Playstation 4 Is Here. Why Am I Not More Excited?

I watched the liveblogs of the Sony Playstation 4 event. Interesting that the hardware specs are essentially a moderately beefy PC (8 core AMD processor, Radeon GPU, 8GB RAM).

The games they demoed looked ok, but nothing groundbreaking. I’m really looking forward to Witness and Destiny, but more because they look like great games from developers I admire than because they’re on a next gen console.

I can’t shake the feeling that PS4 is going to be underwhelming (so will the next Xbox), but I can’t articulate why. I don’t know what I expect a next gen console to be capable of. It feels like we’ve hit a wall with regard to how “advanced” graphics (and other horsepower-driven factors) can be.

No doubt there will be pockets of amazing creativity and art, just like always. And I’ll continue to gravitate toward those. But maybe after 32+ years as a gamer, I’ve “seen it all”. That makes me kind of sad. I want to be amazed.

I want to be amazed. But nothing shown at the event amazed me. I spent an hour this evening watching high quality videos of the games shown today, on the same TV I play my PS3 on. Not perfect, but close enough. And nothing amazed me.

Sure, there are a few games I really want now (Witness, Drive Club, Destiny). But if developers had something capable of amazement, they didn’t show it. And I guess that’s what worries me.

Maybe it’s early days still. But the closer to reality games become (I like the analogy that games are becoming more like a movie, with fewer constraints), the harder it is to actually create something amazing. Maybe it will just take time. Maybe it will take indie developers getting in there and doing something different. But I’m not seeing it yet.

I wonder if this is the last generation of “big” gaming consoles we’ll see? Mobile gaming has already had seismic effects. The length of a “generation” for consoles has gotten longer and longer. We can’t predict what gaming on our personal devices will look like in 6-7 years, but by then, will the “big” consoles still be viable? I’m now sowing doom and gloom – I love gaming in all its forms – but I could totally see this being the end for consoles as we know them. The landscape could very easily shatter.

The iOS 8 Battery Usage screen in Settings

iPhone Gets Hot, Battery Drains Rapidly – How I Fixed It

The short version: how I diagnosed and fixed an issue that was causing multiple iPhones and an iPad to get hot and drain their batteries. This is the nitty gritty on how I fixed the problem. Read on below for all the details, and how I let my Apple bias (almost) lead me away from the correct answer.

Update 4: If you haven’t heard, iOS 8 adds a great new feature to track battery usage by app, so you can see which app, specifically, is draining your battery. This is a FANTASTIC addition for troubleshooting this kind of problem. Find it at Settings > General > Usage > Battery Usage, and learn more about it here.

The iOS 8 Battery Usage screen in Settings

The iOS 8 Battery Usage screen in Settings

Update 3: A kind reader pointed out that as of iOS 7, the location for the app crash logs is now Settings > Privacy > Diagnostics & Usage > Diagnostics & Usage Data (instead of Settings > General > About > Diagnostics & Usage > Diagnostics & Usage Data). Thanks, John!

Update 2: A lot of people have contacted me to let me know the things I documented in this post helped them solve their battery issue. That makes me really happy. Recently, there was another popular post by former Apple Genius Scotty Loveless with some more great steps to diagnose and fix iPhone battery issues. You should definitely check it out: The Ultimate Guide to Solving iOS Battery Drain

Update: Apple released iOS 6.1.2 on February 19, 2013, which is slated to fix some Exchange-related bugs that can cause the problem I describe in this post. Make sure you’re running 6.1.2 or newer if you’re experiencing this problem.

Troubleshooting Excessive Heat and Battery Drain Issues on iOS Devices

Problem: iPhone (or iPad) gets abnormally warm when not doing anything. battery drains much faster than normal. Rebooting doesn’t fix it.

Troubleshooting Steps:

  1. Follow all of Apple’s battery life troubleshooting steps. No, really. Do all of them. Don’t skip any. I know you’re a super smart nerd. Just do them.
  2. Go to Settings, General, About, Diagnostics & Usage, Diagnostic & Usage Data. Scroll through the list and see if there are any system processes with an abnormally large number of entries (a few entries is normal). Identify the name of the troubled process.
  3. Research the name of the troubled system process to see what it’s function is – this will give you a clue to a possible solution. For example, dataaccessd is responsible for background syncing of Exchange, iCloud, CalDAV, and other calendar data. This was the cause of my problem. Others have reported issues with webbookmarksd, the process responsible for syncing bookmarks and Reading List with iCloud.
  4. Try disabling the functionality related to the troubled process, then rebooting your device to see if the issue goes away. In my case, I disabled all iCloud syncing (Calendars, Contacts, etc.). If you have an Exchange email/calendar account, remove it from your device. Make sure the server side has all of your data, because this step will delete it from your device.
  5. If the issue is resolved, try reenabling the functionality. Again, in my case, I turned iCloud syncing back on, and the issue hasn’t returned. I suspect a corrupt meeting instance that was deleted days ago was causing the problem.
  6. Going forward, use what you’ve learned about the Diagnostic & Usage data logs to keep an eye on your battery usage. If you desire, try a third party “activity monitor”-type app to see what system processes are doing. I used this free one. There are many to choose from.

Background, Details, Lessons Learned, Crow Eaten

The long version:

Prior to getting the iPhone 5, my iPhones spent a lot of time in a dock on my desk, or in a cradle in my car, being charged. I had no real idea of what “normal” battery life was like, because I was always near a charger. When I got my iPhone 5, with its new Lightning connector, none of my old intraday charging options worked anymore. For the first time, I got a sense of what “normal” battery life on my iPhone should be. I took it off the charger in the morning, used it normally throughout the day (i.e. took no special steps to preserve battery life), and by bedtime, I’d sometimes hit the 20% battery warning. Maybe 10% if I was using it heavily. Not once did it drain to zero and shut off. A typical day was an hour or so of listening to podcasts, one or two short phone calls, and an hour or so of browsing Twitter/Reddit/Facebook or reading in the Kindle app during lunchtime. I even left Dark Sky notifications (which actively uses GPS) and Instapaper Background Location Updates (which uses geofencing) enabled. Based on this, I had confidence that I could get through the day without charging, following my normal usage patterns.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that I was getting the 20% and 10% battery warning in late afternoon, and more than once, my phone would completely shut down when I pulled it out of my pocket in the evening. It was often quite warm (I could feel it on my leg). I was annoyed, but I figured that I was just using it too much. But at this point, I started to pay more attention to how much I used the phone, and where the battery was at throughout the day.

Around the same time, my wife complained to me that her iPhone 4S was getting hot for no reason, and the battery was draining quickly. Essentially the same symptoms. My wife’s charging habits are much different from mine (I charge religiously every night, she charges when the battery gets low), so I couldn’t make a direct comparison between our usage habits. But this coincidence raised my alert level another notch, and I started thinking about what could be causing the issue.

Here’s what I ruled out:

  • iOS Version – I have 6.0.1, she has 6.0. So it wasn’t something introduced in the 6.0.1 update, and both of us had used 6.0 for weeks with no problems.
  • LTE – My iPhone 5 has LTE, but her 4S doesn’t. Again, I used LTE for weeks with no issues.
  • Bluetooth – not enabled on either phone
  • Apps running in the background – besides the fact that Apple doesn’t let apps fully run in the background (there are a limited set of background APIs an app can use, like requesting location, playing audio, etc.), I did some troubleshooting to rule this out. Fresh restart of the phone, didn’t open any apps, and it would still get hot and drain the battery.

This is the part where I start jumping to conclusions, and being blinded by my own bias.

The only thing (I thought) our afflicted iPhones had in common was the AT&T network. I imagined that there was some issue with the AT&T network in our area (a misconfigured tower, etc.) that was causing the phones to crank up power to the cellular radios, get hot, and drain their batteries. If you’ve ever used a cell phone in an area with very minimal coverage, you know what I mean. In order to hold onto the signal, software turns up the transmit power on the radios. In my head, this was the only explanation for our problem. Apple doesn’t let apps run away in the background, and I didn’t even consider that it could be something integral to iOS itself. So I took to the interwebs, ranting and complaining:

Then some new clues popped up that eventually led me to the solution to our problem. And a nice, big helping of crow.

I got three emails, in close succession, informing me that I only had 5% (then 4%, then 3%) remaining on my iPad’s monthly data plan. I picked up my iPad, and it was warm, and the battery was lower than it should have been (49%, and it had hardly been used that day). Whatever this supposed AT&T network problem was, it was now affecting my iPad. My iPad with Verizon LTE. I don’t use LTE much on my iPad when I’m not traveling, because I’m always near wifi. I’ve never even come close to using my monthly allotment of 2GB. I concluded that something was chewing up large amounts of cellular data (and battery), just like our phones, but it couldn’t be AT&T’s fault. Humbling realization number one. I started searching for people with similar problems (and hopefully, solutions). I found a TON of results, which were hard to wade through. I knew this was a vague enough problem that finding specific, helpful information was going to be a challenge. I found lots of forum threads full of people with similar issues. These threads pointed out that you can check detailed system logs for crashes or other issues by going to Settings, General, About, Diagnostics & Usage, Diagnostics & Usage Data. Now, I’ve done my time in IT support. I know how to use logs to troubleshoot issues. I just assumed that the nice, clean Apple-designed world of iOS wouldn’t let me get at system-level event logs to gain any useful information. That it would all be locked up in a black box that only the Genius Bar could open with their magical incantations. I was wrong. It’s all right there, for anyone who wants to look. Humbling realization number two. This led to the final clue, and the solution to our problem. In the Diagnostic and Usage data, there were hundreds of entries for a system process called dataaccessd. It was crashing frequently. I downloaded a free Activity Monitor-like app to let me monitor those system level processes, and I saw that dataaccessd was essentially running amok – pegging the CPU and the network, and constantly working really hard to do whatever it was trying to do. More research revealed that dataaccessd‘s job is synchronizing calendar data for Exchange, CalDAV, and iCloud accounts. Many people in the forums reported success by disabling Exchange calendar sync. I use Exchange calendars for my work stuff, by my wife doesn’t. So it wasn’t that. Could it be iCloud? I suddenly recalled some weird iCloud calendar issues we’d been having. An apparently corrupt meeting from work that somehow landed on one of my iCloud calendars that I couldn’t delete. My wife complaining about events being added on her phone but not showing up on the Mac at home. Maybe it was iCloud.

I had gotten so frustrated with this problem that I could pick up my phone and tell by its temperature whether or not it was experiencing the issue. I could feel it get hot, and watch the battery percentage drop before my eyes. So I disabled iCloud completely (removing all my calendars, contacts, etc.), rebooted the phone, and waited. Several minutes later – long enough that the battery would have dropped a couple of percent if it were still having problems – the phone was perfectly cool to the touch, and the battery percent was exactly the same. The activity monitor app no longer showed dataaccessd going crazy. Disabling iCloud had fixed the problem. This was Apple’s fault, not AT&T’s fault. Humbling realization number three.

Many of the threads I read reported success by disabling then re-enabling Exchange (or iCloud), so I tentatively turned it back on, letting all of my data sync back, and watched it carefully over the rest of the evening and the following morning to make sure. It stayed cool as a cucumber, and the battery is back to the strong performance I was getting a couple of weeks ago. I did the same to my iPad and my wife’s phone, and they’re all back to normal, as well.

I can’t say with 100% certainly, but there’s a calendar item that I got from my Exchange account that I’m pretty sure was corrupt (it ended up on my iCloud calendar for some reason, and I couldn’t delete it), and I bet that’s what caused iCloud to go crazy.

What did I learn?

I didn’t want to admit that the problem could be Apple’s fault. My bias led me to prematurely place the blame on AT&T, and it had nothing to do with them.

There are useful diagnostic logs available on your iOS device. I should learn more about these. Ironically, the Apple bias that made me reluctant to blame them also made me reluctant to believe that they would provide the system-level diagnostics to solve the problem.

I’m not as smart as I thought I was. Making assumptions about what you think you know is dangerous, and often leads not only to the wrong answers, but to looking dumb in public.

I do not like the taste of crow, but I believe it’s healthy to eat it when you need to.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic for iPad

Worlds Collide: The My Little Pony iOS Game

Sometimes there’s a perfect storm, when different avenues of my weird personality collide. The [My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic]( game by Gameloft (for iPhone and iPad) is out. The game itself is free, but they’ll try to sell you coins and gems. The basic mechanic is a town builder similar to We Rule or Tiny Tower (and countless others that I lost patience with long ago), but set in Ponyville. And it’s absolutely lousy with MLP goodness.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic for iPad

Fans will be happy to know that Gameloft didn’t just phone this one in. The art is good. The voices are great (they use the original voice actors). The music is *perfect*. The cast is wide and varied, and more than likely includes your favorite background pony, no matter how obscure. There’s even sort of a plot/storyline, beyond just “build your town and get lots of stuff”. Derpy even plays her adorable part.

Nits to pick: there’s not much variety in the minigames (you’ll play a *lot* of bouncy ball and catch the apple to level ponies up), and some of them are kind of jerky and don’t feel quite right. I found a typo (Pinkie Pie’s name is misspelled “Pinky Pie” on her caption when she’s speaking, but is correctly spelled elsewhere). At its core, it’s just an addictive, nagging “come play with us!” game that will bug you to keep coming back. Progress can be slow at times, but that’s because they want you to cough up real money for bits and gems to speed things up. Typical for the genre. What will keep bringing you back are the ponies. They’re just so dang adorable!

The social aspect is also seriously broken right now. Besides the fact that “Gameloft Live” is hard to figure out (adding friends, etc.), there are widespread reports on [/r/mylittlepony/]( of simply not being able to connect with friends, service errors, etc. I might be willing to chalk it up to high demand on launch day – we’ll see how it goes. At any rate, I’m jabancroft on GLLive, if you want to add me. You can also connect with Facebook, but it didn’t find any friends for me. Could be because no one is playing/connected there yet.

There are a thousand ways this game could have gone wrong, and for the most part, Gameloft nailed it. The bronies are appeased (and lets face it, we’re the target audience, if for no other reason than we have more disposable income than six year old girls 😀 ).

See you in Ponyville.

Blog, Photos

Link and Zelda Costumes: My Wife Wins Halloween This Year

I’ve been introducing my kids to the Legend of Zelda games (part of their Gamer Heritage), and they absolutely love them. We’ve played through Skyward Sword and Twilight Princess, and we’re working on Wind Waker now. They LOVE to play as Link and Zelda, so it was clear months ago what they wanted to be for Halloween this year.

My wife has been working for weeks on the costumes (mostly Zelda’s), and I can’t even say how AWESOME she is for making such an amazing costume for Emma. The details are perfect, and Emma looks amazing. And Gabe just lives and breaths Link. Besides the touches on his costume (a leather pouch that he made himself, a real ocarina, and the Hylian Shield that I made), he’s been practicing his sword moves, and has them down pat, straight from the games.

I love being a geek dad. 🙂

You can view and download all of the photos in [this Imgur album](


iBooks 3.0 Seriously Underwhelms

iBooks 3.0 was announced today at Apple’s event, and is available now on the App Store.

Is it just me, or does calling this update “3.0” feel like a overstatement? A new (continuous) scrolling mode (that doesn’t work with fullscreen), some new languages, and “iCloud” sync that, as far as I can tell, is *identical* to the sync it’s had from day one (suns reading position and lets you download purchased books)? That’s it? Am i missing something? This should have been a labeled a minor point release, not “3.0”. Oh, and iBooks Author got an update, too. Some new themes, and you can now make portrait-only books. Be still my heart.

Why do I even care? Because I’m an avid ebook buyer and reader (several per month). I love my iPhone and iPad and I love reading on them. I want to love iBooks. It’s gorgeous. But I find myself doing all my reading in the Kindle app (and hence, buying from Amazon). iBooks offers no benefits I can see over the Kindle app and ecosystem. I guess I’m kind of rooting for Apple to do something groundbreaking and spectacular here, not because I love Apple, but because I love books.

That’s why this “update” underwhelms. iBooks could be so much more.


iPhone 5 LEGO Dock v2: Headphone Compatibility


I modified the iPhone 5 dock/stand I made out of LEGO to accommodate the headphone cable (which is now located at the bottom of the phone, and is probably the number one reason that Apple has said the won’t be making a dock for the iPhone 5. Now I can listen to podcasts and music at my desk while using the stand.


I also added some cosmetic enhancements, because let’s be honest – half the fun of doing this is tinkering and trying to make it look cool.

I still haven’t integrated a Lightning cable of charging/sync, partly because I still only have two cables, and don’t want to dedicate one to living on my desk, but also because kind of like see what kind of battery life I get when I go all day without charging. So far, it’s great. I rarely dip below the 20% mark before I go to bed. There’s space for it in the design, though, and I’ll add it eventually, once I have a spare cable laying around.


Watch This: “The Choice 2012”, Frontline’s Special on Obama and Romney

Take the time to watch this. It’s two hours well spent. I learned a lot about both Obama and Romney, and I found new respect for both of their backgrounds, challenges, and shortcomings. Don’t yell at your screen, but watch, and think. No matter how made up your mind is.


Frontline is publicly funded and has a track record of independence and excellent investigative journalism. I trust them more than any other broadcast journalists. This is worth two hours of your time.


Six Strikes: Don’t Let the Content Industry Tighten Their Chokehold on the Internet

[Copyright Scofflaws Beware: ISPs to Begin Monitoring Illicit File Sharing](

This is the so-called “six strikes” rule, where you lose your internet access after being accused of infringing. It’s not a law, it’s an “initiative”. It’s “voluntary” for ISPs. The chair of the group behind the program (does anyone believe this isn’t just a front for the Big Content industry?) says the program is intended to be “educational, not punitive”. “You won’t get in trouble unless you’re downloading hundreds of songs”. So say the PR people.

Yeah, right.

Why should we believe any of those promises? We scared the crap out of them with the fact that we raised our voices and put a stop to SOPA and PIPA, so now they’re trying a more conciliatory approach. “We learned from SOPA” they said. “We’re not going to try that again” they said. And yet, here they are, under the guise of an “educational”, “voluntary” program for ISPs (read: additional legal and support and infrastructure costs to solve someone else’s problems and treat their customers like criminals, and for what benefit?). Sounds like a great plan.

Ask yourself this question. What problem does this solve for ISPs? What benefit do they get? I don’t see any. The content industry is the only one with something at stake here. They want to continue to coast along on their ancient business models, and fight like the devil against anything that would change them (too late!). And they want ISPs to do this “voluntarily”. You can bet the ISPs will pass these costs along to you, so it’ll be your dime paying for all of this.

So why would they do it? They’re being bullied.

To quote Cory Doctorow in the preface to his new (and highly relevant) novel [Pirate Cinema](, “betting against the Internet in the 21st century is felony stupidity.”

Cory has long been warning us about the dangers of “n strikes and we cut your Internet connection” laws. Pirate Cinema is a stark and 100% plausible example of what could happen if these laws are enacted.

Think about this: How much of your livelihood (and the livelihood of everyone with whom you share your Internet connection at home – family, roommates, etc.) depends on Internet access? More than you probably realize. Telecommuting, studying, and even looking for work all depend heavily on the Internet. The TV you watch, the music you listen to, the games you play, and the books you read. Good luck doing any of those things if you get rack up enough accusations (not convictions; accusations) to get your connection yanked.

I buy all of my music, movies, apps, games, and books. I want to support their creators, so I don’t download them illegally. Theoretically, I wouldn’t be affected in the least by this program. But it’s still a terrible idea, and the way things are going, how long will it be until they find a way to make me a criminal, too? What about you? If this works, all they learn is that being a bully gets good results.

I want everyone to read [Pirate Cinema]( Buy it, or [get it for free directly from Cory]( Just read it. Think hard about what will happen if we continue to let the content industry have more and more control over something so important to the livelihood and well being of so many people – the Internet. Please, download and read this book. Get your friends, parents, teachers, and everyone else to read it and think about it. Not everyone will agree, but if more of us just start thinking about the issue, we can start to have a better conversation about it. Remember what happened with SOPA/PIPA.

SOPA/PIPA showed us that we have a voice, and we can make a difference. Don’t let the content industry get a stranglehold on the greatest invention and resource of our time just so they can try to protect and drag out their ancient business model a little longer. What good reason is there, besides their desire to preserve an outdated business model, their feeling that they’re entitled to keep making money from that model forever, to give them such control? The net is ours. They want to take it. Don’t let them.

Blog, Video

Bronyism in Modern Culture: My Five Minute Ignite Portland Talk on Why I Love My Little Pony

I’ve been involved with Ignite Portland from the very beginning. I helped get it started five years ago, and helped lead the planning of the event nine times. I’ve taken a break from planning the event, but it will always hold a place in my heart. After Ignite Portland 10, almost on a whim, I submitted a talk proposal entitled “Bronyism in Modern Culture: WTF is Up with My Little Pony?!“. Fast forward a few months, my talk idea was selected, and I shared it in Ignite format (20 slides, 15 seconds each, total of 5 minutes) on stage in front of about 500 people at Ignite Portland 11 on September 19, 2012.

This is the (very well done!) final video of my talk:

The highlight of the event was the people who came up to me afterwards, to introduce themselves as fellow bronies and pegasisters. Sometimes boldly, sometimes bashfully. It was wonderful to meet them, and share that connection.

Some people commented to me that I was really brave to share what I did, but it didn’t feel like bravery to me. Sure, I was a little nervous (about talking, not about the topic). But I was able to share something I love in front of a large audience, and I didn’t die. You won’t, either. Keep that in mind the next time you’re facing something that makes you nervous.

You can view/download the slide deck on Slideshare. I used Pinterest to research and gather material for my talk, and credits for all the amazing artwork and photography I used in the talk can be found here:

Thanks to the show’s creators, cast, and the brony community for being awesome! brohoof 🙂


iPhone 5 LEGO Dock

iPhone 5 LEGO Dock

The angle is just about perfect. It was driving me CRAZY having my phone lay flat on my desk. Partly because I’m paranoid about scratching up the back, and partly because I like to glance at notifications when they come in.

Battery life is good enough (and spare Lightning cables scarce enough) that I’m not going to integrate charging yet. And I want to figure out how to raise it enough to allow the headphones to be plugged in (at the bottom). But it’s a start.