#457 Deleting iOS Mail, AT&T Unlocking Disaster, WordPress.com, IP Blacklisting, Taming the Terminal Part 16

Who knows more, AppleCare or Allison? netchimp.co.uk if you can’t delete email on your iOS device. Unlocking fun fighting with AT&T but joy with Verizon. WordPress.com interview from New Media Expo. How I got my own IP address blacklisted from my own website with ScreenSteps! In Taming the Terminal part 16 of n, we talk about “Crossing the Streams”.

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Hi this is Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast Mac Podcast, hosted at Podfeet.com, a technology geek podcast with an EVER so slight Macintosh bias. Today is Sunday February 9, 2014 and this is show number 457.

AppleCare vs. Allison

My friend Mike moved from Windows to a Mac about 6-8 months ago and was having some problems with his iPhone and his Mac and he reached out to me for help. I think the story is interesting because he was desperate for help and called AppleCare. He didn’t have AppleCare on his devices, so they charged him a $19 service fee. While it’s good to know you can buy AppleCare by the cup, they were not able to solve his problems. They said they didn’t know what was wrong. He offered to pay me to help him, but I explained of course that I help perfect strangers just for the fun of it, why would I charge him?

I’ll tell you what he told me the problems were first and then we’ll get into the solutions.

  • He couldn’t sync his contacts from his Mac
  • He couldn’t delete email from his iPad or iPhone

allison showing her musclesI figured that the first one might be tricky if I couldn’t see Mike’s screen, so I suggested we meet up on Skype so he could do screensharing to me. Luckily Mike is a real sport and didn’t mention to me that he doesn’t use Skype and hadn’t even loaded it on his new Mac. I waited a while and figured he might need an assist. He worked his way through getting it installed and adding me as a contact (perhaps muttering under his breath just a BIT about how I start to fix two tech by introducing a new technology…

Once we got him up on Skype (after all the whining) I asked him to walk me through the first problem. He explained that even though he would plug his iPhone or iPad into his Mac, he couldn’t get his contacts to sync from his Mac. I didn’t wait to ask what Apple had suggested he try, instead I asked him if he’d ever tried iCloud syncing. He said he hadn’t and that he had no objection to giving it a try, so we turned on iCloud syncing in Contacts. I had him create a fake contact, and then made him log into icloud.com. Again this was an adventure for him – he didn’t know it existed. I explained that if he’s ever somewhere with only a computer and nothing else, he can still get to his mail and contacts (I haven’t told him yet that he can sync his calendar yet). He looked in iCloud and his new fake contact was there, and then he checked on his phone and sure enough it was there too. He was partially amazed, so I had him create a fake contact in his phone and verify that it was instantly available on icloud.com and on his Mac.

His reaction was funny – he said that was nice and all but what about when he plugs his iPhone into his Mac and launches iTunes? It hadn’t hit him yet that I had eliminated the dreaded iTunes from the whole process! Once this dawned on him he got a big grin on his face! Ok, one down.

The next problem was that he couldn’t delete email on either his iPhone or iPad. I had him read me the error message and it said:

Unable to Move Message – the message could not be moved to the mailbox Trash.

I typed those words into Google, and not a hit on netchimp.co.uk entitled, “How to fix iPhone IMAP Error” followed by the exact error Mike described. Now on the one hand, the fix that Kevin Craighead, the guy behind NetChimp found was pretty darn arcane, it did take me a grand total of 2 seconds of googling to find the answer and I would have hoped Apple would have those same skills. It’s a tad worrisome that they may be in one of those script-driven situations where they haven’t the flexibility to think, “hey, maybe I should google that one.” By the way, the arcane solution is to add the word INBOX in all capital letters after the IMAP Path Prefix in the advanced settings for the account. I have no idea what that works or why it has to be added for some types of accounts, but Mike tossed it in there and immediately he was able to delete mail. He had to replicate this procedure on his iPad and he was sorted

After Mike and I were done and just gabbing, his wife Ileana came home. We waved over Skype, and Mike delightedly told her, “Allison fixed ALL my problems!” to which she answered, “Of course she did, dear.” At first I was disappointed, I was hoping for a standing ovation or something along that order, but when I thought about it, her blind faith in my mad tech skills was more gratifying!

Unlocking fun

I’ve mentioned a few times that Steve and I are heading off to New Zealand in a few weeks. We both have AT&T locked, contract iPhones. Without unlocking the phones, we’ll be held to the ludicrously expensive data charges from AT&T if we so much as power on our phones while overseas. I’ve been advised by many over the years, most notably Allan Tépper and my buddy Niraj, that it’s a simple matter to get my phone unlocked. Imagine my surprise when I finally decided to pull the trigger on unlocking my phones only to find out that this has become pretty much impossible. Niraj told me that the folks who would unlock your phones in a shop for $10 had all disappeared because the carriers cracked down on them. He showed me one company still doing it, but for $150 and the reviews were horrible (“they took my money and won’t return my emails). Allan told me over a year ago that you could buy the unlock via Amazon, but as much searching as I did I was unable to find that service available now on Amazon.

On a lark I went to the AT&T site to request my phone to be unlocked. I entered my IMEI number into their unlock site and was instantly told to pound sand that I could not unlock my phone. There was some language in there though about paying off my early termination fee (which wouldn’t be NEARLY as bad as paying their data charges).

One of the greatest things about being retired is having the time to call companies on the phone. Not just call them, but call them and annoy them as long as you like. Sometimes it’s just the sport I enjoy even if I never achieve my objective. I figure if I can keep them on the phone for a long time, at least I wasted a lot of their money. The real fun is to be super sweet and polite and not holler at anyone. If you can do that, you really win the game.

AT&T logo with a With the assumption that I wouldn’t be successful, I dialed up AT&T. Bruce answered my call and I very politely and sweetly explained that I paid AT&T for international data when we went on the cruise in Australia, and not only was it a stupid amount of money (I think I gave them $200 in advance), I ended up not being able to use it and getting threatening text messages of hundreds of dollars in fees because it turned out I was in New Caledonia for much of the time and the money I’d spent didn’t cover me there. I explained further to Bruce that it wasn’t that much fun last time, so would he please unlock my phone for me so I could just use a local SIM when I get to New Zealand. Allister Jenks has been standing by in NZ to help me get that local SIM when I get there.

He looked up my account and explained that I wasn’t eligible to unlock my phone. I told him I know that but I’d like him to do it anyway, and I’d even be willing to pay off my early termination fee to get him to do it. He told me that would cancel my contract with AT&T but since I have an unlimited plan I wasn’t interested in that either. I then explained (patiently and sweetly) that I have choices now.

I explained that the crazy CEO of T-Mobile, John Legere has declared war on the current policies of cell carriers, and offered AT&T customers a deal they can’t refuse. If I leave AT&T for T-Mobile, T-Mobile will pay off my early termination fee from AT&T, they’ll buy my iPhone from me for a reasonable (but probably not great) price, and then they’ll sell me a full price, unsubsidized phone. For all of that they will not put me in ANY kind of contract! Now the one downside to the T-Mobile deal is that they don’t have the greatest coverage around, but the good news is that where they DO have coverage, the 4G is the fastest of any carrier (probably because they have fewer customers). As I explained to Bruce, I happen to have full T-Mobile coverage at home, at Lindsay’s house, at my mom’s place, and at my in-laws, the main places I go.

Bruce thought at this point, perhaps it was time to send me to the retention department. Good decision Bruce! Andrew took over from there and explained that I wasn’t eligible to have my phone unlocked. I repeated everything I’d said to Bruce, and Mathew just said he couldn’t help me. I suggested that perhaps Mathew’s boss could help me. Andrew gladly pushed me up to his boss Mathew. You’ll be shocked to hear what Mathew said – he said he couldn’t help me. Seriously?

I figured he was paid the most so I decided to keep him on as long as possible. I asked him repeatedly, “are you telling me that my best option is to leave AT&T and go to T-Mobile?” He wouldn’t say yes. I said to him several times, “so you can’t unlock my phone, and you can’t let me pay off my early termination fee without canceling my contract, what CAN you do?” I suggested he get creative. Give me $200 in credit towards my bill, do something, anything for me. He said at one point, “the only promotion we have available right now is to give you six months free text messaging…but I see you already have that.” I didn’t even remember why I made them give me that, but he was right.

After 10 or 15 minutes of running him in circles, he kept saying that I had to talk to the international rate plan people. I then employed one of my favorite tactics, and one that Rod Simmons just loves, and asked Mathew, “you aren’t going to just leave me with them, you’ll stay on the phone with me, right?” See this means I’m wasting 2X of their call money! It actually worked out rather comically in the end as you’ll hear. Mathew and I got in touch with Kim over in International rates, and she happily told me that I could buy an 800 whole MB for $120. To which Mathew said, “woah…” I think he had no idea how bad it was. Steve and I chew up about 3GB in 2 days on my Mifi when we travel, so this trip would cost me let’s see, gone for 24 days, 3GB in 2 days, 800MB for $120, carry the 3, divide by 8…about A MILLION DOLLARS.

I started talking to Mathew again, of course while keeping Kim on the phone and I repeated my question again of whether he couldn’t do SOMETHING to help me. He continued to say no. I asked him one more time, “are you telling me that my best option is to leave AT&T and go to T-Mobile?” to which he replied, and I wish I’d recorded it, “I guess if I were in your shoes that’s what I’d do.” It was beautiful. I told him it had been a nice 15 years with AT&T but goodbye.

I really do believe Mathew’s hands were tied by AT&T, and that they absolutely do not understand that Legere at T-Mobile is changing the game. Legere when interviewed by David Pogue (link in the shownotes you really should go watch) said that he is going to win, it’s just a matter of how much he’ll win. He said that if the other ISPs follow him, he’ll still do great, if they don’t, he’ll do phenomenally well. I think he’s going to do phenomenally well.

Now the next option to leaving AT&T would be to buy a couple of cheap, unlocked Android or Windows phones (which would be kinda fun) and just use those while overseas and sell them when we got back, but Steve actually had a different idea. He asked whether our Mifi from Verizon might be able to be unlocked. Now remember I have all the time in the world to bother these people, so fully expecting another rejection, I called up Verizon.

Joe took my call, and I almost fell out of my chair when I asked if I could unlock my Mifi and he said, “sure, let me do that for you right now.” What??? How could this be? I expressed my amazement and he said, “well why would we make you pay crazy fees when you could just use a local SIM?” He first checked to make sure it would work in NZ, and at first the system told him it wouldn’t. I asked him if he had an option to say just 3G not 4G, and when he toggled off 4G it told him the Mifi would work fine in NZ. I explained to him that in NZ most areas don’t have 4G coverage except the major metropolitan areas.

Next up he checked on unlocking my Mifi, and even more amazing, he found out that it was ALREADY unlocked, that it was unlocked at the manufacturer! Steve’s idea is even better than having local SIMs in our phones because we will only have to manage data on one device. If we’d gotten the phones unlocked we’d have been juggling two devices. This was actually the best of all worlds. I should mention that the Mifi I bought is the Mifi 5510L that Kim Landwehr recommended back in episode #424, which actually comes enabled for international travel, which I guess is secret code for “unlocked”. I’m delighted that this will work, and I also appreciated that Joe suggested one precaution – he said to pull the battery when on the plane and other times when it’s not in use because that model has a tendency to get the power turned on and your phones could connect to it and cause all kinds of havoc. I’m not sure I’ll remember, and I’ve toted it around for quite a while and not had it turn on but it was great advice.

So bottom line is that AT&T is still a crappy company to deal with, Verizon is a bit better but darn it I wish I had the nerve to switch to T-Mobile. Maybe when the next iPhone comes out I’ll make the switch!

WordPress.com at NMX

We’ve got one last interview from New Media Expo – and that’s with the fine folks over at WordPress.com, not to be confused with WordPress.org.

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I have a story to tell this week that is pretty weird but I think you’re going to find it interesting. During the week I went to podfeet.com only to get an error that said that my IP address had been blacklisted! My heart stopped and since I was messaging with Allister I asked him and Steve to both go to my site. Allister got right in, but Steve got the same blacklist message I got. The message suggested having a chat with your hosting provider.

I jumped on the phone immediately with GoDaddy and no matter what you say bad about them, I always get good technical support from them. The guy I talked to chatted with me a bit about the problem before I remembered that I only have my domain name registered through GoDaddy, that I moved my hosting over to BlueHost. While I was waiting on hold for them, we did some other experiments, and I found out that I could get to Podfeet.com using my iPhone. Now things are getting interesting. I tried FTPing into my site and had no trouble at all from my Mac. I pinged my buddies Niraj and Ed Tobias, and they were both able to get in just fine too. The one thing I had different from everyone else was I was using Google’s Domain Name Servers, and that gave me a cold feeling in my stomach – the last people you want blacklisting your site is Google!!!

When I got tech support on the phone from BlueHost, I gave him all the evidence I had and he said that since I could get to the site from my phone and from other people’s houses, it couldn’t be a problem with the hosting. We noodled around a bit and I figured out something I’d been missing in the blacklist message – it wasn’t the IP address of podfeet.com that was blacklisted, it was MY HOUSE! That’s really crazy. He suggested that I contact Verizon since I’m on Verizon FiOS, that it had to be on their end.

While I waited for Verizon to come on line, I pinged my buddy Ron, because he was on Verizon FiOS in my same neighborhood. Oddly he was able to get in just fine. By the time I got through to tech support I had a hard time coming up with a reason why it could be Verizon’s fault, but they noodled the problem with me anyway. They suggested I contact my hosting company. I was using text chat for this and I asked the guy if he’d stick with me while I talked to Bluehost again, since I felt a bit of a runaround.

Well I should have gotten snarky with the first guy at Bluehost because the second guy did some pretty quick checking and said, “yup, we blacklisted your IP address because we saw more than 50 hits to your xmlrpc.php file in less than 5 minutes.” I then knew exactly what went wrong.

You’re not going to believe this, but I actually caused this problem because I’m too crazy about Clarify and ScreenSteps! I’ll back up so you learn what happened. ScreenSteps and the soon to be released Clarify 2 allow you to post directly to your blog. They do this by using the xmlrpc.php file in your WordPress installation. Not exactly what they do with it, but that’s how they talk to your blog. You can upload a lesson directly and the soon to be deprecated ScreenSteps Desktop and Clarify 2 will create either a post or a page for you. Pages are permanent things, which is where I put all of my tutorials.

Right before I got blacklisted, I FINALLY got around to updating the giant tutorial of doom I created showing you how to follow Donald Burr’s instructions on how to create a VPN server on your Mac. Ages ago he gave me instructions to post on how to Uninstall the server that Donald created for Joseph back in September. I also put a note in the tutorial about some instructions he wrote for me that fixed a problem where the IP forwarding had stopped running for some reasons. I whipped open ScreenSteps, slapped in links to the two new pages, and told ScreenSteps to re-upload the lesson.

Now this all sounds good but we should look at an action item I’ve had in my to-do list for about 8 months that says, “break up the VPN installation instructions into smaller lessons and repost.” If I’d only done that action item, I never would have been blacklisted. When I clicked repost – ScreenSteps reposted all 66 of the images in the tutorial, all hitting the xmlrpc.php file one after another and that’s what triggered the bad guy safety net at Bluehost!

I don’t blame Bluehost for this, other than that the first guy should have done more checking before passing me along, and I’m glad they have safeguards out there to protect my site. I also don’t blame Bluemango Learning, because what knucklehead makes a SINGLE tutorial with 66 steps and images??? Even I knew I shouldn’t have done that!

I told Trevor of Bluemango Learning the story thinking it would amuse him, and I loved his reaction. He did some research and determined that as of WordPress 3.1, there is now a hook that they have access to that will allow them to check to see if any of the images have changed. That means he’ll be able to write in some code so when you update a lesson it won’t have to reupload all of the images that didn’t change. he actually thanked me for stumbling across this! Isn’t that awesome?

If you haven’t bought Clarify yet, be sure to check out that bundle I told you about last week from from Paddle, and of course there’s a link in the shownotes!

Chit Chat Across the Pond

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Important Updates:

Important Security News:

Suggested Reading:

Main Topic – Taming the Terminal Part 16 of n – “Crossing the Streams”


That’s going to wind this up for this week, many thanks to our sponsor for helping to pay the bills, Blue Mango Learning at bluemangolearning.com makers of Clarify. Don’t forget to send in your Dumb Questions, comments and suggestions by emailing me at [email protected], follow me on twitter and app.net @podfeet. Check out the NosillaCast Google Plus Community too – lots of fun over there! If you want to join in the fun of the live show, head on over to podfeet.com/live on Sunday nights at 5pm Pacific Time and join the friendly and enthusiastic NosillaCastaways. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.

3 thoughts on “#457 Deleting iOS Mail, AT&T Unlocking Disaster, WordPress.com, IP Blacklisting, Taming the Terminal Part 16

  1. Bert Yerke - February 12, 2014

    One more useful thing you can do with the stream crossing that I have seen often is to get rid of “console spam” when starting a process. I was surprized that Bart didn’t mention this (I hope this isn’t what he said is going to make your head explode.) If you start a process in the terminal that you want to run as a daemon sometimes the output will continue to spew onto the terminal interminably so you can:
    process > /dev/null 2>&1
    sending the output of both stdout and sdterr to the “black hole” or, as I like to call it the “bit bucket”. So not only can you capture output for future use, you can also get it out of your way.
    I also want to mention that I am a long time T-Mobile customer and I know that coverage is not as good as AT&T but in my experience it is not much worse either. I drive for a living so I’m on the road all the time and have very few drops and I retain 4G service much of the time. If AT&T is treating you badly, it may be worth checking into. I have had T-Mobile for about 10 years and the customer service is unmatched by any I’ve encountered.
    Love the show. Nosillacast is one of my favorites (and I’m a Linux guy,)

  2. Bart Busschots - February 14, 2014

    You’re dead right Bert, and that answers Allison’s question from the previous show “so why would I want to send stuff into nothingness”. We haven’t really looked at backgrounding processes or running deamons in the series yet, so that use wasn’t in my consciousness when I was doing the notes – it’s probably the most common use of merging streams!

    The promised head-exploding is for regular expressions – which you need to master to get the most out of grep, which is where we’re headed next.


  3. Bert - February 14, 2014

    Ahhhh…RegEX…can’t wait 🙂 Her head is not the only one that will be exploding.
    I thought I may have been jumping ahead with daemons and all. I have used stream merging with init scripts but after this episode I think I finally understand the syntax. Backwards it is.

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