To Catch a Thief: Using Find My iPhone

After my last post about chasing down my wife’s stolen iPad, a few people have asked about how to be sure they’ve set their own iOS devices correctly to protect themselves.

Let me tell you first that Apple’s help posts on their website are phenomenal, and their forums are better that anyplace for getting detailed help on how to do almost anything on any Apple device. When I worked as an Apple tech, we constantly referred to the same Knowledge Base articles that the public has access to. Here is a great place to start for lots of info on using Find My iPhone after you read this.

First of all, if you own any iOS device, you are probably already set up on iCloud. Your Apple ID (the email address and password you use to download apps) will get you into that too.

First, make sure your device has Find My iPhone enabled. In your device’s Settings, go to iCloud, then make sure Find My iPhone is toggled on.

 

 

Next, go to the iCloud site here (opens in new tab). Log in with your Apple ID, and look around. You will see several very nifty tools, and maybe a few you don’t even use (probably Pages, Numbers, and Keynote).

Here is what mine looks like:

See the “Find My iPhone” icon? Click on it. You will have to verify your password again. You can play around a bit with no harm done. Just don’t touch anything that says “Erase.”

Mine currently shows my iPhone, iPad, and Macbook all on my home property.

This function is said to be able to track your device within 30 feet of its location. There have been times I have used it just to see if I left my phone at someone else’s house or in their car.

Right now, Erin is out touring a haunted sanitarium, I can see her device on the map since we use Family Sharing. This was handy when tracking her iPad with my own iPhone. (Yes, you can do most of this from a free iOS app called “Find iPhone.” If you don’t have that app, download it too to track any other Apple devices you have.)

Select your device in the “Find My iPhone” section of iCloud by clicking the drop-down menu under All Devices. If you have only one iOS device, you may not need to do this step.

When you select a particular device, the map will zoom to it, you will see some options:

  • Play Sound
  • Lost Mode
  • Erase iPhone (iPad, etc)

Again, don’t touch the Erase. That’s the Nuclear Option.

But try the Play Sound function.

If you’ve ever had someone call your phone so you can find it, you’ll love the Play Sound function on Apple products. It even works if the phone is silenced, but not if it is off or the battery is dead.

You can also play with the Lost Mode, though. It will walk you through setting a lock code and putting in a phone number and message to appear on the locked device, should anyone find it. Here is more info on setting that lock.

Remember: Lost Mode will not take effect until your device accesses the Internet. This happens either via cellular data or wifi. If your device is an iPhone or a cellular-enabled iPad, that’s almost immediate. If it is a wifi-only device like many iPads or a Macbook, it will require it to hit a wifi spot you have used before, or for a thief/finder to try to use it on wifi. That’s how we got Erin’s locked and found.

There is a lot you can do with iCloud. My old iPhone flew out the window of my car as I careened through a roundabout once. I drove straight to an AT&T store with my crushed phone, got another, logged into iCloud, and within minutes I had my contacts, calendars, and lots of other stuff back on my new phone.

One more thing I suggested in my previous post: Have a record of your device’s serial number somewhere. Maybe email it to yourself or keep it in an Evernote or Simplenote app (if you don’t have one of these, you must try them.)

You can find your device serial number on iOS under Settings > General > About. Scroll down to see the serial number. Take a screenshot, even (press power and home keys at the same time).

With your complete serial number, police can list your device in a database that pawn shops and other businesses can see nationwide. If your device is locked, a message is displaying, and the serial number is in that database, it is nearly useless to thieves. They can’t even erase it without your Apple ID and password.

One more thing: Get AppleCare. It’s worth it many times over, especially if you have an iMac or Macbook. It turns disasters into inconveniences. I don’t work for them anymore, but my house is full of Apple devices, all because I saw firsthand how much support there is.

Hope this helps. Remember to search any Apple questions at Apple’s Support Site. It’s free to read and post questions. (39)

Posted in Freelance Writing | Leave a comment

Afoot

Some shit-heel stole my wife’s iPad and charger from her purse as she lay in an emergency room bed a couple of nights ago. When she got home in the wee morning hours, she hadn’t discovered it missing from her purse yet. When she did, I locked it and set up to trace it. I also called local and campus police. After that, it was just a matter of waiting for the dimwit to drive past anyplace the iPad would hit wifi.

Today we got the iPad back, minus charger. Apple’s fantastic “Find My iPhone” feature can get you within 30 feet of the device and send you notices when it pings wifi. When they tried to drop it off for an accomplice to retrieve today, I had campus police waiting.

We haven’t yet determined proven who took the iPad in the first place, but I do know who had it last. Based on what he did on the iPad before the lock kicked in, as well as other clues, the police and I have been able to determine:

  • His name
  • His phone number
  • His Facebook account (which I still have signed in)
  • His email address
  • Where he works
  • What shift he works
  • A trip he mapped out
  • A Craigslist personals ad he placed
  • His porn preference
  • Names of his friends
  • The name of the woman he sent to drop the iPad
  • The name and license plate of the accomplice who was to retrieve it

I don’t think this nimrod stole it. I think he received it from someone, and I have her name too. I have pictures. I know when she attended a wedding, and who in her family was there. If I wanted more, I could have it.

She’s the one who stole from my wife as she worried over x-ray and blood test results, as she worried over shortness of breath and chest pains after cancer surgery.

She’s the one I want arrested.

The cops have everything I have. If they also have bigger fish to fry, I understand. If they help one girl safely to her dorm on campus rather than chase this, I get it. I just don’t want this churl to steal from someone else in a hospital bed.

A couple of suggestions from this adventure, especially if you have an iOS device:

  1. Lock your devices.
  2. Set up iCloud and Find My Phone.
  3. Keep record of your serial numbers. If your device is stolen, police enter that into a database that will catch the device at pawn shops, etc.
  4. Anytime you see a free wifi spot, log in, even if you do nothing. If your stolen device gets near it in the future, you have a trail to find it.
  5. You will have an option for a message to display to anyone who finds/steals the device. Be nice. Give a number to reach you. Don’t threaten.
  6. Close your personal items up when in hospitals, etc. Keep them out of sight. Hannibal Lecter was right: People covet what they see. Then they steal what they covet.

I am also seriously thinking about a tracker like this to help locate important items with a method separate from Apple’s already-great solutions.

Now, back to my life. (126)

Posted in Freelance Writing | Leave a comment

A Sobering Problem

I’m going to keep this as short as I can so you can get through it without snoring or wretching.

Tonight I was writing a news story on the arrest of a man who is accused of initiating the massive celebrity photo leak last year. You may recall that private photos of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities were obtained and released on the Internet. The worrisome part about that leak was that these photos were all said to have been so private and personal that the victims were stunned that anyone ever found them. Some swore that they never sent them to anyone, and only ever showed their boyfriend/husband in person. Some had long been deleted.

Many of these celebs’ Apple accounts were hacked, revealing their Photo Streams, even if they did not know they had that feature turned on. Android phones have similar features through Google. The idea is that your photos are all automatically saved for you in online archives, which you can choose to make public or private.

It’s Not Just Celebs

I did a couple of articles back when all this happened about the dangers of taking ANY nude photos with digital devices. Even if you are absolutely sure that you have these features disabled, there is a chance that they could be reenabled when updating your phone’s software. Then, any picture you take is waiting to be grabbed by someone who knows how to get to it all. Perhaps they hack your Apple or Google accounts. Perhaps they steal your phone or laptop. There are many ways.

“But I Use A Camera, Not a Phone”

But what about digital devices of other sorts, like standalone cameras? There are dangers in these too. For starters, even if you delete something on a digital device, most such devices do not really delete the item. This is true for many computer systems, phones, cameras, etc. The system simply changes the name of the file, hiding it from easy view, and indicating to itself that the space it occupies is available to be written over again.

All someone has to do is get their hands on your camera or the SD card within it, and they can quite easily browse that storage with other available software and reveal what it contains, including your pictures.

Finding Your Home Address From Your Pics

But another huge danger is due to something called “geotagging.” You may already be familiar with this feature. Most digital cameras and phones have this feature and it can be very nice. It embeds metadata onto your photos that includes the GPS coordinates of where the photo was taken.

This part can get downright scary. If you or your kids ever send a compromising photo — indeed, ANY photo — to someone, this feature can lead them right to your house. In fact, some photos posted online retain this information. Many websites strip it out, which is helpful. But if it is there — for example, in places I will show you in a moment — it could be a serious problem.

Let me show you how.

Here is a photo I took a few years ago of a house in Lexington.

I was doing some survey research work and no one lived there at the time. I took the photo and later deleted it from my iPhone. However, I had apparently synced my phone to my Mac before deleting the picture, so the Mac’s built-in iPhoto software saved the picture.

If I simply open this picture in the Mac’s built-in Preview software, I can then Inspect the metadata with two mouse clicks. This reveals to me the exact latitude and longitude coordinates of this house.

One more mouse click gets me a map. Notice the street address matches the number on the house in the photo. (You can right-click and open the image in a new tab to see it enlarged.)

There is no “hacking” to this. These are all built-in functions of normal phones, computers, and software. There are equivalent functions on Windows computers.

The person who stole all those celebrity photos likely has GPS coordinates for the places they were taken. If you take a photo of yourself or anyone else, especially one of a compromising nature, you are only one mistake away from this being your situation. Even if your photo does not include your face, anyone with half an hour to kill and geotag info available could match that photo with others they find of you.

There are ways to shut off geotagging in most devices. As a responsible adult, you can research these methods, stay vigilant about all your devices, and protect yourself.

But what about your kids?

My son has a phone now. That phone has a camera and SMS capability (like almost every phone for the past 10+ years). If he sends a picture that he shouldn’t, maybe thinking it is a funny joke, likely nothing will happen.

Out In The Matrix

But that picture stays out there. Once sent, it is on servers, likely never deleted. Even if the recipient deletes it from his own phone, it is still out there.

Once upon a time, I worked in tech support for Blackberry on their smartphones. A father called in to the center and talked to a colleague sitting next to me. He was panicked about his teenage daughter. He asked my colleague to get into her Picture Mail (MMS) account on her Sprint Blackberry phone. This is definitely something a tech support worker in a call center in the middle of Kentucky can do, even without supervisor approval. My colleague would not send him anything he found, but he could have sent it to anyone. And he sure found some things. His daughter had been sending nude photos to an adult male.

But it gets worse.

Seedy Characters With Your Info

There are online forums where people in each state trade compromising pictures of ex-girlfriends. They typically post the city, first name, last initial and give a word that the last name rhymes with. Here is a typical (clothed) post requesting further info. Notice the handy links allowing users to search Google Images and EXIF info (which may contain geotags). Often these pictures are nude, and the poster asks for “wins” (more nudes).

This particular picture is a girl in L********. With the name clues provided, anyone can find her Facebook page within 15 seconds. There are dozens more girls listed in Lexington, Pikeville, Elizabethtown, Danville, etc.

Folks, these pictures just sit out there, waiting for someone to find them. Again, there is no “hacking” or special skills here. No software to download. No shadowy associates to navigate.

These girls took pictures that some of them thought would remain forever safe and private. Some deliberately and freely sent naked pictures of themselves to people. Now they are being traded, GPS information sought, and personal info divulged.

It’s not my aim to cause alarm or paranoia, but the phones and cameras that we all have and that our kids get have the capability of doing this. The odds of something outrageous happening increase when those devices are used carelessly.

I’ll leave you with a story about The Boss.

Many years ago, Bruce Springsteen dated a photographer. One time, she was taking pictures of him while they both drank wine. Bruce got a little bold and started taking off his shirt as she snapped pics. No problem; she snapped on. He playfully started to drop his pants. She stopped him cold.

“Don’t ever take your clothes off in front of a camera,” she warned. “Those pictures WILL get out. You may think you have them. You may think you trust the photographer. But it’s just a matter of time.”

It’s a big world; we have to live in it. Don’t be scared, but be smart. (245)

Posted in Freelance Writing | Comments Off

“I Wanna Be a ‘Producer’”

I am a big music nerd. I love to hear the stories behind songs, the details of recording sessions. I want to know what was tried and abandoned, what difficulties were encountered, what was accidental and what was hard-fought until it was right.

I have a tremendous respect for producers. Even as a kid, I loved reading the liner notes of albums, learning who the producers were. My ears perk up at names like Bob Ezrin, Andy Johns, Glyn Johns, Bob Rock, Mutt Lange, Rick Rubin, Ken Caillat, Keith Olsen, Jimmy Miller, George Martin, Phil Spector, Alan Parsons, Brian Wilson, Andrew Loog Oldham, Sam Phillips.

Which brings me to my concern. As brilliant as it sometimes can be, there is one aspect of hip-hop and other sample-dependent music that grates at me: the careless use of the word “Producer.”

To me, a producer like the ones I listed above, is someone who gets the job done. He takes the ideas and notions that a band brings in, at whatever level of completeness they come through the door, and ushers them to fruition. He makes the trains run on time. He watches the budget. But more than anything, he brings an incredible amount of knowledge and creativity to bear in getting a sound to tape.

The producer, working with a good engineer, knows where and how to set microphones. He knows how to place instruments in a room. He knows how to isolate and blend. He knows when to switch out a speaker or an amp tube. He knows what cables to use, which strings to change, and how sound waves interact.

But he also knows about how chords are built, how notes interact between instruments, how a chorus is constructed and how a solo is brought into play. he often plays multiple instruments himself, sometimes better than the band members.

He is an engineer and a musician, but one who has to deny his own ego so that sometimes-lesser stars can shine. He caters to them, cajoles them, votes with them, and puts up with tons of crap. In the end, it is he, often more than any other single person in the room, who gets the lightning into the bottle.

When it is all done, when those songs sail off into immortality, he can rest in the pride and confidence that he did good work here.

And then some cut-and-paste jockey comes along, snips out some pieces of his work, loops them, raps over it, and calls himself the “producer.”

A startling example of this is the song “Butterfly” by the band Crazy Town. The song went number one in multiple countries. Most of the song was a looped sample of a Red Hot Chili Peppers song called “Pretty Little Ditty” from the RHCP album “Mother’s Milk.”

Thanks to copyright laws, all four RHCP members were given credit as writers, and rightly so. But producers of the Crazy Town song were listed only as Bret “Epic” Mazur (one of the Crazy Town rappers) and Josh Abraham.

Josh Abraham later produced for Limp Bizkit, Staind, Velvet Revolver, Pink, Carly Rae Jepsen, Kelly Clarkson, and many more. He is no doubt a good producer. That’s not what bugs me. What bugs me is the name that is mentioned nowhere on Crazy Town’s album.

Michael Beinhorn. Who is Michael Beinhorn? He’s the guy who produced “Pretty Little Ditty” and every other song on “Mother’s Milk.” He’s the guy who set up the mics, rode the faders, contributed to the arrangements, spent more time with recording that song than the band itself — the guy who gets the credit for making the sample that Crazy Town ripped, looped, and blathered over sound good enough to be worth stealing in the first place.

“Mother’s Milk” was one of Michael Beinhorn’s first production credits. Since then, he has done production for Violent Femmes, Soul Asylum, Aerosmith, Social Distortion, Ozzy Osbourne, hole, Marilyn Manson, Korn, Fuel, Black Label Society, and many more. But he has no credit for anything by Crazy Town. Yet, without him, it wouldn’t be there.

This whole travesty gets far worse when some “producer” lines up some “beats” and rip-off “loops” for a rapper, then walks onto a stage the next year to accept an award as “Producer of the Year.”

Kanye West gets to catch reflected glory from Paul McCartney by admitting that he used a bit of Paul’s tune in his own song “All Day.” But not mentioned (other than by law in the liner notes) is Kanye’s sampling of Jamaican singer Noel Ellis’ song “Dance With Me.” And you’ll find no mention whatsoever of Jerry Brown, the man who got “Dance With Me” to tape in the studio back in 1983.

So who is credited on Kanye’s “All Day”?

Songwriting – Kanye West, Paul McCartney, Tyler Bryant, Kendrick Lamar, Karim Kharbouch, Ernest Brown, Cydel Young, Victor Mensah, Allan Kyariga, Mike Dean, Che Pope, Noah Goldstein, Allen Ritter, Mario Winans, Charles Njapa, Malik Yusef Jones, Patrick Reynolds, Rennard East, Noel Ellis

Production – Kanye West, Puff Daddy, French Montana, Velous, Charlie Heat

Co-production – Mike Dean, Noah Goldstein

Additional production – Plain Pat, Travis Scott, Allen Ritter, Mario Winans, Leroy Twist

It took that many people to write and produce this one song? Dave Grohl did Foo Fighters’ first album by himself with one other producer!

Yet, in all that list, Jerry Brown does not appear. Thanks for nothin’, Jerry.

The next time some hip-hop producer wins an award for producing an album, he should have to bring every real producer on whose shoulders he is standing up to the stage with him. The awards organization should be prepared to hand out as many award statuettes as it takes to cover all the samples that producer leaned on to make that album. The number can and does get ridiculous.

“Bust a Move” sampled five different songs.

“Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” sampled five different songs.

“99 Problems” sampled six songs, including an Ice-T tune that itself sampled five.

And no honest discussion about sampling would be complete without demanding that Billy Squier and Eddy Offord be invited to every hop-hop awards show until the day they die. Billy Squier’s “The Big Beat” has been sampled in 219 songs. Squier will get songwriter credit, thanks. But producer Eddy Offord gets no love.

So feel free to call them Producers. But there should be an acknowledgement on every album and in every awards ceremony of who did the real magic on those songs. Far too many of these cut-and-paste artists would have no idea how to mic a set of drums. (181)

Posted in Freelance Writing | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Where You Find It

When I was a kid, the music I listened to came from one of two sources:

1) Local radio stations. We didn’t live near any big cities, not even Lexington. We did get one station from Knoxville, WOKI, that back then played what would now be called “classic rock.” The DJs were live and some of the evening patter was fun. But most of what I heard was from a local AM station called WYGO. They did a mix of pop, pop/country, and “soft rock.” Nothing cutting-edge at all. At least I got Casey Kasem once a week to keep me educated on Top 40. I knew Michael Jackson, Hall & Oates, Journey.

2) My mom’s records. Mom ordered vinyl from Columbia House. We’d get these cardboard-wrapped packages at home every month or two. Mom’s collection contained Kenny Rogers, Bob Segar, Crystal Gayle, Anne Murray, The Carpenters, ABBA, Donna Summer, all “safe” stuff.

Years later, we moved to an even more isolated town by Lake Cumberland. On a really good day, you might get WKQQ (back at 98.1), which meant more “classic rock”. The only college station was WUKY, and they did not play the “rock and roots” mix they play now. It was jazz, and not the good Miles Davis stuff. It was The Rippingtons and the rest of that noodly stuff. Depressing.

The first time I remember being enthused about radio was when Georgetown College launched a station that played some good stuff. That was short-lived, sorry to say. Eventually WUKY got on board with some decent material. But that’s it.

Thank God for the Internet. I have pretty much ignored terrestrial radio for years. Occasionally I’ll be in the car and listen to WUKY, when they’re not playing some Lucinda Williams wannabe. I like Lucinda Williams, but not the knockoffs.

My #1 go-to for several years now has been Foo Fighters. They just feel real. More on that in the weeks to come.

I like recommendations from others, but I ain’t turning my Spotify feed to Facebook on and getting in that mess. I ask for fresh stuff occasionally, but it mostly ends up being WUKY’s stuff that people think is cutting edge.

So I cast about, looking. Anytime I hear something that grabs my ear, I fire up SoundHound and find the track on Spotify. Sometimes I am surprised at what I end up digging. Like right now, I am listening to Lana Del Rey. I almost feel like I should apologize, but I like this Ultraviolence album.

I have been tracking back into some 1980s punk, local bands from metropolitan areas, Canadian stuff — certainly nothing Top 40. Stuff like Scream, Nomeansno, Hüsker Dü. Then last night I ended up listening to several Bee Gees tracks, analyzing song structures.

I’m in the middle of a project right now, but I think I need to dig into some fresh stuff soon. And I want to cast a little farther afield, too. And maybe even backward. There is a treasure trove of stuff from the past that I never got to hear. I’m sure I could stay busy for a while.

But first, I finish all the stuff on this whiteboard.

“I guess you’re stuck in the Habitrail.” – DG, FF

. (18621)

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Up Against The Wall

You ever notice how many enormous enterprises are started in someone’s garage? Somehow I managed to end up with a really big garage. I don’t do much in the way of handyman work or repair. I have a few tools, but I don’t need much. I wasn’t about to go out and buy a bunch of tools and stuff just to fill this area.

What I really needed was an office. So I decided to section off the back of this big ol’ space and have myself some room to work.

I stumbled on an idea that nearly kept me awake I loved it so much. After a few trips to Lowe’s and some real questionable structure finagling, I ended up with this. An office wall that is 20 feet wide, ceiling to floor, and entirely whiteboard!

The ADHD kid inside me has been ecstatic. I have drawn out calendars, mind maps, lists galore. My boys get grammar and math lessons out here. Zuh writes Tolkein-inspired scripts at the big table in this room.

I am seriously fantasizing at getting a cheap projector I can run my Macbook screen through and project spreadsheets, grids, and all manner of nerdiness onto this wall, ready to be marked up with dry erase markers.

And then there are the projects, like the one outlined here. I don’t have a heck of a lot of time left to get this one in the can. I really shouldn’t be taking the time to post this, but my poor page has lain fallow for so long.

Back to the grind. If you can call this a grind.

“Ain’t that the way it always starts?” – DG, FF

.
(469)

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off