Archive for October 4, 2017

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

USPS “Informed Delivery” Is Stalker’s Dream

Brian Krebs (via Hacker News):

The service, dubbed “Informed Delivery,” has been available to select addresses in several states since 2014 under a targeted USPS pilot program, but it has since expanded to include many ZIP codes nationwide, according to the Postal Service. U.S. residents can tell if their address is eligible by visiting


Once signed up, a resident can view scanned images of the front of each piece of incoming mail in advance of its arrival. Unfortunately, because of the weak KBA questions (provided by recently-breached big-three credit bureau Equifax, no less) stalkers, jilted ex-partners, and private investigators also can see who you’re communicating with via the Postal mail.

Perhaps this wouldn’t be such a big deal if the USPS notified residents by snail mail when someone signs up for the service at their address, but it doesn’t.

I wanted to sign up my post office box so I would know how urgent it was for me to check it, but apparently the service is not available for businesses:

Informed Delivery is a consumer-facing feature that gives eligible residential consumers the ability to see a daily digital preview of their household’s mail. While the Informed Delivery product is available for most addresses, it is not available for all. Eligibility for Informed Delivery is dependent on your current registered address and verifying your identity online.

As a business user you are not eligible to participate in the Informed Delivery program. If you want to participate, please create a new USPS account and register as a personal user.

I then tried to sign up my home address but got the error:

Unfortunately, we could not verify your identity online.

You may complete the identity verification process in-person by selecting the Opt-In button below.

It wanted me to verify my identity in person at a post office 43 miles away, in another state. However, I tried again and that time the online verification worked.

Update (2017-10-05): Daniel Jalkut:

I find it a little creepy that they show images of my mail in the unencrypted email to me, didn’t even think about somebody else getting it.

The e-mail includes the images as unencrypted attachments.

Pre-charging and Testing iPhones at the Factory

Bob Burrough:

Something Apple is oft derided for is its treatment of factory workers. Both Tim Cook and Steve Jobs rightly bristled at such accusations. One of my first jobs at Apple was developing factory line software for the first iPhone...

The purpose of our station was primarily to charge the battery to make sure iPhones were fully charged when the user first took them out of the box. After all, nobody wants a dead iPhone.

But why just sit there waiting for a freshly-assembled iPhone to charge? Why not do something useful while waiting? And so, we developed a battery of tests that made sure iPhones functioned properly under stress. A smoke test, if you will.

However, consider the fact that several devices per second are moving down a manufacturing line, the being pulled off to charge. As you pull every device off the line, you very quickly have hundreds, thousands, tens-of-thousands of devices sitting around.

This is indeed how it was, and continues to be. However...consider that one of the tests we ran was to activate all RF-capable equipment on the device to make sure it actually works. Cell, BT, Wi-Fi, GPS, all on at the same time.

Picture: thousands of devices sitting in a factory room, running RF tests.

Do you have any idea how a microwave oven functions?

Indeed. We had to make sure that the room which contained iPhones running such tests was sufficiently RF transparent as to not cook anyone who might have entered; myself included.

So, rather than make the world's largest microwave oven, we took care. Such consideration might not seem obvious, or reasonable, but it's critical. Otherwise, I might not be sitting here relaying this story to you now.

Multiply the number of racks shown here by 50...

A Eulogy for Eudora

Ernie Smith (tweet, Hacker News, TidBITS):

Welty once wrote a story called “Why I Live at the P.O.”; Dorner was inspired by the idea of a mailbox that comes to you, rather than the other way around, which inspired the name.


And while Andreessen moved to California, Dorner stayed in Illinois, telecommuting for Qualcomm, which eventually acquired his work from the university, for years. Dorner’s main job for many years was maintaining Eudora.


He got a long-term gig out of the move, obviously, but it meant that his idea was at the whims of a large company that was better known for designing communications hardware than email clients. Eudora was a loss leader of sorts—while it had a shrink-wrapped version, most people used the free one, and the success of the free app gave Qualcomm name recognition at a time when it was still pretty obscure.


In a 2015 interview with blogger Joe Clark, Dorner made the point that later internet users were less interested in customization than something that worked out of the box. Combined with the growing flood going into our inboxes, our collective philosophy around email had simply changed.

I always respected what Eudora could do, but my favorite 90s mail clients were Emailer and Mailsmith.

Your Device or Computer Could Not Be Verified

I got this error message a while ago, and suddenly none of my Mac App Store apps would launch, even after restarting the Mac. The App Store said that Tweetbot had been purchased on a different Mac, even though I had just downloaded an update for it minutes prior. Suddenly, I couldn’t even sign into the App Store app.

Eventually I traced the problem to something that happened a day or so earlier. We’d had a thunderstorm that damaged my iMac’s Ethernet port (amongst other equipment). At the time, I’d just switched the iMac over to Wi-Fi and started researching surge protection for my cable modem’s Ethernet output. All my apps continued to work.

But the Mac App Store uses the Ethernet MAC address for verification, even when connected via Wi-Fi. At some point it decided to verify things again, and my iMac’s Ethernet was broken enough to interfere with this.

The solution, MacBreaker explains, is a procedure to convince your Mac that it doesn’t even have an Ethernet port:

If neither of the above solutions fix the issue, open the System Preferences app and go to the Network section. On the left-hand column in the Network section, select each of the items and remove it by clicking the minus sign on the bottom of the column.

Then, go to /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration in your main hard drive and delete NetworkInterfaces.plist. Or alternatively, drag it to the desktop (as a backup, in case things go wrong).

By removing all of the Network items in System Preferences and deleting NetworkInterfaces.plist, you have effectively reset the network configuration for Mac OS X. Reboot (you may have to reconfigure your internet connection afterwards).

This worked for me. I was able to sign in and download new Mac App Store receipts tied to the Wi-Fi MAC address. And they continued to work after I started using an external Ethernet dongle.

Note: OmniFocus also uses the MAC address as a syncing identifier. After completing the above steps, it will see your Mac as two separate computers, one of which is no longer syncing. You’ll have to remove the Ethernet one or else syncing will get slower and slower because it can’t generate a new baseline without hearing from that Mac.

Previously: More Mac App Store Certificate Problems.

Update (2017-10-06): Howard Oakley:

It also bears pointing out that, in the event of a sudden loss of the Ethernet port, one of your first actions should be to ensure that port is properly connected to a network, and to restart in hardware diagnostics or AHT, as detailed here. You’ll also need to be within range of an active WiFi network, or you may find that you get a code CNWxxx reporting a WiFi hardware issue, rather than another error (unspecified, possibly CNxxxx series) pointing at the Ethernet port.

If your Mac returns a code ADP000, indicating hardware health, the cause is most likely to be software. Keep a watch on your software installations, because what has happened once could always happen again. If you want to read exactly what I experienced, the summary is here.

In those days of El Capitan, we had one major diagnostic advantage: the logs, which were still old-fashioned and relatively uncluttered. I’m not sure how we’d cope now with Sierra’s unified log, in which any useful information would be buried in a torrent of confusing error messages.

Update (2017-10-08): I’m not sure why, but Apple Diagnostics did not report any problems with my iMac’s Ethernet port.