Today’s Apple Feedback: Group Emails Send to All Email Addresses of Each Contact on iOS

I used to use Groups in the Contacts app a lot, sending a weekly newsletter to over a thousand people each week.  Yes, I know that’s a silly way to do it, but it was a long event email that was mostly automatically generated (via a perl script I wrote) and I had a cron job that emailed me the automatically generated portion each week.  Plus, this was something I’d set up over a decade ago, before MailChimp was really a thing.  All I had to do was add my little blurb and type in the name of the group, and I’d be done in under 5 minutes. It worked very well for me. Eventually, when Mobile Me got sunsetted and iCloud took over, Smart Groups were no longer supported, which was rather annoying, so I ended up maintaining 2 copies of the group: the smart group on one computer, and a static copy of the group that I occasionally refreshed that I could use on any iCloud-synced computer. Ever since then, bugs pop up all the time relating to Contacts and I’ve reported each one. Most of them have to do with Siri’s usage of Contacts, but they also often have to do with the propagation of duplicate Contact Cards.  This new bug however, has to do with how the Apple iOS Mail app handles contact Cards in a static group.  Here was my feedback to Apple today after a chat session with a Senior Apple Support Advisor:

I created a group in my iCloud contacts called “Settlers of Catan”, which includes my wife, for whom I have 4 email addresses. When I type “Catan” into the “To:” field of an email in Apple’s iOS Mail app and select the group from the list of options in the drop-down, it adds all 4 of her email addresses, which I hadn’t noticed until she complained that I was sending her 4 copies of each email to the group. This does not happen when I do the same thing on my MacBook Air (the Apple Mail.app on the computer only adds the first email). It does also happen on my iPhone 6s. I chatted with a Senior Support Advisor from Apple and it turns out he has the same problem and was unable to resolve the issue. He submitted this same feedback as well. Please fix this.

The advisor I chatted with had had me try a number of things, including creating a new group, etc.  I even upgraded my version of iOS to the latest (11.0).  He was unable to fix the issue. All he could do was suggest I create a duplicate contact card for my wife that only had one of her email addresses.  I told him I’d rather manually edit the email’s “To” field after selecting the group, but thanks.  So he suggested I submit the feedback above.

I took a screenshot which shows that by selecting the group, it would add 4 email addresses for my wife (Zoë) even though the group had only 1 Contact Card for her in it:

IMG_0146.PNG

While chatting with the specialist, I mentioned another Contact-related issue and the advisor believed that it was related (because it had to do with determining what to do when dealing with ambiguous situations and clarifying what the user wants). And it had to do with how Siri responds when instructed “Tell my _____…”, such as: “Tell my mom I’m running late”. This is an instruction that relies on relationships stored in my Contact card to link it with other contact cards, such as my mom “Jane Doe”.  Often times, Siri’s response is something like this: “Which Jane Doe? Tap the one you want”, and it gives me a list containing 2 names: my mom’s name and my own name.

Here’s what I think is happening here… Siri is supposed to clear up ambiguities if she doesn’t have enough information. If I said “Tell John…” and I have multiple contacts named John, Siri should ask me which John she’s supposed to send the message to. Likewise, if I happened to accidentally add another mom relationship to my card, Siri should ask me which mom I want.  Or if I try to message mom, but she has 2 mobile numbers listed, Siri should ask me which number to use. However, I think that in the case of relationships, Siri is blindly searching for occurrences of the name I specify in my contact cards and it’s finding them in my contact card because it’s there as a relationship. So when I instruct Siri to tell my mom…, she finds the card for Jane Doe because the name matches and she finds my card because her name is entered in my card as a relationship!

I have a number of relationships saved, like my mom, dad, sister, wife, doctor, dentist, etc..  I even have a few relationships I created for an IFTTT phone number.  I added these contacts so that I could ask Siri to send commands via text to IFTTT using hashtags. I have one named “Groceries” that appends text I send it to a groceries.txt file I have on Dropbox that I share with my wife. I have 2 others: “Air Conditioners” to control my AC window units via WeMo and “Mac Mini” to send text to my computer hooked up to my entertainment center so I can enter searches on Netflix without using a keyboard (very handy!). I used to instruct Siri to send messages to these contacts just using their “names”, however Apple eventually tried to make Siri too smart and so when she heard “Tell Groceries bread hashtag add”, she started searching google instead of texting my contact named “Groceries”.  I got around this erroneous behavior by adding the “Groceries” contact as a relationship of type “groceries”. So now I just tell Siri “Tell my Groceries bread hashtag add”.  And that used to work well until this latest issue popped up where Siri asks me now “Which Groceries? Tap the one you want”, listing Groceries and me as the two options to choose from.

The advisor believed that both issues are related, and have to do with how Apple’s software is handling ambiguity.  I’m not so sure.  Yes, they both have to do with ambiguity, but Siri’s logic happens on a remote Siri server and Apple’s Mail app (I believe) is not accessing a remote server to decide which of my wife’s emails to include when composing an email to a group.

Other issues which have also popped up in the paste couple years have been: Siri’s inability to distinguish “in-laws” from my own parents/siblings and Siri’s ability to send text messages to contacts with short phone numbers, like those used to check when the next NJ Transit bus will arrive at my bus stop.  I used to be able to instruct Siri to “Tell NJ Transit 22222” and she would send “22222” (a bus stop code) to the 5-digit NJ Transit phone number.  Eventually Siri started interpreting this command as “Tell NJ Transit to 2222”, which I got around by adding a “to” to my command: “Tell NJ Transit to 22222”.  (That’s not my bus stop number, but it obviously does start with a 2.)  And then of course, Siri just started wholly refusing to send any messages to NJ Transit at all, and I believe it was because the phone number is only 5 digits.

I believe that Apple is trying to make Siri too smart and they are just getting in my way.  I have seen however that Siri does learn some things.  If I keep trying multiple times to get Siri to for example, send a text to “Groceries”, first she does a web search a couple times. Then I tell Siri simple “Send a text message” When I respond to the question asking who I want to send it to with “Groceries”, it works, and then after doing that a few times, she will respond correctly the next time I ask her to “Tell Groceries…”.  Now I’m at the point where as I said, I have to say “Tell my Groceries…”.  And after having used that work-around for awhile, now Siri can’t distinguish between my own card and the one for groceries (or my mom).  When I complained to Apple about the in-laws issue, the advisor I ended up speaking to confirmed the bug on their end by reproducing it and they actually fixed it!  I insisted to them that it used to work, because I frequently used the feature to text my mother-in-law, who was helping me with a house I was selling remotely.

Apple keeps trying to make Siri smarter, and if you ask me, they keep doing it rather sloppily.  They frequently seem to overlook how their various features will behave.  The in-laws issue was a prime example. Someone obviously wrote some code to always parse out “mother” and connect it to a contact whose relationship is “mother”, regardless of whether a contact exists whose relationship was “mother-in-law”.  The existence of that possibility didn’t occur to some programmer out there.  It used to work and Siri even interpreted what I said by typing it out as “mother-in-law”, but would send a text to my mom starting with “In-law…”.

I can’t help but think that this sloppiness started appearing in Apple’s development environment after Steve Jobs died.  They’ve been removing OS features and mucking up functionality ever since.

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Turn On/Off Sighthound Security Cam Rules via IFTTT

We just moved, and in my last apartment, we lived on the second floor and I had my Foscam security camera [~$60] (which is controlled by the Basic version of Sighthound Video [$60]) trained on the only stairwell, which only captured people arriving or leaving. However in our new house, none of the doors are in locations where the camera only captures egress & ingress events.  There’s a bathroom right next to one door and the other is between the living room and the stairs.  Thus, anywhere I set up a security camera is bound to capture the regular activity inside the house. So I first experimented with setting the rules to make the cameras active during certain hours on the weekdays, which turned out pretty annoying, because my wife’s schedule is random.  What I needed was a way to turn the camera rules off & on based on when we arrive & leave the house, the same way I use WeMo to control the window unit air conditioners and the air filter.

I discovered that Sighthound has an IFTTT channel and an iOS app, but their IFTTT channel only has triggers upon motion detection and no “actions” that could be run using Life360 (the app I use to control the AC & filter – e.g. turn on when the first person arrives and off when the last leaves or vice versa).  So I emailed Sighthound to see if they had any tips for enabling and disabling camera rules.  They pointed me to one of their forums called Hacker’s Corner, where I got pointed in the right direction.

Here’s how to enable your security camera (rule) when the last person in your family leaves the house and disable the camera when the first person in your family arrives.

Continue reading

Siri Gives the In-Laws the Boot

I’m not sure how long ago it happened, but Siri stopped working when you refer to relationships that are in-laws (e.g. mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law, etc.).  It used to work.  I frequently use Siri to text my mother-in-law because she helps me with renters I have in the house I’m selling.  Sometimes I won’t text her for a month or two, so I suspect that the bug was introduced sometime (to be generous) in the past couple months, maybe 3, possibly longer.

So currently, if you tell Siri something like “Tell my mother-in-law I’m running late”, Siri sends the following text to your mother: “In-law I’m running late”. Now, if I hadn’t known this worked in the past, I would have thought “Oh, Siri just doesn’t work for the in-laws because it sees ‘mother’ first”.  But I knew Siri used to be able to tell the difference between mother-in-law and mother, so after a drawn-out debugging session to see if I could fix what may have been corruption in the relationships in my contact cards (which has happened in the past – I suspect not because of me), I called Applecare and got them to help me figure this out.  Long story short, I got upped to a senior advisor and we definitively ruled out any sort of iCloud/contacts corruption and isolated the problem to Siri’s server.  The advisor then contacted engineering and they confirmed it’s a system-wide bug that affects everyone.  The advisor reproduced the bug on his phone, as did the engineers at Apple.

So if you’ve tried to text an in-law or refer to an in-law in any other context recently and failed, I’m here to tell you that this is a bug on the Siri server that they are aware of and working on.  Here are some of the symptoms you’ll experience and what I and the advisor did to figure out the issue:

I first noticed the bug while driving and running late to the house I’m selling to help prepare it for an open house.  I said something like “Tell my mother-in-law I’ll be at the house in about a half an hour”.  When I realized that Siri had sent “In-law I’ll be at the house in about a half an hour” to my mom, I tried a couple more times with the same result.  So I then asked Siri who my mother-in-law was and it correctly responded with the name of my mother-in-law.  I then asked Siri who my mother was and again, it correctly responded.  Retried the text and again, it tried to send to my mother.

So then, suspecting a relationship corruption in my contact card, I went in and deleted both the mother and mother-in-law relationships.  As a sanity check, I tried to send a text to my mother-in-law and much to my surprise, Siri tried again to send a text to my mom. I went back into the contact card and the relationships were both still there.  So I deleted them again and tried to send the text again.  This time, Siri replied somewhat as I had initially expected and told me she didn’t know who my mother was.

Then I decided to tell Siri who my mother and mother-in-law were instead of enter them manually.  I told Siri who my mother was and after responding “yes” to the confirmation question, Siri (oddly) responded twice, saying “OK, I’ve added this relationship.” then immediately also said “OK… but I already know that <correct name> is your mother.”. Siri seemed however to accept both relationship settings and when I went into my contact card to confirm, they both were correctly entered.

However, after that, the erroneous behavior changed. Siri would no longer correctly respond to the query “Who is my mother-in-law?”.  She would always respond with my mother’s name.  Also, even though I had set both relationships, when I said “Tell my mother-in-law …”, Siri responded with “OK, do you want me to remember that <mother’s name> is your mother?”.

After deciding it wasn’t going to work, I decided to test father-in-law and got the same erroneous behavior as before.  So it wasn’t an issue restricted to mothers & mothers-in-law.  Nor was it an issue of improperly hearing what I was saying because my dictated words showing up on the screen were correct.  “Mother-in-law” even had the hyphens.

So at this point, I decided to call Apple.  They had my turn off Siri and do a soft reset of the phone (holding the power and home buttons down until the phone reset.  After that, they had me install the latest waiting update.  Neither proposed solution worked.

Then a few days later, with the problem still unresolved, I decided to try to test my other devices: an iPad and my Mac Mini.  Neither would work with the mother-in-law relationship.  So I called back and that’s when I got elevated to a senior advisor (Bill), who had me try disconnecting my iCloud account, create new contacts for myself and my “moms”, tell Siri who I was, and re-create the relationships. Siri still responded incorrectly when I referred to my mother-in-law. Bill was bewildered. He couldn’t believe this was actually a real bug. Somewhat reluctantly, he referred the issue to engineering because he couldn’t think of any other possible cause to the issue than a bug on the Siri server.

A few days later, I get a call from Bill saying that engineering confirmed that the bug is on the Siri server.  He had reproduced it on his phone, as had the engineers. He told me they were working on a fix, but in the meantime, in-law relationships simply would not work.

While I have run into multiple relationship/Siri issues, this was the first time I’d actually gotten solid confirmation from Apple that it was a bug on their Siri server. I’d encountered what I’ll refer to as “duplicate hidden relationships” before during another issue I’ve blogged about in the past.  I’m not sure if that’s related, but I suspect that when I had had to delete my mother relationships twice, it was because of these duplicate hidden entries – one for my contact card and maybe one for Siri?  But that’s just speculation on my part.  Regardless, there have been multiple issues with Siri and relationships in the past and I have a few other issues on the back burner I eventually intend to bring up with Applecare.

Adding “Open With ►” Functionality to a Folder

If you right-click a file in the Finder, you are presented with a contextual menu, and the top 2 items are to “Open” the file or “Open With ►” with opens another sub menu off to the side with selections for different apps that the Finder thinks can handle that sort of file.

openwith.png

Folders are a little different.  They are the Finder’s bread & butter, yet the Finder only presents you with a single way to open it (in the Finder).

openfolder4.png

There are some apps which can open folders and do things with them, so it would be nice to be able to open a folder from the Finder in the app of our choice, just like we can do with files.

Well, there is a way we can do that, albeit with a little more movement of the cursor.  To do this, we’ll take advantage of a Finder feature known as services. Continue reading

Today’s Apple Feedback: Mission Control Doesn’t Handle its Most Frequent Use Case

Mission Control has vastly improved since 10.7, but it still lacks support for the most frequent use-case that was supported back in the days of 10.6.8 – the case where each desktop (space) was a separate project, whose work involved multiple windows from the same set of apps. The recent updates of macOS have consolidated much of the functionality and handled some of the complaints, such as allowing users to un-group application windows (which probably saved Mission Control from the trash bin). It’s actually very nice to have desktop selection and window selection in the same consolidated screen, but if you have multiple windows open in multiple apps and want to switch between say, a selection of 5 TextEdit windows and you have 5 Terminal windows, a few Preview windows, and image editor, a few browser windows, Messages, Slack, etc., and each of 6 desktops has pretty much the same layout, your options are:

  1. Choose among a sea of 30+ windows from all apps on the current desktop
  2. Choose among a sea of 30+ TextEdit windows from all desktops
  3. Hit command-backtick or shift-command-backtick an unknown number of times

You may deride the habit of working on a desktop with so many windows like this, but in my line of work, I find it quite necessary.  Let me walk you through a few examples.

Text Files: I’m a computational biologist.  I work with lots of sources of data, (usually ascii text), and switch back and forth frequently.  Seeing the format of the data is much faster and easier in terms of quickly identifying it than identifying it by filename, which is usually based off a root filename, thus all look very similar.  Thus efficient switching between data sources is much easier by having them open as separate windows.  Besides, TextEdit doesn’t have a tabbed interface.  Some text editors do, but I’ve tried many of them and they usually don’t support one of the many features of TextEdit I frequently use.  But I’m going off on a tangent here…

Terminal Windows: I’m usually running pipeline analyses, installing tools, testing commands, etc concurrently.  While Terminal does have a tabbed interface, again, it’s more efficient to see in an instant what is done and what’s not, to keep one history of commands in one context short (for reference later), to call up documentation to head/tail/cat huge files without forcing pipeline steps off the window buffer, or to test out commands without littering the history with stuff that errors out. I know colleagues who extol the virtues of screen and other utilities that break up a terminal window, but I don’t like those methods of window management because you cannot search the window buffer with a multi-line search, which I do frequently (I don’t see how other people get along without that ability, honestly).  And other terminal apps don’t support features like option-arrow and multi-line search.

Preview Windows: Since many of my projects involve code development, I’m frequently taking screen-caps and screen-recordings of bugs and using image editors to mockup proposed interfaces.  This inherently leads to multiple windows.

Even with these 3 apps and a smattering of other 1-window apps (Messages, Slack, a browser window or 2 – though I tend to average around 5, and a smattering of finder windows), switching between windows is a task that could be much more efficient if Mission Control’s “Application Windows” feature simply allowed you to limit the array of windows to only those on the current desktop (e.g. 5 windows) instead of dragging all windows from all desktops and also throwing recently open files to boot, resulting in 30+ open and recently opened windows from 6 projects.

Thus, “Application Windows” is pretty much a useless feature to me.  Aggregating all those windows, even those that aren’t even open, is a huge mess.  Thus, I’ve gotten used to switching between windows of the same app by using command-backtick or shift-command-backtick.  Mission Control is usually useless in this regard too, with the app windows being mixed among other app windows.  As such, I usually use Mission Control almost exclusively to change desktops/projects, yet in the most recent version of macOS (Sierra 10.12), the default Mission Control view minimizes the desktop thumbnails.  So the first thing I always have to do is hover to reveal the desktop thumbs, and additional step that was pointlessly added.  At the very least, give us a setting to always show the thumbnails!

Let’s move on to the inconsistencies of app switching.  Safari’s feature to reveal a downloaded file results in a Finder window can only live on 1 desktop.  And revealing a file when that window is not on the current desktop results in a disorienting behavior of switching to the Finder and the downloads folder is nowhere to be seen.

Switching to an app with no window on the current desktop results in different behavior depending on whether another desktop has a window open from that app, despite setting the system preference to not switch desktops when switching apps.  Take Safari for example.  If Safari doesn’t have any windows open anywhere, clicking Safari in the dock opens a new browser window.  Clicking Safari when there is no Safari window on the current desktop (but one exists on another desktop) does not open a new Safari window. Clicking Safari in the dock a second time switches to a random Safari window on another desktop (i.e. project – which I never want to do when clicking the dock).  Even clicking Safari once in the dock when Safari is currently the foremost app changes to a random desktop with a Safari window.  The point here is that Apple has trained us to click the Safari Dock icon to get a new window when none are currently open, and this goes against the desire to separate projects by desktop.  It’s very disruptive to swoop your project away when you accidentally click a dock icon whose app is already in front.  The Finder is the worst at this.  If you want to open a new Finder window when none are currently open, it’s way too easy to accidentally click the Finder icon in the dock when the Finder is already the foremost app and get your desktop pulled out from under you.  It’s gotten so I try to leave a little corner of the desktop visible all the time so I can switch to the Finder by clicking on it and seeing if there are current windows by typing command-backtick.  Command-tab is another workaround, but is less convenient when you have to hit tab 7 times to select the Finder. Besides, clicking the dock icon is the most convenient way to bring all of an app’s windows to the front.  Command-tab doesn’t do that and command-backtick only does it one-by-one.  The only other way to do it is switching apps any other way than the dock and then selecting Window->Bring all to front.

And speaking of switching apps & desktops, is it counter-intuitive to anyone else to change the foremost app when switching desktops via control-arrow? I frequently will get an email relating to a different project and bring up the finder to find a file related to the email, then realize I should switch to that project’s desktop, but when I do and hit command-n to get a new Finder window, I end up with a new sticky, or a new browser window, or whatever random app happened to be foremost the last time I was on that desktop the previous day (I usually work on one or two projects a day).  I would much prefer to not switch apps when I switch desktops.  That interrupts the workflow.

Another thing about using the same apps on multiple desktops is that when you restart your computer, it groups all those windows from the same app and multiple projects all on the same desktop.  If Apple would just restore my desktops the way I had arranged them, I might actually shut my computer down more often.  It’s a hassle to have to layout all the open windows across (on average) 6 active projects, including all the Stickies I keep with project names in a large font to identify project desktops in Mission Control.

Speaking of which… Mission Control doesn’t allow you to name your desktops, which would be a huge convenience.  Sure, you could change the desktop picture to identify them, perhaps include the name in the image, but that’s a clunky workaround that doesn’t work when the image is covered up by windows.  The only trick I have to getting around this limitation is to hide a sticky under the dock with a huge font that names the desktop for the project it represents.

There’s so much here that it’s hard to distill this into a concise piece of Apple Feedback, so I chose the most easy and simple fixes that could really improve the multiple desktop experience in the feedback I sent to Apple today:

Improve Mission Control to better handle the use case where every desktop is a project consisting of windows from the same set of apps

Mission control would be much more efficient & useful to me if it had settings that existed to handle my use case where each desktop is a project that uses the same set of apps (e.g. TextEdit, Safari, Preview…). Here are improvements that would accommodate that case: 1. Allow desktops to be named (i.e. project name) so I don’t have to have a possibly covered-up sticky whose text is large enough to be read in MC. 2. Create a setting to always show the desktops immediately when launching (as switching projects is more frequent an occurrence in MC than switching windows) which you can do readily without MC). 3. Allow “application windows” to only show windows from the current desktop (since I always want to pick 1 of 5 windows, as opposed to 1 of 30 that are open in all 6 open projects).

I know that my style of work (using windows instead of tabs and using the same apps on multiple desktops) isn’t how other people might choose to work, but isn’t the Mac experience supposed to be personal? I feel like ever since Steve Jobs died, Apple has been slowly eroding and streamlining features to gear it toward the lowest common denominator of user and is leaving the professional Mac user out in the cold.  This is just one category of complaints in a long litany of dropped features and support that demonstrates how Apple’s focus abandons the professionals that utilize their products. Ever since 10.6, I’ve noted so many dropped features, I started keeping a list. The rate of growth of that list has been slowing down in the latest major updates, but still, the features that keep going by the wayside tend to be from those that power users use to achieve high productivity.

Arctic Blast Ice-Jam Warning System

Last winter, a house that I rent out sustained 11 thousand dollars worth of water damage because an ice jam formed above the gutters.  I learned a lot about how this happens during the ordeal.  Heat from the house melts the bottom layer of ice & snow on the roof.  The water from the melting trickles down the roof, but once it gets to the eaves (away from the heat because the eaves are not enclosed and extend away from the house), it freezes and forms a dam.  Since the water has nowhere to go, it backs up from the eaves between the roof and the ice above it and gets under the slates/shingles.

My tenants didn’t notice the water coming in in the dining room through the ceiling and walls until the damage had started showing on the first floor.  Once I was alerted, I hired a company to come and remove the ice dam above the gutters.

The conditions needed for an ice dam/jam to form on the roof are 4 or 5 days where the temperature never gets above freezing and ice or snow has accumulated on the roof.  Dealing with the ice jam was such an ordeal that this year, I wanted to figure out a way (or ways) to get an early warning that an ice jam could be forming.

I had an idea to use a moisture sensor in the windows that would sound an alarm if water made contact with the sensor.  There was one window in particular where the water built up the most, so I bought this cheap moisture sensor (only $12) and installed it between the window and the storm window:

moisturesensor

However, by the time it goes off, a good bit of damage will have occurred already.  That makes it a good backup, but I needed something predictive.  Long ago, I had tried looking into the possibility of getting weather alerts when the temperature stays below freezing for multiple days, however after installing tons of apps and even looking into IFTTT‘s weather channel, the best alerts I could find were when the temperature went below freezing on a single day.  So today I finally sat down and rolled my own way to get an alert after 4 or more days of freezing temperatures in a row.

The basic idea was, I wanted to use IFTTT‘s weather channel to add tomorrow’s high temperature from the forecast to a google spreadsheet every day.  I then would create a google script attached to the spreadsheet to email me when the last 4 entries in the spreadsheet all had values below 33 degrees (F).  The script can be set to be triggered whenever a new row is added.

The first hurdle I faced was that IFTTT only lets you set 1 location for weather alerts and I already have my location set to where I live (not where the house I rent out is) and I already have weather recipes that rely on my location (e.g. when the pollen count gets high, turn on my air filter).  If I was to change the location, all my recipes would use the new location, which made no sense.  So I posted to the reddit IFTTT board and found out from the suggestions there that you can create multiple IFTTT accounts connected to the same gmail address by using gmail’s magical “+” feature.  So if your gmail address is johndoe@gmail.com, you can register an alternate IFTTT account using johndoe+ifttt1@gmail.com.  Note, after you create the account, you’ll need to go into your account settings and change your default username from “johndoe+ifttt1” to something like “johndoeifttt1” because IFTTT complains about the plus sign.

Next, you must create an IFTTT recipe (now called an “Applet”).  The trigger will be the weather channel’s “tomorrow’s forecast” trigger and the action will be to add a row to a google drive spreadsheet.  The settings when you’re done should look like this:

temptospreadsheet.png

Note, you might need to add the Google Drive and WU Weather channels (now called “Services”) to your IFTTT account.  Make sure to go into the weather channel’s settings to ensure it’s set to the correct location and that you’ve given IFTTT‘s google drive channel permission to access your google drive.

Next, you’ll need to create a google drive folder named “IFTTT” (or whatever you entered in the recipe above).  In there, create a spreadsheet with the name you used for the IFTTT recipe.

You then need to add a script to the spreadsheet.  In the google docs tool bar, select “Tools->Script Editor…”.  Replace the code there with the following code, but be sure to enter your email address you want to receive the ice jam warnings.  Click the image to access copyable code on pastebin:

freezingmonitor.png

Save the script, click the “Select function” drop-down list, select the “createSpreadsheetChangeTrigger”, and click the play button.

You can now close the script editor window and test out your spreadsheet by entering temperatures in the first column.  I entered “22”, 4 times to test it out.  2 things should happen upon entering the 4th value:

  1. You receive the email alert
  2. Column 3 gets the value “ICE JAM WARNING!”

Now, when IFTTT adds a row, if it’s the fourth or more day in a row of freezing temperatures, you’ll get an email warning that maybe you should check for an ice jam!

Today’s Apple Feedback: Recalcitrant Shared Calendar Notifications

There seems to be no end to the efforts to quell unwanted event notifications on the iPhone. Don’t get me wrong, I love well timed (and desired) notifications, but Apple has fallen far short of the mark when it comes to taming notifications, especially those from shared calendars. This bug I’ve found is particularly insidious. My wife shares her calendar with me and despite having it set to “Ignore alerts”:

ignore-alerts

I still get notifications about her events on my iPhone:

alert-on-phone

Incidentally, there’s no way to set “Ignore alerts” on the iPhone.  You have to do it on a computer or perhaps on the iCloud website.

The kicker here is that I don’t think I’m actually getting notifications that she has explicitly set and I am not getting these notifications on my computer:

no-imac-notif.png

The event in question, i.e. the notification which finally pushed me over the edge to look into what the heck was going on here is one my wife has on her calendar for tomorrow.  Note also here that my computer shows that the event has no notification/alert set:

imac-calendar-event-no-notif

And the event is on her calendar that is shared with me, as seen both in my phone’s calendar settings:

cal-shared-with-me

and in the google calendar sync settings:

gcal-sync

And even though my computer shows that the event has no alert set, unbelievably, the same event on my iPhone does show an alert:

def-alert-added

I couldn’t figure out why my iPhone had an alert set for the same event for which my calendar on my computer showed that there was no alert set, until I realized that the time of the alert was the default time I’d set on my iPhone:

def-alert-setting

So what this means is that if I sync a google calendar shared with me on my iPhone, even if I set the calendar to “Ignore alerts”, and as long as I have a default alert setting for my calendars on my iPhone, I will get my default alert from those shared calendars’ newly created events.  Phew! That’s a very specific loophole in calendars in iOS, hence Today’s Apple Feedback:

My default alerts are being added to events created by others on my synced version of their calendars shared with me

I could not figure out why I was getting alerts on my iPhone for events on calendars shared with me and I think I figured it out. The default alert setting on my iPhone is adding alerts to events created by the sharer ONLY ON MY IPHONE’S SYNCED COPY of their calendar. My computers show that the event has no alert set, but my phone shows my default alert for newly created events on that event and the alert goes off despite “ignore alerts” being checked for that calendar. I have catalogued all the evidence of this in a series of screenshots from both the iPhone and my iMac. The event for which I got the latest notification was “Jeffrey will call”, which is an event my wife created on HER calendar. See linked images.

I’m still running iOS 9.3.4 on my iPhone, so I hope that my next update will address this issue, but somehow I doubt it. I will post an update after the iOS update. I’ve been holding off on the next iOS update because I was given a very specific and lengthy set of instructions from Applecare on performing the next update to address a slew of other issues I’ve had since I buying my new iPhone 6S early this year (2016), mainly the fact that Siri initially doesn’t work after plugging in a pair of headphones (an extant problem right out of the box), but that’s a whole other blog post. Note, my version of OS X in the screenshots is OS X 10.12.1 (Sierra).