Health and Activity Data Disappearing After iOS 10.1 Update

There are reports that the iOS 10.1 update is deleting users’ Health data. I can say something about this, because it’s happened to me too.

On Friday I installed the 10.1 update on my new iPhone 7, which had arrived the previous day and was so far working flawlessly. Transferring the data from my old iPhone 5 and pairing my Watch had taken place without incident. But on Saturday morning I noticed that my Health data — which goes back two years — was missing. So was my Activity data, which goes back to April (when I bought the Watch).

I checked the Internet and found a few reports of people having their Health data disappear on them after the 10.1 update on the Apple discussion boards and in online media: see here and here. Those reports suggested that nothing appeared to fix the problem — not restarting, not restoring from backup or factory settings, not even downgrading back to 10.0.3. They also suggested that the data was simply inaccessible rather than missing.  A check of Settings revealed that I still have (as of this writing) 88.5 megabytes of Health data; I just can’t get at it. And adding new data doesn’t do anything: it doesn’t appear either.

So I called AppleCare, which began as an exercise in frustration. Getting past the first level of support required me to breathe fire a bit, and I got disconnected when being transferred, but in the end I got through to a senior advisor and was able to have a productive conversation about it. Apple is just starting to get reports on this, so not everyone has encountered customer complaints about it or knows about it — keep this in mind if you have to call AppleCare yourself.

From what I can tell Apple’s engineers are still trying to get a handle on the issue. I was given a number of questions to answer that I presume are so that they can replicate the issue, and I’ve been following up with additional observations (which by the way is really quite extraordinary: it takes out a bit of the sting of having been hit by this bug to be able to help in fixing it) so I suspect they’re at the early stages of “Apple is aware of the situation and is working on a solution.”

img_3516I hope that this will turn out to be an easy fix and that it’ll be pushed out quickly. (Apple has every motivation to get this done fast: Health and Activity are rather important features that form a major part of the rationale for the Apple Watch.) The fact that the data still appears to be there, and that Activity sharing is still taking place between my and Jennifer’s Watches, makes me think that it’s a problem with the user-facing apps accessing the data rather than the data itself. When you go into Sources in the Health app and choose one of the data sources (for example, your iPhone or your Watch), I get an endlessly spinning wheel; on Jennifer’s iPhone SE, which is still running iOS 10.0.3, the categories of data the devices contribute to (such as heart rate, walking activity) show up in a second or two.

Does this mean you should hold off upgrading to 10.1 if you haven’t already done so? That’s a really tough call: 10.1 fixes some major security flaws that really ought not to be left unfixed. It’s not clear how widespread the Health and Activity problem is: whether it’s affecting only a few people or whether it’s hitting everyone who uses the apps — we’ll know more in the coming days. At this point, if you have an Apple Watch or use the Health app a lot, I can totally understand not wanting to upgrade quite yet.

Czechia, Czech Republic, Bohemia

Earlier this year, the Czech Republic adopted “Czechia” as the official short name of the country and began asking that it be used more widely. And while the change is being implemented in official circles, it seems to be having trouble catching on, at least in English.

It’s true that “Czechia” is not particularly euphonious in English. It sounds weird. I don’t particularly like the sound of it, myself. (I don’t know whether this is a particularly English problem, or whether the French Tchéquie, the German Tschechien or even the original Czech Česko suffer similarly.) But “Czech Republic” is a mouthful, and moreover it’s the official name, the same way that “French Republic,” “Swiss Confederation” or “People’s Republic of China” are official names, and we don’t say “Swiss Confederation” when we mean Switzerland.

I suspect the real issue is unfamiliarity: we knew the place as part of Czechoslovakia from 1918 to 1992, and didn’t know what to do with the Czecho part after Slovakia split. “Czechia” was proposed then, but even then it was not a new name: it was used to describe the Czech part of Czechoslovakia during the interwar years; I’ve seen it myself on maps from that era. But in using “Czech Republic” we’ve largely been following the lead of the Czechs themselves, who have been using Česká republika more often than Česko. (Apparently there have been attempts since then to encourage the use of Česko; see the Name of the Czech Republic Wikipedia page.)

Before 1918, English speakers knew the region as Bohemia, a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and there’s a part of me that thinks we should use that name. I don’t think that option will ever be on the table, though. Even if it was, Bohemia is only one of three historical regions of present-day Czechia: there’s also Moravia and Czech Silesia. The way these things go — Bosnia and Herzegovina, São Tomé and Principe, Trinidad and Tobago, even Newfoundland and Labrador — you’d end up with a double- or even triple-decker name. If “Czech Republic” or “Czechia” is a mouthful, then “Bohemia and Moravia-Silesia,” or, if you’re feeling ridiculous, “Bohemia, Moravia, and Those Bits of Silesia the Prussians Failed to Annex After the First Silesian War of 1742,” is not going to be an improvement.

We’ll get used to Czechia eventually, partly because weird names eventually become familiar (remember how odd “iPad” sounded back in 2010), and partly because, as a general rule, populations should be called what they want to be called.

Hand-Feeding Wild Water Snakes

Tim Jones, a retired zoo director, has been hand-feeding the Diamond-backed Water Snakes (Nerodia rhombifer) that live in his private pond. The snakes have become so habituate to his presence that they’re comfortable taking food off his tongs. It doesn’t hurt that water snakes are rather food-motivated (which is a polite way of saying they’re extreme gluttons). You’ll note in the above video, along with shorter videos here and here, that they’re strongly directed by scent: if your fingers or pants smell like fish, it is by snake reasoning fish. Nom.

Now, Jones points out that this is a pond on private property; feeding wild animals is usually a no-no for very good reasons. You’d think that there would be little harm in habituating water snakes to human contact, or having them associate humans with food, and in a perfect world there wouldn’t be. It’s just that very few people would see an approaching water snake as friendly. Thwack. The end.

Some people might be surprised at the idea of tame water snakes, but I’m not. At one point, as some of you may remember, I kept three of them: two Banded Water Snakes (Nerodia fasciata) and a Northern Water Snake (N. sipedon), the latter under a provincial licence. They had insanely voracious appetites, but they were no less tame than any of my other snakes, and I put them to use in educational displays, where they wigged out people who believed water snakes were aggressive.

Basically, they’re just big garter snakes.

But mine were all born in captivity. That matters. It’s not reasonable to expect a wild animal to be friendly or tame: most will assume that a creature a hundred times their size is a threat to them. A snake has no idea that people are scared of it, or that being friendly and non-threatening toward people is a reasonable survival strategy. That’s counterintuitive.

Wild water snakes are bitey because they’re large enough for it to be a worthwhile defence strategy; smaller snakes of the same family, like brown and red-bellied snakes (Storeria), never bite, because there’s no point in doing so. Garter snakes are somewhere in between: some do, some don’t — it depends on the species, the individual and the circumstances.

Michigan Protects Five Reptiles and Amphibians

Michigan has added five reptiles and amphibians — Fowler’s toad, pickerel frog, mudpuppy, Butler’s garter snake and smooth green snake — to its animals of special concern list. The listing makes it illegal to kill or collect those species. That the Butler’s garter snake is included is significant: their lack of protection in Michigan meant that most specimens in captivity were originally collected there. (Mine certainly were.)

Twitter: A House No One Wants to Buy

twitter_logo_blueTwitter’s harassment problem is finally — finally — biting it in the ass. Both Salesforce and Disney have passed on making an offer for the social media company, and it’s being reported that at least part of the reason is Twitter’s inability or unwillingness to deal with trolls, harassment and abuse, which would have done damage to the companies’ brand image if they had made Twitter their responsibility. It wasn’t the only reason, but it was one of them.

I’m always one for analogies. Here’s one that comes to mind: Twitter is a homeowner trying to sell their house. Now the house needs a lot of work. Fixing that house up will not only get you a better price, it’ll improve your odds of selling it at all. A house that needs fixing up scares off a lot of potential buyers; if and when it does sell, it’ll be at a much lower price than it would have had the homeowner did the repairs in the first place.

I wonder if now, at long last, Twitter will start fixing its house up. Because leaving the repairs for the next owner to deal with is not a great selling point.

Archiving Old Book Reviews

I’ve begun reposting my old book reviews to the new website — book reviews being a category of writing I’d rather not have disappear down the memory hole. In the past they’ve been scattered over several different locations, but I’m gathering them together in a new, centralized Reviews section, in which all my reviews will appear on yearly archive pages, either in full or as a link elsewhere (if it’s published, or a blog post here or on The Map Room).

So far I’ve completed yearly archives for the past three years: 2014, 2015 and 2016. I’ve also finished pages for 2005 and 2007, which had only one or two reviews. I’ll announce more pages here as I complete them. That may take some time: there’s something like 135 of them in total. I’ve been busier than I thought.

Embracing Ephemerality

A short while ago my blog database decided to crap the bed and republish everything in 7-bit ASCII, which meant that everything from apostrophes to accents was replaced by weird characters when I republished a page. This was a sign, I thought, that it was time to give the ol’ personal web page a makeover.

That meant, among other things, switching to WordPress. Between this site and its predecessor, I’ve been using Movable Type in one form or another since 2003; continuing to do so would require me to code manually what now comes automatically with WordPress. I relaunched The Map Room last January in WordPress, and the switch has made a world of difference: high-resolution images, mobile compatibility, social network integration — all things I simply don’t have to worry about any more. Blogging’s never been easier. Time to do the same here.

My next question was what to do with all my legacy pages. Maintaining them would require continuing to wrestle with Movable Type in addition to the new setup; not maintaining them would mean more than a thousand increasingly out-of-date, increasingly crufty pages; importing them into WordPress would be a ton of work — and for whose benefit? Honestly, who’s interested in scouring through old entries of a personal blog?

I’ve decided to do something different: embrace ephemerality. The old pages will, eventually, simply go away.

As a historian by training I flinch at the thought of documents disappearing, but in practical terms it makes the most sense. Sites far bigger and more important than mine have content disappear down the memory hole all the time. My words are hardly as precious. Over the past fifteen years I’ve written thousands of blog entries. For every blog entry I’m proud of, there’s another I now find profoundly embarrassing — and probably a half-dozen more that, because they dealt with some news item or gadget of the moment, are now long obsolete or irrelevant.

But most significantly, I’ve come to the realization that I can curate my online life. Which means pruning those bits that are less meaningful now than they were when they were created. My first web page was uploaded in January 1996. I’ve been blogging since July 2001. I’m not the same person I was ten, fifteen or twenty years ago. It’s all right if my web presence reflects that.

All of which is to say: Welcome to the reboot of my website. I’ll still write about the things that interest me, and I’ll still review a lot of books. (By the way, look for my old book reviews to reappear on dedicated pages in the near future.) But I’ll be doing so looking forward, without the weight of fifteen years of site history dragging behind me.