rewards instead of indirect taxations.
...We show how a customer is targeted by our Reddit AI Chatbot H.A.N.K. and is persuaded to return to a previous product they had otherwise publicly disavowed. Those responses are not generated by a human! They are created out of AI's problem set being to resolved our stated goal of manipulating the customer into reactivating themselves. H.A.N.K.'s targeting can extend to additional social media platforms.
...The AI was able to determine when a user was laying down and had the phone in their lap in their bedroom based on GSM data. After a few minutes, users were being targeted for many "free bonus", non-revenue generating gameplay ads, and the AI severely discouraged premium ads. The AI found a correlation between this specific sitting position and increased revenue in the following days. 
...The AI has a subroutine specifically for high value distraction events. A distraction event is something that a user will prioritize attention to over the game... for example, is a user is in their home and 100% of the time a child crying ends a game session, that is a high or maximum value distraction event. The AI begins a new testing lifecycle that starts when the game session closes. It will patiently lie in wait for the high value distraction event to end, then it tries to learn what actions it can take in order to create a new lucrative gaming session from the user. 
...This Artificial Frustration Event pattern was built off this player's personal frustration past. Frustration was induced during a natural gameplay event. Specifically, this user died while they were attacking an enemy human player in an arena that had the characteristics of being higher level than them, had very low health at the end of the fight, had shown to hit their random critical strikes often, had an above-0 spectator count, and ended after more than triple the time an arena fight normally takes...The AI then loads a new goal to increase revenues...After it finds a pattern, it will introduce premium solutions we've preset to each of these problems. For example, level boosts, Critical Strike booster, and other pay-to-win avenues. In this case, low health victory was the main cause of frustration. The AI recommended an MVA to the player, with the player bought. The player was then paired against other people who were vulnerable to the same target vector (Frustration Quick) and the MVA caused frustration to the new player during their natural gameplay event.

Well, I guess you need to go take a shower now after reading this. Go ahead, I'll wait.

The basis of this foul beast is a monitoring program that the user can choose to opt out of, but they have to opt out.

If they don't, then the program collects audio data from their cellphones and analyzes it to identify thousands of possible sounds that indicate a user's current state. They can also use data from wifi and GPS to construct a model of the user's environment.

Oh, and there's a social media AI to manipulate the user into engaging with a game or returning. Incredible.

Most incredibly, and this is so far off the Known Chart of Evil that I have no frame of reference, it's manipulating the outcome of user versus user competition in games to influence the purchase of premium in-game items. Then, when the poor sap has purchased the premium item, they match him against another poor sap who HASN'T purchased the booster yet.

And so it goes.

Man, it depresses me so much to even by typing this shit out.

It seems like it's time to face some ugly truths:
1. This will get more evil and insidious, because there's so much money to be made.
2. Any game with micro-transactions that are not purely cosmetic is probably pure evil to some degree. There is no innocence here.
3. Any game with competitive multiplayer that also has pay to win mechanics is infested beyond hope.

Based on the presentation, Orwell was an optimist.

Is there any way to protect ourselves from this? Well, never buying a game with micro-transactions seems like a good place to start.

All those "free" games? Nope. Apparently, freedom is never free, as the saying goes. Or something like that.

Also, if a game has competitive multiplayer, but offers pay-to-win in any form, no matter how seemingly mild, run away. You are being manipulated beyond your ability to conceive, at a level of intrusiveness that is downright terrifying.

Big publishers? They're all doing it. If they don't say they're not doing it, they're doing it. And what they're doing is very, very dirty.

Fortunately, we're in a very bipolar era in gaming. Excellent little indie games are everywhere, and they're mostly wonderful, and because of that, we don't need to put up with any of this crap.

Not one bit of it.
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Belfong
242 days ago
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My god
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