My favorite iPhone case

For the last two years, I didn’t use a case for my iPhone. I really love the look of the 5 & 5S, and didn’t want anything to cover it up. Of course, by the end of the year, the screens had dozens of fine (and one or two not-so-fine) scratches. Really annoying.

So, for the iPhone 6, I decided I’d keep an eye out for a case that I could live with. A few weeks ago, I ran across an ad for the Twelve South SurfacePad (Amazon link). It looked perfect: a minimalist case that looks great and could help simplify my wallet (a separate mission I’m focused on before our move to India).

I bought and received the case last week directly from Twelve South. So far, it’s been great. I’ve included a few photos below. It’s easily the best case I’ve seen for the iPhone 6.

The case attaches to the back of the iPhone using a special adhesive that can be reattached multiple times. It took a few tries to get it attached squarely.1 It feels secure.

I love having my license and primary credit card with the phone. I can basically lock my wallet up when I’m traveling, and I rarely need to pull it out otherwise.

It also looks great, and it seems like the leather is breaking in as Twelve South indicates in the booklet they include with the case.

There are two drawbacks with this case. First, the cover can be awkward in two situations. When taking photos, the cover needs to dangle or get folded in the stand mode so that it doesn’t block the lens. When trying to use the phone one handed or as a phone, the case needs to be flipped around to the back (think of the smart cover on the iPad), which makes me slightly nervous about having the cards exposed. They are quite snug in their slots, but as the leather softens, I worry about the slots loosening up. Hopefully the cards will stay securely in their slots.

The second drawback has to do with combining a wallet with the phone. This weekend, for example, I had to use my card outside at a parking kiosk. It was raining, so getting to my primary credit card meant pulling my phone out and exposing it to the elements. Manageable, but not ideal.

Those are both tradeoffs I can live with, though. I really love this case. It looks gorgeous and functions well for me. Recommended.

I included some photos below of the case on my iPhone 6. (photos taken with a Google Nexus 6).

New iPhone case: SurfacePad for iPhone 6

Front of the SurfacePad

New iPhone case: SurfacePad for iPhone 6

Back of the SurfacePad

New iPhone case: SurfacePad for iPhone 6

Inside of the SurfacePad

  1. Truth be told, it’s still not perfectly square, which I only noticed when taking the pictures. OCD sufferers, take note. :)

Watch Thoughts

The Apple Watch had very few surprises. It was, as these things tend to go, a reasonable and well designed entry into the watch space. Like the iPad before it, it does enough to make it interesting, but really draws its strength from the surrounding ecosystem, built on the ridiculous popularity of the iPhone.

I do wish they had tried something a little more radical: lose the screen. My ideal Apple Watch based on what they’ve announced so far:

  • Apple Pay
  • All the fitness sensors, including the pulse sensor
  • bluetooth
  • Taptic haptic feedback
  • some customization

I really don’t care about the touchscreen and or the digital crown. I don’t want to read notifications or look at maps or touch message people. I have a phone, which will have a larger screen than ever before. I have no idea why I’d look at a maps app on my watch. Consider me unconvinced about the overall utility of smart watches in general.

But a secure payment wristband combined with fitness sensors and non-visual feedback/output (think Taptic)… I’m in. Bet the battery life would be awesome, too.

Path & Apple

It’s a single source, and I have no idea if it will happen, but I’m probably the only person I know that’s happy about Apple possibly buying Path.

My family uses Path as a very effective private-ish social network for our extended family. It’s the default place for kid photos, quick family broadcasts (“flight landed, at the hotel”), and other things where, quite frankly, we don’t want to share with out entire social network. The app is beautiful, well made, and fully featured. Heck, it even has private chat & stickers.

The only concern I have about Path, the company, is their somewhat iffy policies around privacy and data access. They’re nowhere near as bad as Facebook, but they clearly fall from the same tree. They’ve had a few privacy scuffles.

That’s what makes an Apple acquisition so enticing. Apple’s stance on privacy basically eliminates my only concern with them, and takes away Path’s monetization problems (and thus any motivation to sell our data in any way).

So, from my standpoint – I really hope this deal happens. It would be great for users, and Apple will get a fully featured social network they can wire into iOS to improve iCloud sharing.

What I’m Looking for from Apple Tomorrow

Like everyone else, I’m curious to see if the leaks have nailed the updated iPhones and what the wearable gadget looks like, and what new capabilities are in both that we haven’t expected. I’m also pretty sure that this won’t be the most important info from tomorrow’s announcements.

I always go back to the original iPhone announcement when I try and think about evaluating what matters from these sorts of product announcements. By far, the most important details of the new iPhone were mobile Safari coupled with an unlimited data plan at a reasonable-ish price. We got a new capability (real Internet on a mobile device!) with the means to use it without friction.

So, tomorrow, if Apple announces a mobile payment solution, for example, the key will be scoping the limitations around its use1. If it’s like Google Wallet (“hey, we’ll figure out where you can use it… some day”), then it’s obviously useless. Apple solves business problems when they ship features.

Also worth linking to my earlier post about why I hate the smart watch rumors I’ve heard so far.

Can’t wait for the announcements tomorrow.

  1. And there will be limitations. The original iPhone only had 2G, only ran on AT&T, and had limited enterprise integration. Ultimately, those didn’t matter for adoption in the first year, and were soon remedied in subsequent iterations. So, a lot of tomorrow will be figuring out if the limitations matter, and why. So far, Apple has a good track with this, especially for their highest priority project at any moment.

SSL & other notes

Just a quick note that Fatmixx is now https only – please let me know if you see any weirdness or browser complaints. I’m working on cleaning up loose ends that I know about (right now, the photos are borked because I’m working on my service that aggregates them, for example).

Speaking of that service, I’m keeping announcements and details about its ongoing maintenance over on the Forche blog. I’ll probably retweet those posts into my main Twitter account, but from here on out I probably won’t mention it much here.

Changes a comin’

For those of you that pay attention to these sorts of things, Proxigram has had some bug fixes and will be getting an overhaul soon. This blog is also undergoing some much needed maintenance and improvements.

At the top of my priority list right now is getting SSL setup everywhere and consolidating some of my hosting. Shouldn’t see too much on the user side, except for the switch to https when I finally figure out how to do that with my current web host.

Sad face – blog hacked

So, it looks like this site and the other blogs I host on this server were defaced earlier today. I’ve repaired most things I can check and have engaged the support team at my host to help diagnose the attack vector and other details.

I’m posting this publicly, though, because I know many of my friends (and former contributors to this site) have accounts on FM, so I want to make sure you’re aware that it’s possible that the passwords stored in this WordPress install might be compromised.

I’m also tempted to just blow away the blog and start over again elsewhere… it’s safer, and really, this blog could use a reset button.

Need Mavericks troubleshooting ideas…

(The post below lays out a system crash that had been plaguing my home system for a few months now. The updates are at the top – think of it like an email thread. Start from the bottom if you want the whole saga)

Update 5: OK, bug report submitted to Apple along with a consistent test case. The issue does really seem like a memory leak in the Spotlight plugin for emails, but I’ll leave it to the experts to sort out. It’s Radar rdar://problem/15695276 and I’ve submitted a copy to OpenRadar here (sans the email file, since it has real email addresses in there).

I went through and deleted every email larger than ~27MB, then turned on Spotlight indexing for mail. After that finished, I turned on Time Machine again. I haven’t seen the memory spike at all. So, this seems like the culprit.

On a related note, as I was submitting the bug report to Apple, I copied the email file to my MacBook. Immediately, it started feeling sluggish and stuttering. Looked at Activity Monitor and, sure enough, memory was going absolutely nuts. The MBP has twice as much RAM as the iMac, though, so I think it’s been able to recover when this happens (though it has locked up a few times that I can remember… probably because of this).

I’ll update if/when Apple confirms anything.

Update 4: no luck – crashed again after an hour or so. I found a bunch of other large emails still on the disk, so I think I need to clean them up. Or, I’m just wrong. Either way, more debugging later this week.

Update 3: Solved, maybe! So, I was able to narrow this down to files in the mail folder. I happened to inspect the mdworker processes in Activity Monitor and saw they were always in .emlx files around when the memory would spike. So, taking that as a clue, I told Spotlight to ignore that folder under the Spotlight Privacy tab and suddenly, machine stayed up. But… I also had to shut down Time Machine because that somehow uses mdworker or caused it to hit those folders, leading to another crash.

So, next step was to try and log what files mdworker was accessing. There’s probably a more elegant way to do this, but I ended up using fs_usage and then opensnoop, which are both part of OS X. They both let you see what files a process is interacting with while the process is running using DTrace hooks. The final command line was opensnoop -a -n mdworker | tee mdworker.log.

I then unblocked the Mail folder from the privacy settings and let Spotlight go (left Time Machine off for the first run). I let the machine crash a few times. After a few restarts, it was clear that largest mdworker processes last touched large emails that were in partial emlx (.partial.emlx) files. I manually ran mdimport against some representative files (mdimport -d4 /path/to/file) and was able to recreate the near 5GB kernel_task behavior. One email (~30MB on disk), in particular, added 7-8GB of SWAP space. It was crazy.

So, went and disabled TM & Spotlight again, went into and tried to delete the files and kicked off spotlight again. It all worked. Time Machine just finished, too. I think this may be sorted out. Fingers crossed – will wait a few days before declaring victory.

So, the only bummer is that in my zeal to see if those emails were the issue, I deleted them before backing them up somewhere. So… no test case to send off to Apple. These sorts of emails show up now and again for me (they’re basically digests of an attachment heavy PR mailing list), so I will probably have another sample case soon.

Update 2: crashed again. FML. I posted a screenshot of the Activity Monitor at time of death:

Update: So, this last reboot, mdworker was still running, but memory was fine. Then, Time Machine kicked on and started prepping a backup. That’s when memory usage spiked and memory pressure went red. I killed the TM backup, memory returned to normal, but then a few moments later, went crazy again. Hmm – it looks like at least one mdworker is indexing Mail right now… wonder if this is a variation of the Gmail thing in Mavericks?

I’m hoping the Mac mavens among you can help me find some ideas on how to debug an issue I’m seeing now with both of my Macs running Mavericks. I’m going to file a bug report with Apple soon, but based on history, that will take a while and I really can’t deal with this for much longer. I may just downgrade.

Short summary:

  • after some amount of time, measuring in minutes to a few hours, my iMac 27″ (from 2010) will randomly freeze, hard. Tapping on the Magic Trackpad won’t do anything, hitting a key on the keyboard will sometimes get the backlight to go on, but no screensaver will be visible. Just a dark screen. Only way to recover is to reboot.

  • Disk Utility & DiskWarrior say everything is fine with the drives

  • memtest passed when I ran off the recovery partition, but running it in my normal logged in state, the whole memory pressure red/swap going nuts thing happened and the system froze.

  • the most consistent symptoms I can see pre-crash, based on logs and live monitoring using Activity Monitor are the following. This is the situation just before it crashes:
    — Activity Monitor shows memory pressure is high
    — kernel_task memory usage is listed at 4.68GB (or more, but in that ballpark)
    — mdworker has 3-4 processes running, each listed at ~500MB

So, why would mdworker make kernel_task use so much RAM?

(Also, I’ve tried resetting my spotlight cache, removing old unused Spotlight plugins… no luck)

Other observations:

  • I tried turning off Time Machine, which seemed to help. My current theory is that when this crash happens, my computer is in the high memory_pressure state, caused my mdworker, and then Time Machine kicks in trying to backup and the world just stops.

I’m trying to catch that, but I’m busy enough that I doubt I will catch it happening…

Any ideas on where to look next or something to try?

(iMac has 8GB of RAM, but today my MacBook with 16GB of RAM just exhibited the same symptoms, and has been less stable than I’d like with Mavericks… I’m wondering if it’s just more stable because it has more RAM…)

To clarify – Beastie Boys, GoldieBlox

Earlier tonight, I shared an article on Salon about the Beastie Boys/GoldieBlox controversy. I shared it because it was the first article I personally read that pointed out that GoldieBlox sued the Beastie Boys, not the other way around.

This prompted a few people to take me to task about “defending” the Beastie Boys. It all went downhill from there to the order of something like 60 tweets. I’m not even kidding about that number.

So, here’s a really short, you-don’t-need-to-reply explanation of what I was trying to say in a space where I’m not constrained by 140 characters and Twitter’s intrinsic “reply point-by-point” structure.

Here’s where I’m coming from: my timeline on Facebook, primarily, but also on Twitter, was filled with people admonishing the Beastie Boys for getting litigious with GoldieBlox over this super positive video. Initiating legal action made the Beastie Boys the bad guys in their eyes.

All I was trying to say was that given the little we actually know about the conversation these two parties had, I’m unwilling to judge either Beastie Boys or GoldieBlox as being “censorious thugs” or “thieves” in this case. I’m not really commenting on whether GoldieBlox should’ve sued or who’s right on the merits of the legal case.

My sense is that everyone that is jumping to one side or the other has some assumptions they’re bringing to the conversation. Even EFF, which defaults to defending fair use and thus takes GoldieBlox’s side, hedges about how serious the legal threat was:

It’s unclear how strong the legal threats were — they aren’t attached to the complaint — but GoldieBlox is clearly worried not just about an infringement lawsuit, but any effort to abuse the DMCA to take down the video just as the holiday shopping season gets under way.

It doesn’t look like they have any inside information – they’re also just speculating about what motivated GoldieBlox.

That little detail – “who’s the bad guy” – is different from “who’s in the right.” Sometimes, no one is the bad guy, even if one side or the other is right. Considering the lack of a DMCA takedown, which is trivial and free and their claims that they made no demands at all, it doesn’t seem like the Beastie Boys were being too aggressive about taking this down. Guess we’ll find out more as they get to court.


Over the past few months, I’ve watched the entire Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. It’s a fun ride, and I’m now surprised I never even considered watching it when it was on the air.

One random observation: the show is a really interesting window into how much technology shifted in the late 90s and early 2000s. The show ran from 1997-2003. As you watch the seasons, you start seeing the computers go from desktops to a nice MacBook, the characters casually mention Google as a verb, and the arrival of cell phones in the hands of (some) high schoolers. Nice window into our changing tech over those 7 years.