What's Happening?

Tip: iOS Email Undelete

Passing along an iOS tip that I frequently find useful though I'm not sure it's even documented. That's the ability to undo the (accidental) deletion of an email. It's particularly helpful with the ability to long-swipe-left on an email to delete it with one touch. Sometimes I find that I've done this to the wrong message and would like to get it back.

Easy. Just shake the phone for "undo" and the last deleted message will pop right back into your inbox. In fact, if you've deleted several you can keep shaking and undelete them one at a time to get back to the one you want.

I'm not sure when this feature was introduced but it's been around since at least iOS 7 and carried forward into the (as of this writing) current iOS 8.1.


Note to Self

Maybe this is weird but then again I've never claimed to not be weird.

I'm an "IT Guy". In the course of my job I often encounter technical issues ranging from the simple & mundane to the rare & cryptic. There are easy ones; A well-written, verbose error on a popular piece of software. If the solution is not obvious from the error, a quick trip to the vendors website or support pages should do the trick. The more difficult issues arise on custom-built, abandoned, or obscure software where the error message is something like "Unknown Error 1". And some of the trickiest are when I'm developing custom applications of my own.

I've developed a pretty reliable troubleshooting escalation list that has been handy.

Read the error - As mentioned earlier, sometimes error messages give you everything you need to solve the problem. A file permission is wrong. A configuration setting is missing, etc. Take action based on the error and try again.

Experience - How well do you know the app? Have you encountered similar problems in the same application? In other applications? This can be a good place to start.

Internal SMEs - Sometimes the fastest answer comes from the people that know best. If you have in-person access to a Subject Matter Expert don't waste time searching. While you might find a resolution online, the subject matter expert can teach you why something was broken enhancing your understanding and increasing your self-sufficiency.

Search - Obviously the Internet is a tremendous resource. Remember that error message above? The reason it sucks is because the error code was 1. If the error was something like "1326" you'd be a lot more likely to find useful information with a web search. The more detail you have the better off you are. Stay active in the vendors forums and support pages to reduce your time-to-resolution.

Collaborate - If you can't find the answer, engage a co-worker, contact, Linked-In friend, etc. Even if that person is not an SME (see above), it really is true that "two heads are better than one". Working through an issue together and with a fresh set of eyes can help you pick up on things you missed before.

Trouble Ticket - If you must... open a trouble ticket with the vendor. The ranking of this option on the scale actually varies drastically depending on the package you're supporting and the vendor. Some vendors have top-notch support that can answer even complex questions quickly. Many, however, do not and will simply open a work order, give you the number, and hopefully you'll hear back from someone in a week or so. If the vendor is good use them by all means. In that case they're effectively the SMEs from above.

That all seems rational and not-at-all wierd. It's the last item on my list that seems a bit strange... at least to me.

Note to Self - When all else fails, I write an email... to myself. I work through as much detail as I can think of even the seemingly trivial bits. I write it as if I'm asking a friend for help. A friend that knows only the basics of the application or issue and would appreciate knowing the specifics and the steps I've taken so far and the results they produced. I find that similar to collaborating, this can refresh my perspective on the issue and take me down new paths of resolution that I may have been overlooking due to blind familiarity.

Believe it or not, this last method has saved me more than once. In fact just recently and that's when I wondered if anyone else does this?

How about you? What creative troubleshooting steps do you employ?


Recreational Password Guessing

I have a TrueCrypt volume that's been hanging around for more than a year now. It's fairly small (<5GB) and has a non-informative name. I don't remember where it's from; I know it's from my previous (or even older) laptop and has just been carried forward in the "things to keep" folder.

However, I have absolutely no idea what the password for the volume is. So, every now and again I give it a few guesses. Today was one of those days. Thwarted again.


New Number, Same Credit Card Fraud

Funny thing happened this past week. Not funny ha-ha, funny odd. Earlier this year I received a call from Citibank’s “Early Warning Fraud Detection” department letting me know that someone attempted to use my credit card for online purchases from Malmö in Sweden. They shut down the account number and issued me a new card with a new number. You can read more about that in this post.

Since then I’ve used the card very little. I’ve generated VANs (Virtual Account Numbers) with it for purchasing cellphone reloads for my mother-in-law. I used it once at a local auto-repair shop and I used it for travel expenses during a long road trip.

A couple of days ago I again got a call from the same Fraud Detection department at Citibank. It seems my new card number on the same account was being used for attempted purchases in Denmark… and Sweden. In fact, the same online merchant in Sweden as the last time.

This is too coincidental to me.

The first time it happened my prime suspect was the pay-as-you-go cell service provider. But, I never gave them my new card number. Gas stations seem like one of the most likely places for a card number to escape into the wild what with the proliferation of skimmers. I’m fairly diligent about examining card readers and even pulling on them before entering my card. But, I’ve seen some good ones and can’t say with certainty that I wouldn’t fall for it. What are the odds, though, that I would have used the cards at the same random gas station hundreds of miles from home twice over the course of nearly a year and then had the numbers stolen and used in the same way?

The final suspect is the local auto-repair shop. I had used the card there once prior to the initial incident when I had some work done last year.

At this point, I’m not sure what to think. I’ve got a new card with a new number in the mail.


Let's All Go to the Movies

Call me crazy but I've been thinking a lot lately about how much I'm looking forward to sharing some of my favorite movies with my son. The fact that he's only 7 months-old just means I have plenty of time to plan. My wife and I have discussed the appropriate age for some movies... and she has weighed in with her opinions after getting past the fact that I'm crazy.


Gremlins - PG

A Christmas favorite! But, how old should my little guy be before I let him watch it? There's the super cute Gizmo... but there's also 'the microwave scene'. I'm thinking I was 11-12 the first time I saw Gremlins so I think somewhere in the 10-12 range for my boy. I said 10... she said 12.

Blade Runner - R

My all-time-favorite movie. This one is definitely not for youngsters. Even if you look past the darkness and violence, the underlying theme of what makes us human would be lost on kids. I really don't know what the appropriate age is here... Should I make him read the book first? 14? 16?

Blazing Saddles - R

This is probably the movie I'm most looking forward to sharing. A Mel Brooks classic that wouldn't even be possible to make today. I'm sure we'll have to talk about the appropriateness of some of the language, but I think it's important to be exposed to potentially uncomfortable situations that make us question and discuss. And then there's the campfire scene... did I mention I'm looking forward to this? 14?

The Entire James Bond Filmology - PG - PG-13

Once a year I watch all the James Bond films in order (by release). Yes, that means I've seen Moonraker more times than is safe but it's the price I pay. I found an excellent article over on Fandango titled "When Can I Watch James Bond With My Kids". I agree with their assessment of the level of violence and sexual innuendo and that for the most part it's far less explicit than a lot of other offerings. I believe the suggested age range mentioned near the end of the article (9-11) seems like a good fit.

Apocalypse Now - R

This one is going to need some more thought...


Of course, all of this may be negated by the fact that my kid may not even want to watch these movies. Or he may suffer through them out of pity for his old man and it may not turn out to be quite the bonding (no pun intended) moment that I'd hoped.