Category Archives: Computer Geekiness

Siri Shortcuts and Workflow

Siri Shortcuts & Workflow

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) kicked off today and most of what was announced is interesting but nothing felt terribly revolutionary. Except for Siri Shortcuts. Siri Shortcuts is clearly what Apple has done with Workflow, which they purchased last year. I’ve used Workflow for iOS for some time now, but only recently have I started doing more and more with it. It has the ability to speak to various apps using URL schemes supported by the various apps (and using the x-callback scheme to get data back from them). It’s amazingly powerful and I have workflows that replicate an iTunes Playlist to my Spotify account or vice verse, alert my wife when I am on my way home complete with map and an ETA, to move items between Things, Trello, and Ulysses (it’s complicated), and so forth. (For the best collection of cool workflows and excellent descriptions of same, see the writings of Frederico Vittici at especially in their weekly newsletter, Club MacStories.

A workflow to set a slack reminder for myself
A workflow to set a slack reminder for myself

Sometime in the last while they also added the ability for Workflow to be able to talk to APIs using GET or POST. This is especially interesting to me as I work with a number of APIs in my day job, both external services we talk to and our own web applications. I use Paw on my Mac to test these APIs out but in my ever-ongoing quest to do more and more on my iPad Pro, having a tool that can do this there is gold to me. I haven’t started playing with it yet but I did push off the reminder in Slack all day today (hopefully I’ll get time to check it out tomorrow).

My great fear is that Apple’s reimagining of Workflow into Siri Suggestions, while adding all the power of Siri to control the shortcuts themselves, will also include a significant reduction in capabilities. Apple has had a track record of taking complex solutions and paring them down to, presumably, make them simpler, easier, and more elegant for their end users. But Workflow is a power tool and I would hate to lose any of the amazing functionality it currently offers.

Unfortunately, the new Siri Shortcuts app is not included in the initial beta 1 release of iOS 12 (and before my developer friends give me crap for installing it while not actually developing anything currently let me point out that I am using a work iPad Mini 4 that I have mostly stopped using in favor of my own personal iPad Pro. So it can be safely destroyed by a beta operating system and rebuilt from scratch with no ill effects to me or my current workflow). Since it is not included, I cannot test it out or see whether it is missing the features I consider essential.

That’s the only feature of iOS that jumped out at me as it is something that pertains to my own work. Most of the rest of the features look fun and I am looking forward to playing with them.

Update: Apple didn’t nerf it!

Fixing “Trust this computer” Problem

I had a strange problem crop up on my iMac running Yosemite and both of my iDevices (iPhone 6, iPad 4). When I plugged either in, I would get a dialog on the iMac saying photos could not be imported because the device was locked. On the devices themselves, I would be asked to Trust this computer. This happened every. single. time.

In the system.log, there were error messages to the tune of:

11/7/14 7:16:52.086 AM usbmuxd[57]: AMDeviceConnect (thread 0x1002fe000): Could not connect to lockdown port (62078) on device 1076 - [long ID number here]: 0xe8000084.

Digging further, I discovered that there is a directory, /var/db/lockdown, that contains a plist for each device connected to the Mac over the years (and since I have been leading an iOS Dev Team for Ozmott, I had a lot of devices listed in there!) and it seems that, for some reason, changes were no longer taking. I am not sure why. There were no errors related to permissions or otherwise.

On the advice of a thread I found online after some extensive Googling, I removed the lockdown directory. Theoretically, it would be recreated by the system. However, it wasn’t. Now when I connected my devices, I got the following errors:

11/7/14 7:22:44.510 AM[57]: WriteDataToPath unable to create file /var/db/lockdown//SystemConfiguration.plist.tmp: No such file or directory.
11/7/14 7:22:44.510 AM[57]: CreateAndStoreBUID WriteDataToPath failed: No such file or directory

So, I created a new lockdown directory using sudo mkdir lockdown. Then the errors changed to:

11/7/14 7:27:09.767 AM[57]: WriteDataToPath unable to create file /var/db/lockdown//SystemConfiguration.plist.tmp: Permission denied.
11/7/14 7:27:09.767 AM[57]: CreateAndStoreBUID WriteDataToPath failed: Permission denied

The directory was owned by root (because I created it using sudo) and clearly needed to belong to the usbmuxd process. Directories belonging to processes are named for the process preceded by an underscore. So I executed: sudo chown _usbmuxd lockdown.

That worked. Plugging in my devices resulted in the same dialogs as before but once I told the iDevices to trust the computer, new plist files were created for each and subsequent connects/disconnects have not had the errors recur. We’ll see if this sticks over time but at least I know how to fix it, even if temporarily.

Update 18 December 2014: The problem routinely returns. After I leave my computer running for a day or so, the problem comes back. I haven’t needed to resort to the fix above as simply rebooting my computer fixes it. It’s safe to say that something I am running on my machine is responsible. Now for the sleuthing…

Update 15 January 2015: Solved! Thanks to this thread on Stack Overflow, I have a solution that works! When this happens, open up a terminal and type

sudo launchctl stop

And it restarts the broken usbmuxd process and things are happy again.

This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

I just noticed that I have 9000 unpublished comments to posts made here in the last year or so. They are all spam, or all the ones I have bothered to check, anyway.

So, screw that. I’m done with comments. Gone. Bye. No comments on my blog anymore. So few of you comment anyway and those of you with things to say can say it in other forums, like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Email, or, Gods Forbid: In person!

Latest Article Published: Apple’s new Podcasts App

My latest article, Podcasts App Breaks Podcasts out of Music App, is now online over at In it I review Apple’s latest app, Podcasts. Quick preview: it’s very much a 1.0 application but has potential.

Great Article about Ozmott

There’s a great article about Ozmott in the Ticker, a Traverse City, MI publication. It does a great job of explaining what the app does and where we are headed.

Reunion 10 Article

My article on Reunion 10 for Mac is now live on And with that, I am now back into genealogy after close to a decade away. What’s nice, and I mention this in the article, is that in my first ten minutes of using Reunion 10, I found a set of great great great grandparents I didn’t previously know about!


Interview in Social Media Week

I was interviewed for Social Media Week on the topic of Children and Social Media. While I do think about this topic a great deal (as is evidenced by how much I’ve written and spoken on the subject), I am turning my attention to how I, as an adult, communicate with my Facebook friends who are under 18 year of age (yes, an article is being written). It’s an interesting topic mainly because I am still figuring it all out for myself. If anyone has any insights from their own experiences, I’d love to hear them.

Why Panera Doesn’t Get It

Now that I am co-starting a company with a college friend, I have no office to drive to every day. So, to mix it up and keep myself fresh and focused, I am rotating through working at home and working at Starbucks, Panera, Borders, and anywhere else I can find with WiFi and good coffee.

Today, I am at Panera. A few moments ago, at 11:30AM, I was dropped off the network (it took me a moment to figure out what happened) and had to do their silly little reconnect thing to get back on. The screen informed me that I only have 30 minutes left. That during the lunch hours they only allow 30 minutes online.

This is, put simply, very short-sighted on their part. I would have sat here until early afternoon when I have commitments elsewhere and continued working. And I would have bought lunch and likely a snack as well as the day wore on. But by kicking me off WiFi at noon, I am forced to leave. They lose a lunch customer and they lose me wanting to use their place as my office away from office and thus they lose my business.

I can think of a few reasons why this policy makes sense to them. Perhaps they want to make sure that there are enough open seats for the lunch rush by ensuring turnover. But if that’s the case, the argument holds little water. They certainly aren’t hurting for people coming in at lunch and if they lack tables for all of them, then those people will get take out. How often do you see people look in, not see tables free, and then leave? Maybe at a restaurant but at a Panera? I doubt it.

And I think they lose more business by being hostile to workers like me who likely to spend more money over the course of a day than someone who just comes in for lunch.

Oh well. I have food at home anyway that needs eating. And tomorrow when I go out to find a place to work, you can bet it won’t be Panera.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

JWU Presentation

Last week, I gave a one hour (or so) presentation on Project Management at Johnson and Wales University. I was invited to speak by Bridge Technical Solutions. I spoke about my own career trajectory and how I ended up in Project Management and what being a PM is like out in the real world. I called the talk “Stories from the Trenches” and focused on three large projects I had worked on among the many in my career and what lessons can be learned from them. I also spoke about my strong belief that it is the responsibility of a PM to always be honest with their clients and to have a strong core of integrity in everything he or she does. I was very pleased when one of the students attending thanked me specifically for that sentiment.

Bridge’s blog about my talk can be found here: BRIDGE Coordinates Speaker at Local University to Give Students a Taste of Real World Experience « Bridge Technical Solutions’ Blog

I am debating putting the deck online. I am just not sure that the bullets are as useful or as compelling as the actual talking itself.

Blogging & Social Networking… Too Many Tools!

I am having social network fatigue. First, there are the long-form posting sites — my main blog, Posterous and Tumblr (though the latter may be argued as a short-form site too). Then there’s the quick snippet land of Facebook and Twitter. Then there’s the GPS-aware side of things like Foursquare, Loopt, MyTown, and Yelp! (I have since given up on Gowalla and Brightkite as not being particularly interesting to me).

The GPS group are getting a long form post from me soon enough as I have been evaluating them with an eye towards a blog post for some time now. At least that’s how I justify to my wife my continued use of them…

What I’m trying to figure out now is how I should talk to the world without having to worry about where I am writing. I am not a power blogger. I don’t really feel the need to blast 20 posts a day out there and I am not trying to set myself up as an expert in any particular field to make my site a destination for those in that field and resume fodder. I could just do things in my WordPress site and have my Posterous and Tumblr sites auto-carry the posts or at least links back to them and have links auto-posted to Twitter and Facebook. But I also like the ultra-simplicity offered by Tumblr and Posterous. It is just easier to pull a post together.

And then there’s the fact that I like posting pictures from my iPhone (not so much text — while I don’t hate the iPhone keyboard, I am just not interested in trying to type a lot on it) and I feel that it is much easier to go directly to Facebook or Tumblr than it is my WP site (yes, I have the app, I still find it a longer process than these other methods).

Maybe my problem is that I can’t commit to just one program and stick to that. I like so much of each of them that I want the freedom to use all of them whenever I feel like it.

I wonder what the rest of the world does. Where do you post and where do you ignore? How important is it to you to get your stuff out to as many sites as possible versus using just one and trusting that your audience (friends, family, whoever) can and will find it?