The Robservatory

Robservations on everything…


A look at password entry on the new Apple TV

When I discovered that I could use the grid-style password entry on the new Apple TV, I thought I’d hold a little password entry shootout of sorts. I wanted to compare the three ways I’ve discovered of entering passwords on the fourth-generation Apple TV. Just for fun, I threw my iMac into the mix, too.

First, some background: I use passwords of the correct horse battery staple variety. For sake of this post, let’s assume my password was:

jinxed 187 Golf Bogies

There are 22 characters in total, with two capital letters and three numbers. My actual password consists of the same distribution, though that’s all it shares with the demo password above. I then timed how long it took to enter on my iMac, and using the various input methods on the Apple TV. The results aren’t all that surprising:

Device Remote Method Time Tries
Retina iMac Typed 0:02 1
Apple TV 4th Gen Silver Line 0:49 1
Apple TV 4th Gen Silver Grid 0:41 1
Apple TV 4th Gen Black Line 2:59 3
Apple TV 4th Gen Black Line 1:41 1

Obviously, typing your password on a physical keyboard is incredibly fast and (assuming you’re a decent typist) basically error free. On the Apple TV, what I found is that regardless of method used (i.e. grid or line), the silver remote is both faster and more accurate than the Siri (black) remote. After discarding the Siri remote, I was notably faster using the silver remote with the grid layout than with the line layout.

The other thing to notice is that I only had accuracy issues with the Siri remote. The first time I tried to enter my password for this test, it took me three tries to get my password correct. The 2:59 time shown for the “grid” line is the total of all three times (0:47, 0:57, and 1:15). I then tried again, going very slowly to make sure I didn’t make a mistake, which is the 1:41 time shown on the last row. I had no accuracy issues with the silver remote, regardless of line or grid data entry style.

My fastest entry (0:47) with the Siri remote wasn’t that far behind the silver remote, but the accuracy was obviously not good. I had to work at half the pace of the silver remote to insure I didn’t make any errors with the Siri remote.

Clearly password entry on the Apple TV is a hassle: Even with the silver remote, taking 41 seconds to enter a 22 character password is quite a waste of time. Apple really needs to address this, either by letting us pair a keyboard, or by updating the iOS Remote app to support the new Apple TV. For now, though, I’m sticking to the silver remote for password entry—even on the new line layout—because it’s both faster and more accurate than the Siri remote.

Use grid-style password entry on new Apple TV

This morning, after waking my fourth-generation Apple TV, I was prompted for a password, and was very surprised when I saw the password entry screen, because it was not the two-row layout I’ve grown to hate. Instead, I saw this:

Yes, that’s the third-gen Apple TV’s password entry screen, on my fourth-gen Apple TV. Just how did I get it to appear? Very easily, though it took me a bit to figure out exactly how I did it. Here’s how:

To use the old-style password entry screen on the new Apple TV, wake the Apple TV using the old silver remote, and don’t touch the new Siri remote.

And that’s it. If you wake the Apple TV with the silver remote, and don’t touch the Siri remote until after you get to a password entry screen, you’ll get the grid. If the Apple TV pairs with the Siri remote, though, you’ll get the new-style line entry screen.

I haven’t extensively tested this, but I did try on two different fourth-gen Apple TVs, and got the same results on both. So if you want to use the old password entry grid on your new Apple TV, get yourself a silver remote (if you don’t have one already).

With Siri, it seems verb tense matters

My buddy Kirk McElhearn posted a blurb on his blog about Siri and 18th century painters: Siri and the History of Art. In a nutshell, he asked Siri who was the greatest French painter of the 18th century. She replied with “one eighteenth is approximately zero point five five five.” Say what?

He asked me to try, but when I tried, here’s what I got:

So Siri only knows art history in the USA, it seems? (Kirk lives in the UK.) Actually, no. On closer inspection, when I spoke, Siri heard “Who is the greatest…,” versus Kirk’s Siri hearing “Who was the greatest….”

So I tried agin, making sure Siri heard me say “was.” Sure enough, when Siri hears “was,” I get math results. When Siri hears “is,” I get art results.

If you want Siri to help you with your history, it seems you should talk to her in the present tense!

A unique lava lamp time-lapse

We occasionally take our kids to a local place, Big Al’s, which is one of those bowling/arcade places that give out tickets as rewards from the arcade games. Being good parents, we too sometimes play the games (you know, to spend time with the kids…yea, that’s it). Over the years, we amassed quite a bunch of tickets, but weren’t quite sure what to spend them on.

The last time we were there, I was smitten by a lava lamp, similar to this one, but ours has a black base and blue “lava.” I don’t know why (childhood flashback?), but I decided some of our points cache would go to this mesmerizing but otherwise useless device.

When I got it home, I was surprised at just how long it takes to warm up: It can take nearly an hour before any “lava” starts flowing, and about two hours before it really looks like a traditional lava lamp. During the first hour, though, the melting wax in the lamp makes some really cool abstract bits of art, as seen in the photo at right.

I thought this might make a neat time lapse, so I set out to record it with the iPhone. My first attempt failed, due to the iPhone’s auto-adjusting time-lapse feature. Because the lamp takes so long to get going, the gap between frames winds up being quite long. Long enough that when stuff does start happening, the iPhone’s time-lapse gaps are too wide to make for an interesting video.

I needed another solution, so I headed to the iOS App Store to see what was available…


Total PDF pages in subfolders across folder structure

Last week, I wrote a script that ran through a folder structure and output the page count of every PDF in all folders and sub-folders, and also spit out a grand total.

While this worked well, what I really wanted was a script that just totaled PDF pages by sub-folder, without seeing all the file-by-file detail. After trying to retrofit the first script, I realized that was a waste of time, and started over from scratch.

The resulting script works just as I’d like it to, traversing a folder structure and showing PDF page counts by folder:

$ countpdfbydir
    47: ./_Legal
     2: ./_Medical-Dental
    15: ./_Medical-Dental/Kids
    11: ./_Medical-Dental/Marian
     2: ./_Medical-Dental/Rob
    35: ./_Personal Documents/Kids
    87: ./_Personal Documents/Marian
    28: ./_Personal Documents/Rob
    10: ./_Personal Documents/Rob/Golf
    12: ./_Personal Documents/Rob/Travel
   249: Total PDF Pages

It took a few revisions, but I like this version; it even does some simplistic padding to keep the figures lined up in the output.


Why Apple hasn’t responded to your bug report

I know Apple gets a lot of bug reports (i.e. RADARs, for Apple’s internal name for the system). But I didn’t realize just how many until I filed a minor flurry of reports over the last day and a half. OK, a minor flurry is four. For me, though, that’s a lot. The time gap between the first and the last was 36.87 hours. The gap in RADAR numbers across those hours was 31,222—and that struck me as a huge number of bug reports.

That got me wondering if the numbers were actually sequential, so I asked Twitter. I received a single reply, but that reply confirmed that yes, they are sequential. Based on that, I could do math on my RADARs and find an average, then try to extrapolate. But there’s a much better data source: Open Radar.

Open Radar is a site where users can republish the RADARs they’ve filed with Apple. Not everyone does so, of course, but that doesn’t matter, because each one includes the original RADAR number. So I went back and found RADAR 19363080 from January 1st, 2015, and RADAR 23519997 from November 12th, 2015.

Do the math on those RADAR numbers … 23,519,997 – 19,363,080 …

4,156,917 bug reports so far in 2015

Wow. If that run rate continues for the remainder of the year, they’ll finish with 4,811,865 bug reports! That number is so big as to be unimaginable, so here it is in some smaller units:

  • 551 per hour
  • 13,219 per day
  • 92,536 per week
  • 400,989 per month
  • 4,811,865 per year

That’s an insane volume of actual submitted bug reports. How insane? If each bug report can be handled in just five minutes (very unrealistic), you’d need over 200 full-time bug report workers just to handle all the bug reports for one year! (I know: automated systems, duplicates, etc. But still…)

So if you’re wondering why Apple hasn’t replied to your bug report, it’s probably because there are a few hundred thousand—or more—bug reports ahead of yours in the queue.

Count pages in all PDFs within a folder structure

Please see this newer post, with a new script that provides subtotals by subfolder, which is what I really wanted when I wrote this one.

Recently I’ve been trying to go paperless (well, mostly paperless) via a Fujitsu ScanSanp ix500. (I’ll have more to say about the scanner in a future post).

One way to go paperless is to just go from now forward—start scanning stuff and don’t worry about history. I decided that I’d go the other route, and work through our old paper files: some would be scanned and kept, much would just be recycled. The process went really quickly, compared to what I had expected. It helps that the Fujitsu is a wicked-fast document scanner!

But I was curious about how much I was scanning, in terms of total PDF pages—not files, but counting the pages in the files. Spotlight to the rescue; the field kMDItemNumberOfPages returns the number of pages in a document, and it seemed accurate in testing via mdls:

$ mdls /path/to/somefile.pdf | grep kMDItemNumberOfPages
kMDItemNumberOfPages = 4

So I set out to write a script to traverse my “Scans” folder, and return the total number of PDF pages.


The mysterious case of Mail’s vanishing Rules actions

I have used OS X’s built-in Mail program for nearly 15 years. I use it for both personal and work emails, and as such, I rely on rules to sort my mail—I have 75 separate rules. (Note to Apple’s Mail team: If you would allow boolean logic in rules, I could slash this number to about 10. Please?)

Recently we changed the Many Tricks store, and as a result, I needed to modify about 30 of my rules. As I was working on these changes, which requires editing and testing each modified rule, I noticed a most-frustrating Mail bug: The “Perform the following actions” section for all rules would slowly vanish as I edited my rules.

Needless to say, editing a rule when you can’t see the Actions section is impossible.


Presenting the Apple TV (4th Generation) Password Tester

Earlier, I sent out this hopefully-humorous tweet about the difficulty involved in clicking one’s passwords into the new Apple TV password input screen:

Presenting LIMNOPHILE, a 10-character yet easy-to-type Apple TV password.

The chart is just an Excel file, with absolutely no logic—I just colored the squares and counted to fill in the data. But then I got this reply…

So I thought “Why not?,” and created an actual spreadsheet that will “click check” any all-letter password you feed it. Here’s what it looks like in action:

Just replace RIDICULOUSLYLONGWORD with whatever you like, and see how it’ll “click out” on your Apple TV. Obviously, this tool is totally tongue-in-cheek!. Any password built with this tool will be weak as heck. It’s just for fun, so don’t take it seriously.

Feel free to share and modify, but I’d appreciate a credit back if you do so.

Download Apple TV Password Tester (44KB)

Please note that this is an Excel 2011 file, and it relies on conditional formatting, so it may not work in Numbers.

New technology at the auto service center

I took our truck in for service at the local Toyota dealer yesterday. When I drove in, I had to drive over one of these big black things:

I figured it was just a speed bump to get drivers to slow down as they entered the service bays. But when I inquired as to their purpose, the answer was more technologically interesting: It’s a tire tread depth scanner. As you drive over, lasers shine on each tire, measuring the remaining depth in each tire’s tread. Quoting the immortal Dr. Evil … “lasers!”

Of course, when I parked, the technician went around to each tire, sticking his finger in the tread to check the depth. I said, “What about the fancy machines?” ‘Oh, they’re not quite ready yet; still have to do it the old fashioned way for another few days.’ Oh well. Next time.

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