This can be a very disconcerting sight on your iPhone’s screen

iPhone Is DisabledOne minute the world looks all tickety-boo, and then you pull your iPhone out of your pocket or bag and are confronted with a black and white screen that says “iPhone is disabled, please try again in 5 minutes” (or a different number of minutes).

What? Everything was fine the last time you looked. Have you been hacked? Got a virus?

So what do you do? Obviously, you click on the home button and every other button you can find to see if you can knock some sense into it. No joy. So you turn it completely off and back on again. Still no joy. Only now it says “try again in 10 minutes” or something similar.

The best procedure in this case is:

1) Follow Lance Corporal Jones’ advice – “Don’t panic”
2) Follow the Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy‘s advice – “Don’t Panic”
3) Wait the number of minutes it tells you to (yes, I know, it seems like twice as long)
4) Re-enter your password
5) Breathe a sigh of relief and carry on with your day

What happened?

The iPhone thinks you have been trying to enter your passcode and that you’ve got it wrong too many times. The first message will come up after five incorrect attempts. In this case, you will be required to wait one minute before being able to try again. Thereafter, the number of minutes you have to wait increases every time you get it wrong:

7 incorrect entries in a row – try again in 5 minutes
8 incorrect entries in a row – try again in 15 minutes
9 incorrect entries in a row – try again in 60 minutes

If you haven’t got it right after nine attempts you are in a spot of bother and you are probably going to have to restore a backup of your data via iCloud or via iTunes. If you haven’t got a backup then you will need to enter recover mode and the best you will be able to do is wipe the phone clean and start afresh.

H2G2 - Don't PanicHere’s where I would normally emphasise the importance of taking backups, but if you haven’t worked that out for yourself already then there probably isn’t anything I can say that will do the trick. The one thing that probably will do the trick is to experience first-hand the inconvenience of losing data. In the case of mobile phones, of course, this can be more than inconvenience as many people use their phones to take irreplaceable photos of their children. Nuff said.

In my own case, I’m not really sure how I got into the situation of the phone becoming disabled. Although I accept that it can get triggered accidentally when the phone’s in your pocket (or bag), it seems odd that it happened to me twice in three days and yet it had never happened before in years of iPhone ownership. Maybe it won’t happen again in the next ten years – but I updated my backup straight after the first occasion, just in case.

Lance Corporal Jones

“Don’t panic, Mr Mainwaring”

If you do need to recover your data via iTunes or iCloud, or if you need to go into recovery mode, there are many websites out there that can help – including this blog.

OK, I can’t resist saying it – if you’ve never backed up your iPhone, please consider doing it. My own preference is to use iTunes to back up my iPhone to my own computer. That way, you do not fall into Apple’s trap of using up all your meagre data storage allowance and being suckered into taking out a subscription to get enough space to achieve the backup.

– a cautionary tale

With the recent arrival of iPhone 6, I decided the time was ripe to see if I could find a good deal on a nearly-new iPhone 5. Whether your phone is included as part of your contract or you pay for your own phone, you are going to end up paying for it somehow, and the price of new iPhones just makes my eyes water.

iPhone 5 64gbSo, I had a good look along Tottenham Court Road last Saturday for a second-hand iPhone 5 with 64gb storage. What I saw was disappointing. Everything of the right specification at the right price was spoiled by scuffs, dents, scratches, and marks that looked as if the phone had been kept in a pocket with loose change and keys. I just don’t understand why people spend so much money on a nice piece of technology and then treat it with contempt. Anyway, that’s beside the point.

Now convinced that I couldn’t survive without an iPhone 5, I set out on Sunday for Kingston and eventually came across Computer Exchange (CEX). Their two shops in Central London (Tottenham Court Road and Rathbone Place) are small, noisy, and rather intimidating places for anyone over about 15 years old. The Kingston branch is bigger, cleaner, and just a few decibels less noisy.

I found the right phone, in first class condition, at the right price of £330.

iPhone 3GS

iPhone 3GS

Prior to my Sony Xperia smartphone, I had been using an iPhone 3GS. This won’t run the latest version of the IOS operating system so isn’t any good for me in keeping up with Apple developments: I can’t provide computer support on things I don’t know about. However, I knew that most of the apps that I wanted were on the 3GS and knew that the way to transfer from one iPhone to another is to use iTunes to “back up” the old phone to the computer and then “restore” that backup onto the new phone.

As recommended, I made sure that the old phone had the latest version of the operating system that it could support, and then backed it up. When I then connected the new phone to the computer, iTunes recognised what was happening and invited me to “restore” to the new phone. “Here we go”, I thought, and told it to continue.

Then all the wheels fell off. For the next three hours or so the screen on the new iPhone oscillated between displaying an Apple and displaying nothing whatever – just a depressing black nothingness. Knowing that there was no way that it could possibly be taking all this time to restore, I eventually disconnected it and tried to re-start it by hand, first by just depressing the button on the top and then by depressing it at the same time as depressing the “home” button. Nothing happened. No re-boot. Nothing. Just this same oscillation between an Apple and nothingness.


This is how my phone looked during a “restore”

The next day I was able to get back to Kingston and explained what had happened to the person who sold it to me (more of whom later). He suggested that I might like to go off for a coffee while he looked at it. When I got back he explained that there’s a further level of re-booting an iPhone that I didn’t know of. While it is still connected to iTunes, you depress the two buttons as detailed above, but then release the top button while still depressing the home button. When he did this, the phone reported that it had been interrupted while updating to the latest version of the operating system (IOS 8.1). Thereafter, he was able to re-install the operating system and default apps.

At no time either before or after I started the “restore” process did I get any warning that it would update the operating system at the same time as restoring the contents. And neither did it warn me that I would grow old waiting for the process to finish. Had I known what I was in for, I would have just left the phone to its own devices – overnight if necessary. And there’s nothing on an iPhone to tell you that anything is actually happening if the screen is black.

The moral of this story (for me, at least) is twofold:

    1) If you are going to restore the contents of an old iPhone to a newer one then make sure that the newer one has already got the latest version of the operating system before you begin. Just go to “Settings” and then “Software Update” to see if you need to update it.

    Computer Exchange in Kingston

    Computer Exchange in Kingston

    2) Don’t assume that everyone under 30 working in a technology shop is bound to be surly, contemptuous, incommunicative, and patronising. The young man who sold me the phone and who sorted it out for me after I broke it was friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable. He gave me perfect service at the sales stage and again after I broke it. I don’t know how he spells his name, but he pronounced it as “Manu” or “Mano”. My advice is to go and see him if you’re looking for a good, used, smartphone.
Jul 272013

Here’s a couple of things about iTunes that I’ve finally got round to sorting out..

Compilation Albums

iTunes Compilation Albums

By default, iTunes was showing an album cover (as if it were a complete album) for each artist listed on a compilation album.

The first is the way that “compilation albums” appear by default if the tracks are by different artists. For example, I have an album called “Beginner’s Guide to World Music”. There are lots of different musicians on the album and iTunes shows each artist as a separate album (see illustration). This isn’t what I want. It’s one album and I want it displayed as such. (It’s even worse with a 3-disc album of various artists called Atlantic Soul!)

Well, the answer is actually included in iTunes but hidden a bit deep. What you need to do is as follows:

  • Click on the “Music” option in the sidebar.
  • Click on the “Albums” option to order the music by Album.
  • Ensure that the listing shows all of the entries for the compilation album consecutively. This is achieved by clicking on the “View” command and then “Show View Options”. This opens up a small window in which you can select the “sort by” option as “title”. Then close that small window.
  • Scroll through the list of albums until you reach a compilation album.
  • Select all the occurences of the album. The easiest way is to depress the Command key and then click on each occurrence if you are using a Mac or depress the Control key and then click on each occurrence if using a PC.
  • Right-click on any selected title and then left-click on the “Get Info” option.
  • Click on the “Options” tab, and then click on the “no” answer next to “part of a compilation” in order to change it to “yes”.
  • Click on “OK”.
  • You may need to scroll up and down through the list to get iTunes to refresh the listing. It should then show just a single entry for the entire compilation album.

Album Lists

Vinyl Album Covers

Remember when this was the only filing system we had?

If, like me, you wander into music shops to see if there are any bargains that you just can’t ignore, then you might also have the problem of staring at a CD cover, knowing it’s familiar, but just not knowing whether you’ve already got it. You’d think it would be easy to produce a list of albums in iTunes that you could carry around on a tablet or smarthpone or even to print out.

Well, you can, but for some reason Apple don’t make this possibility as obvious as they might. There’s also quite a big difference between doing this in iTunes on a Mac and doing it on a PC. So, here goes:

Producing an Album List Using a Mac

  • Select “Music” in the sidebar by clicking on it.
  • Ensure (if desired) that albums are sorted by artist by clicking on the “View” command and then clicking on “Show View Options”. Then select “Sort by artist”. Then close the “View options” box.
  • Click on the “File” command and then “Print”.
  • The options box that then opens allows you to choose a list of all songs or all albums.
  • Then choose to print either “Songs by Album” or “List of Albums”.
  • Click on “Print”.
  • You can then choose which printer to use or click on the “pdf” option in the bottom lefthand corner. If you choose to create a pdf file then you can, of course, save it in a cloud location such as Dropbox, Google Docs etc so that the file is available on your smartphone on a Saturday morning when you have that sudden senior moment in Fopp or HMV.

Producing an Album List Using a PC

Cartoon of a long list

  • Right-click on the “Music” item in the sidebar.
  • Left-click on “Export” (the only option in the list).
  • Give the file a name and, if necessary, select the appropriate folder in which the file will be created.
  • This has produced a “text” file. It can be opened by many programs (such as “Word”) but you’ll just see a load of text all crammed together. You can, however, get a useful view of it if you have Excel (spreadsheet program). If you have Excel, open it and then open the file created above. You will need to ask Excel to show all files in the chosen folder as it would not otherwise show your text file (whose name ends with “.txt”) as a file that it thinks it can open.
  • When Excel loads the “import wizard”, just click “next” until you reach “finish”. No items in the wizard need changing.
  • The good news is that your music data will be displayed as a spreadsheet so that you can, for instance, sort it by different columns (eg Artist Name, or Album Name).
  • The bad news is that this listing shows one row (line) for every track of every album and not just one line for each album. Depending on what you want to do with the list this may be a good or bad thing. With Excel 2010 just go to the “remove duplicates data” option on the “Data” tab and select the “album” column. I seem to remember that removing duplicates is also available on earlier versions of Excel but it’s not quite so straightforward.

If you read the blog last week (about creating lists of instructions), you’ll probably now see what I was getting at!

© 2011-2019 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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