Stupid Siri Won’t Read Me Text Messages

In hindsight, this makes a ton of sense. For the last 3–4 months, however, it’s been infuriating.

I have a tendency to have Siri read me my text messages if I’m out walking or driving. It worked forever. In the old days, hold down the button, ask Siri to read the unread text messages, and then you could respond. Since I got my iPhone 6S, it was even easier—if I was in speaking distance, just say “Hey Siri, read me my text message” and she would.

Until a few months ago, when Siri said “I’m sorry, you’ll need to unlock your iPhone for that.”

Say what? Why you gotta be that way?

I googled and binged and duck-ducked for the last few months. I always assumed it was a bug. The only fix I ever saw was a factory reset, which I wasn’t going to do.

When iOS 9.3 came out yesterday and I got a new text message, I figured “Ah, maybe it’s fixed! Let’s give it a shot!”

“Hey, Siri, read me my text messages, please”

“I’m sorry, you’ll need to unlock your iPhone for that.”

Oh, Siri, it’s on.

I kept poking around the settings and turning things off and on to no avail. Finally, I noticed that I had turned off showing text messages on the lock screen (which was a result of a text barrage I was on the end of months ago and was sick of my phone lighting up every 2 seconds).

Hmm … I mean … if I didn’t want messages on my lock screen, it probably makes sense that Siri shouldn’t read them to someone who walks by.

Flip that switch, Siri is back to being my best friend.

So, again, in hindsight, this makes sense. The UI doesn’t make this obvious though. Somewhere in the UI it should say “This will also prevent Siri from reading you text messages on a locked phone”, or when you try to do it, Siri should say “I can’t do that. You can change that setting here.”

Or something.

Anyway, my phone outsmarted me and Siri and I are cool again.

Full Screen Caller ID Photos on iOS

For whatever reason, it used to be very easy to have your contact photos show up full screen on the iPhone when a particular contact called. And then, a few versions back, it just seemed to stop working.

This iMore thread explains how to get it back. Basically, just make sure that the picture you choose for your contact fills up the whole screen, even as you pick the little circle version that show up around the OS.

It’s a small thing, but it’s really nice to have full screen photos on the big iPhone 6S screen.

Apple is Settling All Debts

I won’t go into too much detail on the announcements coming out of WWDC. That’s been done better and more thoroughly by many others. I will say that this feels like Apple settling all the debts they’ve accrued over the past few years.

“Oh, you wanted apps to be able to talk to each other? Here you go.”

“Widgets on your notification screen? Yep. You got it.”

“You wanted apps to use the TouchID? Ok.”

“That whole ‘I should be able to move files around in iCloud’ thing? All set now.”

“Objective-C not modern enough for ya? Meet Swift.”

There were a bunch more announcements that basically amounted to “We told you to chill while we put in place the way to do these things safely, securely, and without trashing your battery. Here they are.”

And I think that’s a big part of what iOS 8 and Mac OS 10.10 are: the culmination of a few years worth of groundwork and infrastructure building that came together and bloomed all at once. It’s going to allow for almost everything people have asked for, and more, and to top it off, Apple brought out things like Continuity where you devices simply act as logical extension of one other. It’s a simple, powerful feature that will be hard for other companies to duplicate.

(All of this assumes Apple’s cloud services continue to get better … which seems likely given I’m not sure they could get much worse.)

John Gruber has a very nice take on it.

Sometimes It Just Takes a Little Prodding

I used to run. There was a point in time at a previous job, where I wasn’t super happy, nor particularly engaged, and I could get out of the office at a normal time and go running. Distance running has never been my thing, but I would run 4–5 miles a day, 5 or 6 days a week.

Over the past few years, I’ve fallen into some bad habits. I’d go through phases where I’d run a few miles a couple of times a week; then it was running a few miles at the gym a couple of times a week. Until the last month, it was run every couple of weeks and pretend that the exercise I get from softball and basketball is enough to get by.

Periodically, I’d use something like Runkeeper to try to motivate me. “Hey, you should go running and try to do better than you did yesterday.” The downside—I’d often get frustrated because going from running 4–5 miles a day to 2–3 miles every couple of weeks was a big step back and seeing that displayed to me when I started the app was demoralizing, not encouraging.

I went through these cycles for a couple of years.

Then I got my new iPhone 5S with its M7 chip.

And, honestly, this isn’t any sort of amazing revelation, but just using an app like Pedometer++[1] is enough to help get me up and moving a bit more. It just measures your steps each day, and you can set a goal. It’s a Fitbit[2], but comes in a device that’s already in my pocket 90% of the day. It’s just enough prodding. I open the app, see I only have a few thousand steps, and I’ll go for a run (I went as far as to buy a thingy to carry my phone while I run). Or I’ll walk the long way to grab dinner.

It’s not much. But I’m sitting here on 9,300 steps for the day (which doesn’t count the hour and a half of basketball, or hour plus of softball – so I’m really probably closer to 20,000 steps), and I’ll probably go walk around a bit to get over 10,000 steps for the day.

It’s so incredibly stupid that I am motivated by a little number, and not by simply getting in better shape or generally being healthier.

But, it turns out, that seeing the little values go to 10,000 is just enough prodding.

  1. Grab it from the app store


  2. I’ve avoided the Fitbit or Nike Fuel or any of those things forever, for a couple of reasons. One, I hate carrying things. I don’t wear jewelry or watches. I try to have as little in my pockets as possible. But, I think I should have joined the crowd and grabbed one of those things. I’d likely have figured out that I’m motivated by seeing round numbers a long time ago.


Freeing Up Space for iCloud Backups

Over the past few weeks, since upgrading to iOS 7, I’ve been getting error messages that the nightly iCloud backup hasn’t been able to finish because I don’t have enough free iCloud space. The odd bit about that is that I don’t remember seeing an error like that at all in the previous few weeks (or months, really). I’d occasionally seen the error due to connectivity issues, but never due to issues with storage space.

I let it linger for a few days, but knowing that my device wasn’t getting backed up bugged me enough to take a look.

Getting to the iCloud Backup settings isn’t entirely obvious.

Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup > Manage Storage

That’ll drop you off on a screen that lists each of your devices that you are backing up. For me, it’s an iPad 2nd gen and iPhone 5S.

Drill into the device your on, and you’ll be greeted with a list of what is getting backed up on that device. You’ll see a list of apps, how much space the backup of that app takes, and an on/off switch to control whether or not you backup the data for that app.

Everything looked normal at first glance, until I noticed that Instapaper [1]

1.2GB of backup used for Instapaper. Double that, when you realize it’s installed on both my iPad and iPhone.

Half of my iCloud space taken up by one app.

Why is that a big deal? Well, Instapaper syncs all of its data with the Instapaper web site. So even if every article on my devices was deleted, I could just re-download them from the web. So there is literally zero need to back the articles up to iCloud[2]. CLick that button to off, and all of a sudden, all my backups are finishing with room to spare.

I’m guessing that some change in iOS 7 or a recent update to the Instapaper app changed what data it was backing up, leading to it filling up my iCloud storage. It’d be a nice thing for Instapaper or Apple (wherever the fault lies) to fix that in a future release. Regardless, if you find your device complaining about not being able to backup to iCloud, look for apps where the data can easily be recovered from the web (or another source). Wouldn’t you rather restore some web data to a single app than have to piece together all of the settings and apps on your phone because you weren’t backing it up?

  1. Instapaper is a “read later” app, where you can save articles you find online to read later (handy when you’re killing time in a line, or maybe in that other place where you do your reading.


  2. And, honestly, why the hell is it backing up 1GB of data? It’s all text and maybe some images.


Pay with iPhone

With Apple’s announcement of the iPhone 5s (and 5c), Apple moved the iPhone into an interesting space. A good bit of this (iOS7, camera improvements) are catchup with some of the competition.

TouchID, the fingerprint reader, is the game changer. It just won’t be the game changer for a couple of years. If you watch the video on iPhone 5s, check out how you can use your fingerprint as a replacement for a password when purchasing from the App Store.

It’s not hard to imagine the next step is a Passbook-integration, or some Bluetooth communication mechanism, that will talk right to a point of sale terminal. You walk up, they ring you up, see the Pay with iPhone sign, and you touch your iPhone rather than handing over a credit card. Apple’s already got your credit card; rather than passing your credit card to hundreds of merchants over the year, you hand it to one. All secured by your fingerprint.

I have to imagine this is the long-term plan. iPhone 5s is just the wedge to get the technology out into the market.

Listening to the Radio or Why I Bought an App Called Radium

Growing up, I listened to the radio a lot. We had this cool old tuner that, every once in a while, would pick up stations from around the country. Turns out, that’s is (was?) a hobby for lots of people, but for me it was just cool to hear slices of a random baseball game from some other part of the country.

The radio became my companion for the long, 11ish hour drives from Rutland to Blacksburg and back (Mass Pike West, 84S, 81S). This was the late 90s, so I had sometimes had a Discman that I would plug into the cassette deck to listen to CDs (if they didn’t skip too much), or would listen to mix tapes made by me or my friends. But, more often than not, I would spend minutes as I drove scanning up and down the dial for some random radio station in the area. Maybe I’d catch a good radio station and hear some song that I really liked. Today, I’d Shazam it and know exactly what it was. Back then, I’d listen longer, hoping to not lose the signal, and wait for the DJ to tell me what it was. Or worse, try to google the lyrics when I got home, and hope to stumble upon the song.

There was something incredibly interesting to me about hearing advertisements for car dealerships in Harrisburg, PA, or catching part of a church service when driving through West Virginia really early in the morning. The worst was losing a station you’d been listening to for an hour or so, after you’d gone 30 minutes catching nothing but static intermixed with the faintest signal.

Today, I still am endlessly entertained by radio (and TV) in other places. Whenever I travel for business and end up renting a car, I’ll find my way to the local rock/indie station, or maybe the local sports station. Listening to people call in and complain about whatever their local team is doing wrong. Arriving at the hotel, I’ll often throw on the TV and watch the local news. Living in Boston, I’m spoiled. I get real, HD news, and everything is, at least, remotely professional. Sometimes, in a smaller city, you get a reminder of what things were like a few years ago.

That whole story is a long preamble to what will likely be a short sell. When flipping through some RSS feeds, I came across a review of Radium. It’s a nice, small Mac app (with a companion iOS app) that makes it easy to listen to internet radio. I know there’s lots of ways to listen to the radio on the internet, but this one just clicked for me. Hit the icon, type in a genre, or more fun, a city, and find a station. When you’re listening, if a song comes on, you know what it is and can add it to a list (and then purchase it through iTunes).

In an age of podcasts, massive streaming music libraries, and satellite radio—also covered by Radium, if you’ve got a subscription—I don’t know why I want to listen to the radio. But for at least a few hours a week, I find myself clicking on a radio station (RadioBDC from Boston, KEXP from Seattle, NPR, random sports radio) and listening and feeling a bit like the old days when it was so exciting to pick up a signal from halfway across the country. Throw in the iOS app, and you can drive your car around while picking up a radio station from Texas, or listening to news talk from Maine.

As a postscript, I should mention that both the MLB and NBA apps for iOS are wonderful for the same reason. Listening to the radio broadcast of a random basketball game, while you walk home from watching the Celtics play, has been one of the pure old-timey joys of living in an always on world.

The app links in here are tagged with my iTunes affiliate link. If you buy something, I might get to buy an extra song someday.