When Good Apps Crash Unexpectedly

I had a fun Friday evening. I received a Slack notification sent to everyone in our group stating that the iOS app was crashing on launch. This came as a surprise to me, because our most recent release had been out for several weeks at this point. It also was the most stable release in terms of number of crashes we’ve ever released. This was a good point release.

After a few minor heart palpitations, I grab a few iOS devices and try launching the App Store version of the app. Success. No crashes for me. A few other team members launch the app successfully as well. At this point, I make a suggestion straight out of Microsoft’s 1990’s playbook: restart your phone. No more crashing on launch.

My theory was correct. I’ve seen a few times in the last few months where an app will randomly begin crashing on launch for no rhyme or reason. I’ve never really tried debugging it because it wasn’t my app crashing, but now I was annoyed. I made a point to check the iOS device console next time I saw one of my apps doing this weird crash on launch behavior.

Fast forward to yesterday when I wanted to check a few things in the Major League Baseball app. I tapped the MLB icon and . . . crash. Rinse. Repeat. I decided to go on a round-robin through my apps and see if any others are crashing. Turns out Medium, United Airlines, and Pocket are also crashing. The odds of four of these major apps all shipping at-launch crashers at once are good enough to make you rich in Vegas. At this point, I am pretty confident what’s going on but I’m not at home so I can’t easily plug my phone in and see what’s happening. I’ll just have to forgo three of my most used apps because I’m not restarting my phone yet.

Once I get home, I plugged my iPhone into my Mac, popped open device console in Xcode and tried launching the failing apps again. Here’s what spit out:

Apr 30 11:17:55 iPhone kernel[0] <Notice>: AppleFairplayTextCrypterSession::fairplayOpen() failed, error -42028
Apr 30 11:17:55 iPhone assertiond[12347] <Warning>: Unable to obtain a task name port right for pid 14063: (os/kern) failure (5)
Apr 30 11:17:55 iPhone SpringBoard[12335] <Warning>: Unable to register for exec notifications: No such process
Apr 30 11:17:55 iPhone SpringBoard[12335] <Warning>: Unable to obtain a task name port right for pid 14063: (os/kern) failure (5)
Apr 30 11:17:55 iPhone SpringBoard[12335] <Warning>: Unable to obtain a task name port right for <FBApplicationProcess: 0x13facbcf0; com.medium.reader; pid: 14063>
Apr 30 11:17:55 iPhone com.apple.xpc.launchd[1] (UIKitApplication:com.medium.reader[0x7257][14063]) <Notice>: Service exited due to signal: Killed: 9
Apr 30 11:17:55 iPhone SpringBoard[12335] <Warning>: Application 'UIKitApplication:com.medium.reader[0x7257]' exited abnormally via signal.
Apr 30 11:17:56 iPhone SpringBoard[12335] <Warning>: Application '(null)' exited for an unknown reason.
Apr 30 11:17:56 iPhone kernel[0] <Notice>: IOAccessoryManager::configureAllowedFeatures: tristar: revoking mask=0xffff
Apr 30 11:17:56 iPhone iaptransportd[12353] <Warning>: CIapPortAppleIDBus: Auth timer timeout completed on pAIDBPort:0x15cd06f70, portID:01 downstream port
Apr 30 11:17:58 iPhone kernel[0] <Notice>: AppleFairplayTextCrypterSession::fairplayOpen() failed, error -42028
Apr 30 11:17:58 iPhone com.apple.xpc.launchd[1] (UIKitApplication:com.ideashower.ReadItLaterPro[0x33c1][14064]) <Notice>: Service exited due to signal: Killed: 9
Apr 30 11:17:58 iPhone assertiond[12347] <Warning>: Unable to obtain a task name port right for pid 14064: (os/kern) failure (5)
Apr 30 11:17:58 iPhone SpringBoard[12335] <Warning>: Unable to register for exec notifications: No such process
Apr 30 11:17:58 iPhone SpringBoard[12335] <Warning>: Unable to obtain a task name port right for pid 14064: (os/kern) failure (5)
Apr 30 11:17:58 iPhone SpringBoard[12335] <Warning>: Unable to obtain a task name port right for <FBApplicationProcess: 0x13fed4190; com.ideashower.ReadItLaterPro; pid: 14064>
Apr 30 11:17:58 iPhone SpringBoard[12335] <Warning>: Application 'UIKitApplication:com.ideashower.ReadItLaterPro[0x33c1]' exited abnormally via signal.
Apr 30 11:17:59 iPhone SpringBoard[12335] <Warning>: Application '(null)' exited for an unknown reason.
Apr 30 11:18:03 iPhone kernel[0] <Notice>: AppleFairplayTextCrypterSession::fairplayOpen() failed, error -42028
Apr 30 11:18:03 iPhone com.apple.xpc.launchd[1] (UIKitApplication:com.united.UnitedCustomerFacingIPhone[0x620b][14065]) <Notice>: Service exited due to signal: Killed: 9
Apr 30 11:18:03 iPhone assertiond[12347] <Warning>: Unable to obtain a task name port right for pid 14065: (os/kern) failure (5)
Apr 30 11:18:03 iPhone SpringBoard[12335] <Warning>: Unable to register for exec notifications: No such process
Apr 30 11:18:03 iPhone SpringBoard[12335] <Warning>: Unable to obtain a task name port right for pid 14065: (os/kern) failure (5)
Apr 30 11:18:03 iPhone SpringBoard[12335] <Warning>: Unable to obtain a task name port right for <FBApplicationProcess: 0x13fa60dc0; com.united.UnitedCustomerFacingIPhone; pid: 14065>
Apr 30 11:18:03 iPhone SpringBoard[12335] <Warning>: Application 'UIKitApplication:com.united.UnitedCustomerFacingIPhone[0x620b]' exited abnormally via signal.
Apr 30 11:18:03 iPhone SpringBoard[12335] <Warning>: Application '(null)' exited for an unknown reason.
Apr 30 11:18:07 iPhone syslogd[12297] <Notice>: ASL Sender Statistics
Apr 30 11:18:07 iPhone kernel[0] <Notice>: xpcproxy[14066] Container: /private/var/mobile/Containers/Data/Application/C1AEAFEE-6FDD-46F1-BBAB-F3E345D35EB9 (sandbox)
Apr 30 11:18:07 iPhone kernel[0] <Notice>: AppleFairplayTextCrypterSession::fairplayOpen() failed, error -42028
Apr 30 11:18:07 iPhone com.apple.xpc.launchd[1] (UIKitApplication:com.mlb.AtBatUniversal[0x37dc][14066]) <Notice>: Service exited due to signal: Trace/BPT trap: 5
Apr 30 11:18:07 iPhone ReportCrash[14067] <Notice>: Formulating report for corpse[14066] AtBat.Full
Apr 30 11:18:07 iPhone SpringBoard[12335] <Warning>: Application 'UIKitApplication:com.mlb.AtBatUniversal[0x37dc]' crashed.
Apr 30 11:18:07 iPhone ReportCrash[14067] <Warning>: Saved type '109(109_AtBat.Full)' report (3 of max 25) at /var/mobile/Library/Logs/CrashReporter/AtBat.Full-2016-04-30-111807.ips

The big thing that points out to me is this line:

Apr 30 11:18:07 iPhone kernel[0] <Notice>: AppleFairplayTextCrypterSession::fairplayOpen() failed, error -42028

Fairplay is the DRM Apple uses for App Store (and iTunes purchases in general). Something is going wrong with the DRM on these apps causing them to fail to launch. Confidence inspiring!

This is as far as my investigation has taken me at this point. I don’t really have a theory what is causing this. My first thought was it was caused by an app being updated, but the United app hadn’t been updated in a while and it was crashing for no reason. I am mostly writing this up because when I was trying to defend that this was an iOS issue and not a bug in our code, I really didn’t have much of a source to cite other than the few tweets I remembered seeing from other folks running into the same issue. I’d love to know more if you have any theories.

Apple folks, have a radar: rdar://26032481

GoogleCast, GitHub, Git-LFS, and You

My main project these days bundles Google’s GoogleCast / Chromecast framework in it to allow users to stream video content from their iOS devices to Google’s little streaming sticks. Overall, I like the Chromecast devices. They seem to work a bit more reliably than Airplay in a lot of ways. What I don’t like, however, is the framework that Google provides for iOS to enable casting support in third-party apps.

We have had the framework in our git repository for the last year without much issue. Only recently did we try to update to the latest version (2.10.4 as of this writing) that the issues started to really pop up. Seemingly overnight, the GoogleCast framework ballooned from 17MB to 439MB. That is not a typo. It really did grow 25x in size. I opened an issue and Google is quick to blame Bitcode for the issue, though I’ve never seen a framework grow 25x. So our app is now a little bigger because we have this giant framework embedded in our project. No big deal, right?

The problem is that we use GitHub for our version control system and it has a hard limit of 100MB for a file size that can be pushed to a repository. If it’s over that 100MB size, the file is rejected and GitHub suggests adding it to GitHub’s Large File Storage system. Git-LFS is an extension to the Git protocol that replaces giant files like a 439MB iOS framework with a pointer to a location on a remote storage location that is better designed to house such large files (think Amazon S3).

Easy fix, I thought. I installed the Git-LFS extensions and tried adding the GoogleCast framework to LFS, but was met with an error:

GitHub LFS WTF

Long story short, to get a file on GitHub LFS it has to have zero history in your repository. Otherwise, the pre-push hook won’t recognize it as an LFS file and you’ll be in a jam. GitHub has a page that explains this and how to get around it. It took a bit of trial and error for me still to get GoogleCast to behave with Git LFS. These are the steps I went through in Terminal:

1. Analyze The Damage

Using gitk I was able to see how far back and how many commits were around with the GoogleCast Framework as a part of it. To get gitk working on El Capitan, however, you need to update the copy of tcl through Homebrew.

brew cask install tcl
gitk --all -- External/GoogleCast.framework

In the output you should see the commits that include the GoogleCast framework and its children inside.

Sweep It All Away

Here comes the painful part. You’re going to need to go through and remove every reference of the file in your repository history on every branch and tag. You’ll then need to force push the changes to your repo, which is always a little scary. There’s two ways to do this: git filter-branch or a third-party tool called BFG Repo Cleaner. The BFG is supposed to be faster, but I was unable to get it to successfully work for what I was trying to accomplish, so I went the slow and time consuming route.

You’ll need to repeat this on every branch you have open in your repository. Grab a drink:

git filter-branch --force --index-filter 'git rm -rf --cached --ignore-unmatch External/GoogleCast.framework' --prune-empty --tag-name-filter cat -- --all

This will go through and remove the GoogleCast framework files from every commit in your history. After you’ve finished cleaning up a branch you can run gitk again with this command to ensure it’s no longer in your history:

gitk -- External/GoogleCast.framework

Clean Up

After this, it’s probably worth running the Git garbage collector.

git gc --aggressive --prune=now

And finally, you’ll want to force push all your changes back to your repository.

git push origin --force --all; git push origin --force --tags

On to LFS

Now that we’ve got a cleaned up copy of the repository on GitHub, we can finally start re-adding the GoogleCast framework back to your repo and making sure its under LFS. Go ahead and add a fresh copy of the GoogleCast framework and xcassets files to where you previously were storing them. Make sure your app builds at this point just for safety.

First we need to install the Git LFS pre-push hook in our repository:

git lfs install

Next, we’ll go ahead and tell LFS about our oversized GoogleCast files.

git lfs track External/GoogleCast.framework/Versions/A/GoogleCast
git lfs track External/GoogleCast.framework/Versions/Current/GoogleCast
git lfs track External/GoogleCast.framework/GoogleCast

You’ll notice I am doing this three times. For some reason only known to Google they are bundling the same 139 MB binary three times in their “framework” so you have to make sure you hit all three instances of it.

Commit all your changes, including the new .gitattributes file additions that were made to track the new oversized GoogleCast files. You should now be able to push your changes to your master or develop branch and have the oversized files added to GitHub’s LFS system.

Finally you can go back to getting actual work done.

Stephen Wilkes’s Day to Night Photography

Stephen Wilkes is a professional photographer who gave a talk at TED last week on his day to night photography project. Wilkes sets up at a location for an entire day or more capturing the same shot repeatedly. He then heads back into his studio and stitches the moments together into single photograph that captures the activity of that location over a single day. The photos are incredibly mesmerizing.

I probably will have more to say about my experience at TED. Probably.

@Justin Bieber Explains Twitter’s Difficulties

In case you weren’t aware, Twitter is doomed! Like, Apple levels of doomed. User growth has been stalled for years. Advertising isn’t picking up nearly as well as they’d hoped. And the stock price is trading at less than my high school allowance because Wall Street is losing faith. I would personally prefer they regain their faith in Twitter, because I bought the stock at $45. I’d like to recoup that investment.

Ever since Jack came back to save his flailing company, people have been waiting for him to sprinkle pixie dust on Market St and suddenly solve all of Twitter’s problems. Sadly, not even Steve Jobs’s spiritual son can perform this kind of magic in just a few months. There have been a few different product launches since last fall and another round of #ExecutiveShuffle, but the ultimate problems of Twitter still remain. Twitter is too damn hard. Not for you, the fine person reading this article. Not for me certainly. I’ve been on it for a decade this July. But for those other people out there in the world? The “normals”? They don’t get it.

How do I know? I am @justin on Twitter and this has been my mentions tab for at least half a decade.

My Twitter Mentions Nightmare

You’ll notice that most of these tweets aren’t necessarily for me. I am constantly inundated with tweets to “@Justin Bieber”, “@Justin Trudeau”, “@Justin Timberlake”, and maybe once even “@Justin Guarini.” The examples above are just a few random people who were confused while tweeting. It gets worse when someone like TMZ (3.69 million followers) tweets about “@Justin Bieber” instead of “@JustinBieber” and I can’t use Twitter for a few days without wanting to switch back to Pownce. When Bieber himself tweets I am well aware, because my mentions stream blows up even worse than this.

More than annoying, it can also be somewhat sad. I’ve seen teen girls confess their undying love to Bieber. I know when they cry because he wore a green shirt. I’ve even seen people threaten to cut themselves if he doesn’t reply to them. Am I supposed to reply to that tweet? It was sent to me (@justin bieber), and not Bieber (@justinbieber), after all. I ultimately end up spending an inordinate amount of time blocking these accounts to try to keep my mentions at some sort of sane level. At last check, I’ve blocked well over 60,000 accounts. That’s at least 1/3 of Twitter’s 4th quarter monthly active users!

Because of this, I don’t really enjoy Twitter that much anymore. This is also why I don’t use it nearly as much as I used to. It’s bad enough that the culture of Twitter is centered around abuse, actually-ing people, and making it way too easy for dumb people to try to sound smart. Add on top of it that most people don’t understand the product and I have to spend part of my life doing manual labor trying to make the service usable for me. No better way to spend a Saturday night than Twitter Block Button and Chill.

The fundamental tenents of Twitter are obviously broken for most people and they have been for years. Based on the currently super confusing interface the product offers, Twitter’s conversational nature lets me gauge where Bieber is still most popular (South America, Southeast Asia) and how Justin Trudeau is doing up in Canada (pretty great!). The product does not enable people to successfully talk to their favorite celebrities or #brands. Instead they end up talking to an iOS developer in Colorado who really doesn’t want to know them. Why would I want to keep using a product that enables this exactly?

Twitter the the company seems aware of this based on their last shareholder letter.

We are going to fix the broken windows and confusing parts, like the .@name syntax and @reply rules, that we know inhibit usage and drive people away. We’re going to improve the timeline to make sure you see the best Tweets, while preserving the timeliness we are known for. The timeline improvement we announced just this morning has grown usage across the board (including Tweeting and Retweeting). We’re going to improve onboarding flows to make sure you easily find both your contacts and your interests. We’re going to make Tweeting faster while making Tweets more expressive with both text and visual media. We’re going to help people come together around a particular topic, such as our @NBA timelines experiences. Relentlessly refining Twitter will enable more people to get more out of Twitter faster.

Whether this is just lip service to shareholders to try and quell another mass sell-off after a disappointing quarter, or something actually will change remains to be seen. I personally welcome the algorithmic timeline, because I no longer check Twitter more than once a day or so. I don’t want to see every tweet from every person I follow and since my mentions are usually a dumpster fire I don’t have much to look for in there either.

If @jack is looking for a fuzzy metric to determine whether Twitter is getting easier to use, take a peek at my mentions every couple months and gauge my misery level. The happier I am, the easier Twitter is becoming to use most likely.

Using Operator in Xcode

Operator in a Playground

For the longest time I have been using Meslo as my monospaced font of choice in Xcode, Atom, and Terminal. I couldn’t resist the urge to give Hoefler & Co’s Operator release as a replacement. I don’t really have issue spending money on tools that make me more productive in my day to day work. I never truly considered buying a font for development work though. For $179, I could have spent that money on at least 150 iOS apps!

After rolling my eyes at the absurdity of that thought, I transferred $179 from my bank account to Mr Hoefler’s, installed the font, and updated my Xcode theme to use it at 16pt universally.

My quick verdict? I like it. I don’t starch my plaid shirts nearly enough to offer a critique on the baselines and kerning of a font. I’ll leave that to the designers. But, it’s pleasant on my eyes and I can easily tell the difference between a capital O and a zero.

Is a new font going to make you more productive? Doubtful, unless you’re using something like Papyrus. I like it though, and you might too.

Check out Operator from Hoefler & Co

code:deck Playing cards

I am a sucker for an interesting set of playing cards, despite actually being terrible at Las Vegas.

I ordered a pack of these programming language cards few days ago to add to my collection. Each class of card uses a different programming language to represent its value. It’s criminal they don’t include Swift, but at least Objective-C is represented.

Buy at Varianto:25

The Gang of Four

Scott Galloway:

This is probably one of the most engaging and interesting talks I’ve sat through. If you want to have a really good idea of the size of business the Gang of Four (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google) are doing I doubt you’re going to find a better resource.

There’s so many quotable things in it as well.

On their growth as a media company:

Advertising is becoming a tax only poor people pay.

On generating profits and why Amazon doesn’t:

Profits are heroin to investors. They love them. They get addicted to them. And when you take them away, they get very irritable.

We truly are living in Larry, Mark, Jeff, and Tim’s world.

DigitalOcean Migration

If you can read this, then everything has moved successfully. I’m now hosting the site on a server at DigitalOcean rather than on Azure. Why? Predominantly performance. Azure is notoriously slow when it comes to MySQL, apparently because it’s outsourcing the database to a third-party company rather than hosting it themselves. I was faced with either running my own virtual machine instance of MySQL myself or moving somewhere else. I used that as my opportunity to evaluate other options.

I settled on DigitalOcean based off referrals from friends, but also their one-click WordPress install and ample documentation. I haven’t run my own VPS in a while, so I was a bit rusty in remembering all the nooks and crannies I needed to cover to secure a Linux system. Thankfully, there are plenty of first-party tutorials provided.

Hopefully the speed increase of carpeaqua will motivate me to write more than I do. Every time I sat down to write something before, I’d get annoyed at how long it was taking for a request to process. Now things are instantaneous. I’m running out of excuses.

If you want to check out DigitalOcean, click or tap on this referral link. You get $10 in credit and I get a little kickback too.