Friday, November 18, 2011

Crash landing on iOS 5.0.1

I had not been planning to upgrade my 3rd generation iPod from iOS 4.3.5 to iOS 5, having been happy with its capabilities as is.  I had also learned of, and/or experienced, a number of problems associated with iOS 5.  Typically, iOS 5 either broke an existing app, or an app's functionality worsened when the developers updated it to accommodate iOS 5.

I've mentioned on multiple occasions how my iPod has a hardware port problem. Aligning its cord properly to charge can take a few minutes of fiddling, and properly aligning it for a PC iTunes connection is even more demanding.  In those delicate alignment attempts, "Charging is not supported with this accessory" is a message I've periodically seen for more than two months.  That message came up again yesterday as I was trying to get it to charge, and when I tried to lower the brightness...bam, it was totally hosed.  The screen displayed only the iTunes icon and a picture of a USB cord, as shows up when you activate a pre-iOS 5 iPod, which requires a wired connection to Mac/PC iTunes.

After several hours of work, including numerous error messages and laborious re-seating of the cable at multiple junctures, my iPod is now at iOS 5.0.1.  I mistakenly thought that I would be able to restore from my less than two week old PC iTunes backup and remain on iOS 4.3.5.  However, it seems that PC iTunes only allows loading of the most recent iOS version that works for your device -- not unreasonable.  At least I was able to get back my 102 apps from PC iTunes in a single operation.

Backing up to iCloud should reduce my cable alignment problems to only recharging the iPod, since I should be able to restore over wireless from now on.

I was surprised to discover there was no way to mass-reload my hundreds of French language instruction podcasts, but I have started rebuilding my collection manually.  (2/9/11:  Actually, I could have used PC iTunes to copy over all that I had previously synced.)

I was also surprised that my small number of not-particularly-important photos did not come back.  I have seen a few web articles suggesting ways to get them back, and I may yet pursue that.  If I do, I will try to report the result here later.

The Traditional Chinese handwriting recognition seems tangibly slower, both on a 3rd generation and on a 4th generation iPod, than it was on a 3rd generation iPod running iOS 4.3.5.
(12/2/14: When only a single app [Notespark, as a device-local-only scratchpad] is in RAM, the speed of recognition is quite good, possibly similar to the speed under iOS 4.3.5. I'm surprised that I didn't think of testing this approach previously. Of course, it's inconvenient to eject all the other apps from RAM, but in some cases it's worth doing; when I'm done handwriting the Chinese text, I can Select All and copy it elsewhere as desired.)

As I worked to recreate groups of apps and reassemble my desired first Home Screen ("springboard"), I seem to have moved some app icons so quickly that the iOS became confused.  For a while the icons of some random apps (no more than one per screen, I think) became invisible, although their titles remained visible.  With all the icons jiggling and me swiping screens left to right and right to left, the app which was invisible would sometimes change (i.e., an invisible one would become visible, but a different app on the same screen would become invisible instead).  I found it was possible to drag an invisible app onto a visible one to create a group, but not vice versa.  That invisibility problem eventually cleared up, so everything is visible now.

Although Apple tried to disallow moving the new Newsstand app into a folder and off of the first Home Screen, folks have found out how to do that.  I moved it into a folder with Messages and Reminders, two other new apps for which I have no particular need, then moved the folder off the first Home Screen.  A Google search for "ios 5 move newsstand to folder" should find assorted pages with the technique, which does require a certain quickness of action.

Below is a list of some of the functionality which I wanted to recover, and commentary on what was involved.  I tend not to give my location to apps to use, normally entering that manually when I want (e.g., in The Weather Channel app).

  1. Calendar (iOS 5.0.1):  I use a Google account for Calendar, so it was simple to add that account to the iPod.  Although the Day and Month views showed my events, the List view was empty at first, so I feared I would have to create another calendar from scratch (ugh) to restore that functionality.  However, the next day the List view showed events normally.
  2. Contacts (iOS 5.0.1):  I use a Google account for Contacts, so again, it was simple to add that account to the iPod.
  3. Notespark (1.3.2):  All my data is already on Metaspark's webserver, so all I had to do was login and tweak a few settings (e.g., font size, etc.), and I was back to pre-crash functionality.
  4. iCED (3.2.3):  I had previously made a Murage account and it was straightforward to download my paid Add-ons again.  I made a few tweaks to settings (e.g., maximize History).
  5. tChess Pro (1.7.1):  Much like Notespark, I just had to tweak a few settings to get it to look and behave the way I like it.  I normally e-mail myself the pgn of individual games that I play through using tChess Pro, so I can easily reload those.  I have also kept files on my PC of pgn collections of games, which I can similarly e-mail myself to reload.  (This is one of my most-used apps, so a blog entry on it should eventually appear.)
  6. Opera Mini (6.0.1 - pointedly not the latest version, which is 6.5.1, which for now I'm holding off on upgrading to):  Initially I started recreating my Speed Dial locations manually, and had 8 of the total 9 set up -- I didn't know the 9th one's URL.  Then I used Opera Link to restore my (generally-rarely-changed) bookmarks from the last time I saved them, and it loaded the missing 9th Speed Dial location.  Apparently I wasted my time loading the first 8 manually.
  7. Safari (iOS 5.0.1):  I was pleased to discover that Apple was apparently already saving bookmarks, so they all came back automatically.  I still prefer Opera Mini, though.  I tend to use Safari only when Opera Mini can't do the job.
    After first writing this Safari blurb, I checked out Safari's new Reader feature, which can render some web pages in a more readable way (hiding ads, too!). In my limited testing, Wikipedia article pages work well with Reader (though not so well), as does this eminently readable article about iOS 5 improvements, which is what led me to really test the new Reader and Reading List features. This wiki article about "Kindle Myths and Partial Truths" (some content of which is relevant to iOS devices using the Kindle app) has part of its content cut off on the sides in the Reader view.  I have observed that an advertisement embedded within a column of text on a web page can render Reader results incomplete (on one occasion, none of the article text actually came through in Reader).
    To compensate for the small screen of the iPod, I have long used Opera Mini's Single column view to transform the elements on a web page, including the font(s), into a presentation I find easier to read. Reader fulfills the same function with more polish, but can transform far fewer web pages than Opera Mini.  Without these transformations, text can sometimes be difficult to read without "spreading" pages with your fingers (to enlarge the image), after which you might additionally still need to move the display back and forth to see different parts of the whole text.
    Reading List saves bookmarks to iCloud and shares them in Safari across iOS devices (and Macs, supposedly, too, but I have a PC). The Reading List bookmarks didn't show on my other iOS device in either "direction", initially, and multiple web pages, some from as recently as October 2011, suggested that it didn't work. Perhaps from iOS 5 this syncing was fixed in 5.0.1, because eventually the same Reading List bookmarks showed up on both my iPod and iPad.
    Reading List's syncing seems to be forced among iOS devices sharing an Apple ID. Opera Link's similar syncing of bookmarks is optional, and can be done manually or automatically among Opera Mini instances within which you have logged into Opera Link.
  8. Kindle (2.8.5):  Login, all my books were under Archived, and it was simple to download 15 of them into Home.  (2 were expired library loans.)  Select a word in any book, then download the dictionary to make it available going forward regardless of Internet access.
  9. iBooks (iOS 5.0.1):  Login, go to Store, Purchased, and download each of the 14 (all freebies) again.  Maybe I was doing something in a non-optimal way, but it seemed to be an extremely clunky and user-hostile interface.  I could only download the top 3 books, then had to Swipe to the right to be able to Hide each of them in turn so that I could access the next 3 lower books on the screen.  I had to repeat that procedure to get through all 14.
  10. The Weather Channel (4.1.1):  Add my location to Favorites under Bookmarks and get rid of whatever is already there.
  11. Dropbox (1.4.6):  Login, mark as Favorites the documents I want saved locally so they're available without wireless Internet access.  Set Local Storage to maximum reasonable for device's capacity.
  12. OverDrive (2.3.3):  Although the iPod didn't need an Adobe ID to authorize usage under iOS 4, it requires one under iOS 5.  Download my usual Pitman's Commercial Spanish Grammar to confirm download of public domain ebooks, then test other types (e.g., Adobe ePub from the library) as desired.  (I wrote in another blog entry about how to view Kindle books on library websites using an iPod.)
I am updating this entry with additional items and comments, and am also revising earlier entries accordingly, as time permits.

One of the reasons I started this blog was because I had read Sonny Hung's My Apple Newton (PDA) blog, which he introduces as:
This blog records my Apple Newton experiences, as well as comparisons with other PDAs, Smartphones and Mobile Devices. It is also a repository for storing complex set up procedures for future reference.
I thought I might enjoy doing something similar for the iPod since I found it to be an extremely useful PDA.  Based on the web searches that brought people here, this blog may have been helpful to some other folks, but in any case, it has certainly proven useful to me after this crash.  Given how my iPod seems to be living on borrowed time, my blog will likely serve me well again similarly in the future.


  1. Thanks for the write up Ken. A couple comments though. First, I would assume that the slowness you're finding in some instances (such as the Traditional Chinese handwriting recognition) is due to the fact your iPod is not the latest generation which dates back to Fall 2010. I've heard similar stories from people that updated their iPhone 3GS to iOS 5+. Still, I do find it to be a nice update, quirks and all.

    Secondly, an "I told you so" is in order. If you'd backed up your SHSH Blob previously via TinyUmbrella (Google and click on the first hit), you would have been able to restore to 4.x. Backing up your blob is not ONLY for jailbreaking, but in cases like yours it does preserve the unique signature required to restore to an older version of iOS. I highly recommend you start backing up your blobs after every time that Apple releases a new version of iOS. That way, if something breaks along the way, you can restore to your preferred OS version. Note that Apple stops generating a key for prior versions of iOS soon after a new version is released.

  2. Thanks. Just last night I was thinking about how iOS 5 presumably makes greater demands on the chip than iOS 4, and how a replacement iOS device with a more powerful chip could yield better performance. I was thinking of this specifically because even charging my iPod is getting more and more dicey, so I don't know how much longer it will last.

    I mostly use Chinese handwriting for occasional short vocabulary reminders, so the performance hit I am seeing is not particularly onerous. And I think I also had seen reports of slower performance from folks with older devices. However, I'm with you in thinking that the update is a nice one (except for frequent podcast users on the iPad, perhaps), and I wouldn't go back to 4.3.5 (even if I could).

    A friend had previously pointed me to the SHSH Blob stuff, and I had looked at it briefly. Thanks for raising it, I may revisit it.


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