Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Dinner Install: An Exercise in Frustration

Hopefully this will be funny to a number of folks out there of a semi-geeky/techie nature. Many have probably been in similar situations. My apologies if it embarasses anybody else. All quotes are approximate, and names have been avoided where possible. Everything recounted below actually happened, of course. It was just so surreal I had to write it down.

    * * * * *

On arrival at relatives' home for dinner, I am greeted by

"Oh, Greg, we can use your expertise."


But of course I have to help. Not a problem. Relatives. See what I can do.


Now, you have to imagine all of this taking place in the middle of an informal dinner get-together of about eight people including two 5-6 year old girls. Everything, every question, every event, is an interruption to some conversation, and the girls are in constant motion, continuously emitting extremely high-pitched sounds that may or may not have any meaning.

"Can you get this to work on our Sonos system?"

"This" is a floating waterproof speaker for a hot tub. So naturally the first thing I do is look at the directions. Yeah, I'm weird that way. Those only talk about pairing with Bluetooth. Sonos is WiFi. I look at the box. It says "Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker."

"Sorry, this doesn't work with Sonos. That's WiFi, this is Bluetooth. Two completely different things. They don't talk to one another."

"Oh. I suppose we could return it. But it was a Father's Day gift. Is there any way to make it work?"

"Well, it can probably work with your phone. Can you play the Sonos on your phone?" She has a somewhat elderly iPhone that is having problems.

"No. The phone has a Sonos controller, but not a Sonos player."

"Well, we can still play music from your phone."

"I don't have any music on my phone."

"Actually, you do. iTunes has iTunes Radio." I pull it up on her phone, and start scrolling through the stream choices.

"Does it have smooth jazz?" Of course not.

At this point my wife chimes in with "Oh, you have to get this great app, Fit Radio. I use it all the time. It's free! And it has almost no commercials."

Never mind that Fit Radio is for workouts, and not everybody wants 140 beats/min songs pumping them up in a hot tub. It's my wife. It must be installed.

"How do you get it?"

I open the app store, find Fit Radio, click to install.

"It wants your Apple ID password. Could you enter it?"

Oh, no. The rabbit hole just opened. Wide. Because, of course...


"Ummm. I'm not sure. Try [xxxxx]. We usually use that around the house." Doesn't work. "Try [yyyy]." "Maybe [zzzz];" This goes on until... 

iTunes says "Your account is disabled."

The choices are 1) Reset password. 2) Answer security questions. Of course nobody wants to go near the security questions.

So it's reset time. "OK, what's your Apple ID? Not the password, the email address or whatever you used."

"My what? I have no idea. Let's text . I think he keeps track of those things. Maybe he knows."

Text sent, so I get time to drink a swig of beer, but that's about all, since his response is quick.

"I think the ID is aaaa@bbbb. And password is yyyy."

We're past the point of the password, of course, but it was one of the ones we tried, and it didn't work.

A step forward! aaaa@bbbb works! Now we wait for iTunes to send email to that account.

Wait. Not there. Wait. Not there. Wait. Not there.

"Are you checking aaaa@bbbb?"

"Huh? Oh. That email account. Let me look... there it is!"

One step forward again. Click on link, reach web page saying to pick a new password.

"What do you want for a password?"


"Try [argle]." I enter it twice, carefully, and hit "next". 

iTunes says: All passwords must contain a number.

"Try [argle]08." I enter it twice, carefully, and hit "next". 

iTunes says: All passwords must have an uppercase letter.

"Try [Argle]08." I enter it twice, carefully, and hit "next". 

iTunes says: You can't have used the same password in the last year.

"Try [Bargle]08." I enter it twice, carefully, and hit "next". 

iTunes says: Your password is not complex enough.

I give up and make up a *&^%ing password myself. It contains words expressing my frustration, but is not unsuitable for work. Relatives, remember. It gets through iTunes' tight-assed checks. Of course it has no mnemonic value for them, so it gets written down on a piece of paper which is put in a kitchen drawer, probably never to be seen again.

Now we're back in the App store, and again try to download Fit Radio. Which is free. So obviously

iTunes says "You need to verify your payment method. Cancel/Continue".

I hit cancel, thinking, silly me, that we're not buying anything, so I can skip that step. Naturally, that cancels the download. Of a free app. So I try again, and this time hit "continue."

"I'm sorry, but they are saying there's no credit card on file. Yes, they insist on it even though the app is free."

"Well, yes, not having a card on account was deliberate, as I recall." Smiles.

"Have you ever downloaded an app?"

"Actually, well, no."

I wonder where the other apps I see on the phone came from, but keep my mouth shut.

"Do you really want to keep pushing on this, or just call it a day?"

Hands me a credit card.

So I enter it and all the other information, and it bounces back with invalid number. But I can't see where it's wrong because the space to enter it on the form is too short for all 12 digits.

After much fumbling with iPhone's sadistic cursor control I find the wrong digit - which had scrolled off to the right, of course -- and fix it.

OK, now we can download the free app. I do so. It downloads and installs.

WAIT WAIT WAIT... yes, they do have a late enough version of iOS installed to use it. Whew. Yes. Not the most recent release, but good enough, by like one sub-release.

Almost had a little moment there.

So I crank up the app, and... It's free, but it wants you to create a new account. At this point I've had it. I hand the phone to my wife, saying "You did this for yourself, right? Do it for them, please." She gives me a nasty look because this is obviously less important than whatever she was talking to someone about, but I just grab my now-warm beer and go outside, where folks are sitting around and talking, just as if they were normal people.

A few minutes later, my wife comes over and says it won't play.

We fuss with it. We get the commercial - &deity forbid the commercial shouldn't work - but no music is emitted. I kill it and restart it. This time I say I have no idea, because I don't.

But a few minutes later I feel guilty. So I download the dang thing on my own phone, start it up, And I have to create another dang furshlugginer account, probably my 267th. At least it doesn't have iTunes' tight sphincter about passwords. For me, it works. 140 bpm music is indeed emitted. So it's probably nothing in their WiFi or whatever.

I go chase down her phone again, and try again. Still no noises are emitted. (Other than the commercial, of course.) I try iTunes Radio. No noises there, either. Hmm. That was working before; I tried that back when finding out it didn't meet the Smooth Jazz Requirement. (Neither does FIT Ratio, but...) What the heck?

Just for grins, I try the other part of the job, which originally was the only job: pairing bluetooth. I start up the Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker, and it proceeds to emit a long, bizarre series of beeps and boops and flashes which, the instructions inform me, mean that... it's paired! I look at the Bluetooth settings, and gol-dang, the phone agrees. So why no noises?

OK, so reboot the phone. I do that, and get the message

"You have less than 20% battery left."

Wonderful. Well, that should be enough to try...

Nope, it just did an auto-shutdown.

A charging cable gets found somewhere, the phone is plugged in on the kitchen counter amid the party wine glasses, and it reboots.

Once it's going again, I think well, whatever, it's plugged in, so let's try. Among the wine glasses I go to iTunes Radio, and noises come out! I go to Fit Radio and... more noises! After the commercial!

So I bring the Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker over by the wine glasses, but my wife has put a thing down where I need to be. I go to move it and hear "What are you doing? I put that there to remember to take it home." "I need to try the speaker, and it has to be over here where the phone is charging. How about putting it over there instead." "I suppose." Another dirty look.

Finally. I turn on the Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker. It boops. Then the phone stops emitting noises - they're coming from the speaker! Oh frabjous day! Caloo! Calay!

So I tell everybody it now works! It works! Hooray! Even the new app works with it!

"Good. It's time to eat."

So they can now get 140bpm songs under water in the hot tub, or whatever. I don't think they'll ever use it. But they can tell whoever gave it to them that they got it to work, and oh, it's so great.

And I have a new app, and Yet Another Account, that I am never going to use and I know Apple will never let me get rid of. (I've tried. They come back on restore from backup.)

And I know they're going to lose that password.