How to Fix iCloud Photos Sync

I use iCloud Photos Library to store my original photos in the cloud, to save space on my Mac.  Today I tried to download the full resolution version of a few of my older photos and they refused to download, coming up with an exclamation point error on screen and telling me to try again later.

Checking the console log didn’t reveal much: just a message from cloudphotod about the sync session/download failing.  No explanation of why, just some error codes – a different error code for each failed download.

I dug around on the Internet and found a way to supposedly fix the photos sync, by using the Photo Library Repair Tool.  This tool is built into the Photos app: Hold down the Option and Command keys while launching Photos.  Then follow the prompts:

Repair Photos Library on Mac

This worked great for me.  I was able to download my old photos again in full resolution after the repair was complete.  It took a few hours, but I was able to use my computer in the meantime.  Note that your search index for photo keywords will need to be rebuilt, so you will need to wait for that too if you want to search your photos.  This search index rebuild happens automatically, in the background.


9 Years Later, Siri is Still Inconsistent

After 9 years, Siri has gradually has gotten better.  But it’s maddeningly inconsistent:

  1. I’ll speak into my AirPods “Hey Siri, 24 minute outdoor walk” to start a workout on my watch.

    20% of the time, Siri replies with “I don’t see an app for that. You’ll need to download one.

    Repeat the same exact query to the AirPods seconds later, and bam, it starts the workout.

    Siri outdoor workout inconsistency

  2. I asked Siri to tell me about the wind.  A couple times, Siri gave me the definition of wind.

    Other times it will tell me the wind speed.

    Other times, for the same query, it will tell me the wind speed and direction, which is what I want!  But it’s always random what I get.

What will Siri reply with today?  Who knows.  Sure wish Apple would make it more consistent.

Sunset in Arcos de la Frontera, Andalusia, Spain

I took this photo on the winding streets of Arcos de la Frontera, in the Andalusia region of Spain.  Love the streetlight glow reflecting off the cobblestone walkway:


In many places throughout town, the streets are so narrow, you’ll need to fold your car’s mirrors to fit.  It’s a challenging drive, as locals will whip around corners in their cars and come up behind you suddenly.

It’s worth going though.  There are many beautiful churches and castles high up on the cliffs of this town, along with excellent tapas and friendly people.  You may even come across a falconer.  (We did, and it was great fun holding his powerful birds of prey.)  I’ll save that story for another post.

How To Get 3-4% Back at Walmart Using the Apple Card

If you spend a lot at Walmart, have an Apple Card, and are willing to deal with extra hassle at the register, you can get 3-4% back by using the Ibotta app with Apple Pay.  It works like this:

  1. At checkout, open the Ibotta app.  Hit Walmart and then Pay with Ibotta.  You will be asked to enter the total amount due at the register.
  2. Type that amount into your phone and pay with Ibotta using Apple Pay.  This buys you a gift card for that amount.  A gift card barcode pops up that you can scan with the scanner.
  3. You get 2% for using Apple Pay, and Ibotta gives you 1-2%, for a total of 3-4% cash back at Walmart.
Ibotta cash back is actually not instant: You must accumulate $20 before cashing out.

If you’re not a Walmart shopper and Apple Card holder, Ibotta is probably not worth it.  Unless you’re someone who frequently:

  • Buys mostly brand name items at the grocery store (instead of mainly private label brands)
  • Purchases speciality alcoholic beverages

Ibotta just takes too much time for too little money.  As an example, after entering a couple of receipts per month for 1 year and 3 months, I earned a whole $20.  (That’s with a $10 welcome bonus + a $5 referral bonus.)

Because I don’t shop at Walmart often and don’t yet have an Apple Card, I cancelled my Ibotta account immediately after cashing out.

How to Find Your Apple Watch’s Battery Cycle Count

On Apple’s Battery Service page, they say “Your [Apple Watch] battery is designed to retain up to 80% of its original capacity at 1000 complete charge cycles.”  What they don’t tell you is how to tell how many charge cycles your watch has been through.  Here’s how:

  1. On your iPhone, go to Settings > Privacy > Analytics > Analytics Data
  2. Scroll down to the latest log-aggregated-20nn-nn-nn-nnnnn.. and open it.  (You should see at least 2 of these files.  The one you want says Watch OS at the top of the log data).  Don’t see any logs?  Then you need to turn Analytics on.  And wait a day.
  3. AirDrop the log to your Mac and rename it to a text file.  Open it in TextEdit and Cmd-F for: cycle_count  (Or you can just scroll about 3/4 way down the phone screen.)


My Series 1 is at 769 cycles.  It’s mostly fine.  Occasionally a third-party audio streaming app causes excessive battery drain and I have to charge it twice in one day.  But that’s the exception.  With a 1000 cycle lifetime, and my use case, that’s almost ~3.8 years of daily charging.  Pretty good lifespan for a tiny 205mAh smart watch battery.

Hopefully in a future revision of watchOS, Apple will create a battery health screen.  Then this digging (or unnecessary trips to the Apple Store for diagnostics) won’t be necessary.

Apple’s $23 AA Battery Charger

A few months ago, I took a chance and bought a sealed box containing Apple’s discontinued AA Battery Charger (model MC500LL/A with six Apple-loop rechargeable batteries included) off eBay for $23.  (Also available on Amazon for $26.)  Apple discontinued the charger back in 2016, and the set I received were manufactured in 2015.  I trusted the charger would work. But given the age of the six Apple Batteries (rewrapped Eneloops), I wasn’t sure they would juice up.


One pair worked immediately, but the other 4 were so discharged, I got the flashing amber light of doom.  I did a little research and found one weird trick to revive the batteries, which actually worked.  The flashing amber light still occasionally happens. So I have to wiggle the batteries in the charger and clean the contacts a bit to get them charging again.  Overall though: 5 year old batteries and still going.  They charge fast in ~2-3 hours and I always have a spare set.

These rechargeables last a couple months per charge in my first generation Apple Wireless Keyboard and Trackpad.  Break even point is around 50 charges, or a little over 2 years in my use case, and I expect them to last at least another 5 years.  Best part: I no longer have to think about how and where to dispose of old alkalines.

Exporting and Deleting Completed Reminders in macOS Catalina

Gary Rosenzweig over at MacMost wrote a nice script for exporting Reminders on the Mac.  Just uncomment the completed items section (2 lines) and it should take under 1 minute to export over 5,000 old reminders.  I saved these and backed them up:

export-reminders-to-clipboard.pngDeleting completed reminders is trickier.  The option to Clear Completed reminders no longer exists at

I came across this script by Dr. Drang that claimed to do it.  I suspect it works for small numbers of reminders, but it hung indefinitely at 100%+ CPU when I tried it on my years of completed tasks.

Even increasing the timeout to 20 minutes in the script still failed – Reminders hung with all sorts of obscure errors in the Console.

What I ended up doing to finally delete the old tasks was quite a bit simpler:

  1. Open Reminders and create a new list.
  2. Select and Drag all active reminders from the old list to the new list.
  3. Delete the old list.  Within 30 seconds or so, the old list (including all completed reminders) will be gone.

What I haven’t figured out is how to force synchronization between macOS Reminders and the iCloud/iPhone versions.  They usually sync automatically and quickly, but this time it took a while, with errors like “Error modifying records, canceling dependent operations” and “Partial error for modify operation” from remindd in the Console log.

Eventually, the synchronization/reconciliation worked, but I had to leave Reminders open on the Mac for half a day.

Hopefully the next version of macOS will include an option to auto-purge completed reminders after some number of months, similar to Calendar’s option to do the same for events.  And maybe it will even bring back the Export option!

How to Take a Full-Page Screenshot in Safari on the Mac

Have you ever wanted to take a screenshot of an entire web page, top-to-bottom, without resorting to a third-party utility such as Paparazzi?  (And without fiddling with resolutions/zooming or resorting to a PDF.)  Here’s how:

  1. Open the web site in Safari.
  2. If you don’t have the Develop menu enabled on your menu bar, pull down the Safari menu and click Preferences.  Hit Advanced, then tick the box next to “Show Develop menu“.
  3. Right-click any blank area of the web page, and hit Inspect Element.
  4. You’ll see the web page’s source code.  Scroll all the way to the top and find the html tag.  Highlight it.
  5. Hit Capture Screenshot.


This is useful in all sorts of situations: If you’re an author needing to capture the full screenshot of a web page for a technical book.  Or if you’re illustrating how to navigate through a site.  Or if you have to present point-in-time snapshot evidence of a full page for auditors auditing your web application.

Apple has hidden this functionality pretty deep, but once you know how to do it, it works great.

Sleep Tracking with AutoSleep – What’s the Point?

I use the AutoSleep app.  Someone asked me what the point of sleep tracking is, and if it has any impact on my life or decision making.  Here’s what it’s done for me over the years:

  • It helped me figure out I usually get the best rest if I go to bed between 23:00-23:45.
  • It automatically calculates what time you need to go to bed if you’re running a sleep deficit. (And it calculates how much of a sleep deficit or surplus you have.)
  • One night when I hadn’t gotten a chance to exercise until 9PM, it showed how my heart rate stayed slightly higher than usual for almost 6 hours following the exercise.  This is normal, but cut into my deep sleep and made it hard for me to get to sleep that night.
  • Most useful, it gives me 1-2 days of early warning that I might be running a fever or flu – as I see my heart rate, which is usually quite consistent from night to night, leap 5 or 6 BPM over consecutive days.

This last point is especially important to know during the current SARS2-nCoV-2 outbreak. I can then do whatever I need to do early to shorten the length of whatever illness I might have (take vitamins/extra rest/fluids/seek medical attention/etc.)


It also records a history, so you have a record of roughly when the fever starts and ends based on your heart rate, which you can then share with your doctor if necessary.

People ask, “when do you charge your watch if you wear it while sleeping?”  Answer: While I’m in the shower, or for an hour or so before I go to bed.

The only thing I don’t like about the app is it occasionally will get a little too sensitive and think I’m sleeping midday, when I’m not.  And when you try to correct this on the edit screen, it takes a long time to toggle the correct times when you were/weren’t asleep.  This only happens perhaps once a month, and isn’t a big deal.

I’m looking forward to the rumored sleep tracking in watchOS 7.  Will Apple improve on what AutoSleep has to offer, or will it (more likely) offer a simplified sleep tracking system?