How to get Screen Sharing in Mac OS X’s Messages to work again

Mac OS X’s Screen Sharing, by allowing me to view and control other people’s Macs from my machine at home, has long proven to be a near-essential tool for me to help my friends and relatives with their Mac problems. Screen sharing is much more effective than attempting to address such matters via a phone call. As a bonus, screen sharing serves as a live video tutorial for the recipient.

This all worked well until a few years ago when, inexplicably, Screen Sharing stopped functioning.

The break

Until the break, I had been accessing Screen Sharing via Messages (formerly iChat). Using AIM accounts, I selected my friend’s name in Messages’ Buddies list and clicked the Screen Sharing icon (two overlapping rectangles) at the bottom of the window. From here, an invitation would be issued and accepted — and we were good to go.

I’m not exactly certain when things went south, but I believe it was after Mavericks was released. The Screen Sharing icon was now typically grayed out and unselectable.

At first, I hoped this was due to a bug in Apple’s software and it would be fixed in the next OS X update. It was not.

The most likely alternative was that my Screen Sharing’s settings were not correct — possibly because Apple had changed the rules in an OS X update. I was getting warmer here — but initially I could find nothing wrong. Both at my end and the recipient end — all seemed well.

[Note: The Screen Sharing settings in the System Preferences Sharing pane have no bearing on Screen Sharing in Messages; they are independent of each other. The System Preferences method is for sharing outside of the Messages app, typically within a single network. I considered trying to get Screen Sharing to work via this alternative route, but it seemed too likely to fail — especially when dealing with persons on the other end that usually have very limited technical skills.]

In the end, I gave up without ever identifying the culprit. I periodically checked back to see if I could get Screen Sharing in Messages to work again, but never succeeded. Admittedly, I didn’t try very hard.

The fix

A few weeks ago, I renewed my interest in Messages’ Screen Sharing. This time, I was determined to find a solution. And, with some detective work and a few helpful Google searches, I had success.

What I discovered was quite a surprise: Screen Sharing in Messages’ Buddies window no longer works. Period! At least not in the latest versions of OS X. Maybe there is some combination of settings, software and hardware that can get it to function, but I couldn’t find it (although someone else apparently did; see the comment below). The reason for this, according to what I’ve read, is that Apple no longer supports the protocols necessary to get Screen Sharing to function from here.

This raises the question as to why Apple still retains the Screen Sharing icon in the Buddies window. If it no longer works, get rid of it. At the very least, provide a warning that you are likely wasting your time here.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that Screen Sharing in Messages still works — just not from the Buddies window. Rather, you access it from the Messages window. The methodology is a bit more obscure – but I can vouch that it does work. Here’s what you need to do:

1. From Messages app, open the Messages (not the Buddies) window. This is where you’ll find all your iMessage text conversations.

2. Locate and select the name of the person whose screen you want to access. If necessary, start a new message to this person so that their name appears in the left-hand column listing.

For this method to work in El Capitan or later, both users need to have iMessage accounts enabled. If necessary, check the Accounts section of Messages’ Preferences to determine if you have this set up.

[Note: An Apple support document covering Yosemite states: “You can share screens using AIM, Jabber, Google Talk, and Bonjour. You can’t share screens using Yahoo! or iMessage.” In contrast, the same article, updated for El Capitan, states: “You can share screens using iMessage. You must be logged into the same Apple ID in the iCloud pane of System Preferences and in Messages.“]

3. In the upper right corner of the Messages window, you’ll notice the word Details in blue. Click this and a mini-window pops up that contains the three icons for audio, video and screen sharing connections (as seen below).

4. Click on the Screen Sharing icon and select the “Ask to Share Screen” item that appears. This will initiate an invitation to the other person. Assuming the recipient has an iMessage account set up, she will see the invite. Once she agrees to the request, her screen will appear on your Mac!

[Note: This method opens a Screen Sharing application on your Mac, located in the System/Library folder at CoreServices/Applications. After a connection is established, the recipient’s Mac will display a Screen Sharing item in the menu bar, containing several options.]

5. Initially, you will likely be limited to viewing the person’s screen; you cannot control it. To change this, select the Control icon (rather than the binoculars “observe” icon) in the upper left of the window. After the person again gives their consent, you will have control of their Mac. At last!

There are third-party apps, such as TeamViewer, that can similarly enable screen sharing, bypassing Messages altogether. However, Messages has the advantage that all OS X users already have the app and almost all already have the needed iCloud/iMessage account set up.

As for me, I’m glad I didn’t give up on getting Messages’ Screen Sharing to work. I’m once again using it on a regular basis. It looks like the solution has been around for awhile. I might have found it sooner if I’d been more persistent earlier on. But, as they say, better late than never.

On the other hand, given the multiplicity and complexity of Screen Sharing options in Mac OS X, Apple could do a better job of making the distinctions clear. You shouldn’t have to work this hard to figure out what’s going on.

Posted in Apple Inc, Mac, Technology | 2 Comments

Welcome to the new normal: Donald Trump

In his searing take-down of Donald Trump, Garrison Keillor laments: “If the man is not defeated, then we are not the country we imagine we are. All of the trillions spent on education was a waste. The churches should close up shop. The nation that elects this man president is not a civilized society.”

Similarly, in his powerful denouncement of Trump at Stanford’s commencement, Ken Burns pleads: “Let us pledge here today that we will not let this [Trump’s election] happen to the exquisite, yet deeply flawed, land we all love and cherish…

I unreservedly endorse all that these (and a growing chorus of others) have said regarding the disaster that is Donald Trump. And I am glad to see these statements getting so much attention, hopeful that they will contribute to a backlash against Trump (further assisted by his own recent implosions) that will assure his defeat this fall. But I also have to ask these writers:

“If you think Trump is really that much of a threat to the Republic, if you truly believe that his election would mean that our nation is no longer a ‘civilized society,’ what does it mean that millions of people have already voted for this person and that he has emerged as the presidential nominee of one of our two major parties? Isn’t that already an indication that things have gone too far? How could a narcissistic demagogue so obviously unqualified and so clearly reprehensible ever have gotten to this point — if we are still the great country you hope to save?”

I fear that the answer is that we are already “not the country we imagine we are.” I know I no longer feel the same way about us as I did even a year ago. We now live in a country where, I expect, at least a third of the voters (maybe much more) will vote for Trump in November. Think about that when you’re walking down the street: on average, at least one out of every three people you pass is a Trump supporter.

I understand that many people voted for Trump out of frustration with their current economic and social situation. Not all Trump supporters are ignorant bigoted xenophobes. But believing that government is the major source of all their problems and Trump is the solution is so clearly not true that it’s hard to know how to even begin a conversation with such people. Supporters claim they like that Trump “tells it like it is.” The truth, however, is that most of what Trump “tells,” when he isn’t spewing hatred, ranges from inaccurate to outright lies.

As for the Republican leaders who have decided, however reluctantly, to support Trump, I have nothing but disdain. They are morally bankrupt. And to those (Democrats and Republicans) who claim that Hillary Clinton is no better than Trump, you are simply wrong. Way wrong. Hillary has her problems. But Trump lives in a different galaxy altogether.

With some luck, Trump will lose big this fall and, a few years from now, the country will have corrected course. At some point, we’ll be able to look back on this season as an aberration — a weird nightmare that we’d like to forget — much like the rise and fall of Joe McCarthy. Perhaps. But I fear it is just as likely that this is only the beginning. Even if Trump loses, his supporters will remain. The country will not have substantially changed course. And the descent into political disaster that threatened us this year will continue unabated as we move forward. Welcome to the new normal.

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment

Why AppleCare+ is still not worth it

Thinking of getting AppleCare+ for your next iPhone? Think again.

Back in 2014, I strongly recommended against AppleCare+. Following my own advice, I skipped getting it when I upgraded to an iPhone 6s this past fall.

Last month, my decision collided with a worst-case-scenario accident to my phone. This gave me a “real-life” opportunity to assess the financial wisdom of my choice. As it turned out, the accident, while unfortunate, only served to reinforce that I had chosen wisely.

At the time, I had no protective case on my iPhone (a decision I made for aesthetic reasons). While the wisdom of “going naked” can be debated, that’s a separate matter from the AppleCare+ one.

On the fateful day, while taking the iPhone out of my pocket, it slipped through my hand and dropped to a concrete sidewalk. Upon examining the phone, I was relieved to see that the screen was still intact and all functions were working. I had dodged a bullet. Or so I thought.

I was wrong. A day later, I noticed that the protruding sapphire cover over the camera lens, that little piece that annoyingly sticks out from the back of the phone, had cracked. I could still take photos but, under many lighting conditions, the crack resulted in significant flaring visible in photos. Not good. I immediately made an appointment with the Genius Bar at my local Apple Store to see what could be done.

As I had anticipated, the news was bad. The Apple Genius informed me that, despite what might seem minimal damage, there was no way to repair it. My only option was to get a replacement phone. As accidental damage is not covered by the standard warranty (which was still in effect, as my iPhone was less than a year old), the replacement would cost me $300.

Ugh! Feeling that I didn’t have much choice, I handed over the cash and walked out with a new iPhone. As a bonus, the employee threw in a case for free.

At this point, I can hear at least some readers chiding: “Hah! Now I bet you wish you had purchased AppleCare+.”

Nope. While I wasn’t happy to shell out $300, I did so knowing that I was still ahead of the game. How so? Here’s how:

AppleCare+ for the iPhone 6s costs $129. Even had I paid for this coverage, I would still have to pay an additional $99 (accident coverage service fee) to get a replacement phone. That adds up to $228. In other words, ignoring any sales tax issues, not having AppleCare+ cost me only $72.

“Okay,” you may counter, “You didn’t lose $300. But you still lost $72. That’s still a loss. Doesn’t that make AppleCare+ worth getting in the end?”

The answer remains no. That’s because assessing my true cost involves more than simply looking at this incident in isolation. The question is not: “Would AppleCare+ have saved me money this one time?” Rather it is: “Does getting AppleCare+ save me money in the long run?” This requires estimating how often I expect to to damage my iPhone over the course of several years. This can be tricky to determine, as it involves making probability judgments. Just as with predicting election results, there is a margin of error involved. Still, reasonable judgments can be made.

For the sake of argument, let’s say I get a new iPhone every two years. Let’s also say that I expect to damage my phone once every 4 years on average. [In reality, I’m more careful than that. In fact, prior to this incident, I’d never had any accidental damage to any of my iPhones — going back to 2007. So I’m actually stacking the numbers against me here.] Assuming I get AppleCare+ during this four year period, I will have paid $129 x 2 (for AppleCare+ for each phone) and $99 for the damage replacement phone — for a total of $357. That’s $57 more than if I had skipped AppleCare+ and just paid the $300 for a lone replacement. [Note: If all you need is a screen repair, rather than a replacement phone, the downside of AppleCare+ is even greater.]

In my particular case, given that I had never purchased AppleCare for any of my iPhones and that this was the first time I ever paid for a replacement iPhone, I was clearly way ahead of the game — by much more than $57.

Moving beyond the cost of damage replacement…

AppleCare+ does add a second year of standard warranty coverage (the first year is included with your iPhone, even without AppleCare+). However, I contend that this is almost worthless — as iPhones very rarely need non-accident-related repairs in the second year. Further, if you’re the type of person that gets a new iPhone every year, the second year of standard coverage is entirely irrelevant.

AppleCare+ also extends the period for free telephone support. However, I again contend this is not of great consequence for most people, given the availability of free online and Genius Bar support.

Finally, there’s Apple’s new iPhone Upgrade Program. This is designed especially for people who want to get a new iPhone every year, trading in their old one. The cost of the program includes paying $129 for AppleCare+, spread over installments. Solely in terms of the standard warranty, the iPhone Upgrade Program is a terrible idea. As you’re getting a new iPhone every year, you never get the benefit of the extended second year of coverage. With this program, the only rationale for AppleCare+ is for its accident protection. Here’s where it gets interesting: Unique to this program, Apple doesn’t charge $129 for AppleCare+ each year — even though you’re getting a new iPhone annually. You only pay once every two years. In contrast, if you instead purchased a new iPhone with AppleCare+ every year from a carrier (such as AT&T or Verizon), you’d pay $129 each year.

Regardless, under the Upgrade Program, the calculations regarding accident damage remain exactly as described above. Over 4 years, you will have paid $64.50 x 4, or $258, for AppleCare+. If you only damage your iPhone once during this 4 year period (for a cost of another $99 to replace the phone), you still lose $57 by getting AppleCare+. If you get AppleCare+ from a carrier, and thus pay $129 each year, the disadvantage of AppleCare+ becomes much worse. So the best I can say here is that, if you plan to get a new iPhone every year and insist on getting AppleCare+, get it via Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program.

Bottom line

The above calculations were based on my personal history. Given my track record, assuming that I would need to replace an accidentally damaged iPhone no more than once every 4 years was a reasonable one. And it meant that getting AppleCare+ was a poor financial decision.

Your mileage may vary. What if your personal history suggests that you are likely to need to replace a damaged iPhone about once a year? In this case, AppleCare+ will work out to your advantage. However, you might instead work on out how to take better care of your iPhone so it doesn’t get damaged as often.

At a minimum, all of this means you should not automatically assume that AppleCare+ is worthwhile. Before making a decision, consider your track record. Unless you are accident-prone, AppleCare+ is a bad deal. You’ll wind up paying more for the insurance than you would spend on non-insured repairs. And the more years you go without any accident, the more you save by skipping AppleCare+.

Of course, in the end, you’re taking a gamble no matter what you do. You place a bet based on what you expect to happen in the future. If you guess wrong, you lose. For some, the peace of mind obtained by getting AppleCare+ may be worth it, even if you are more likely to lose money by doing so. However, if you are willing to take a small risk, I contend that the long-run odds most often favor a win if you skip AppleCare+. It has certainly worked that way for me. Having to shell out $300 for a replacement phone last month did not change that.

Posted in Apple Inc, iPad, iPhone, Technology | 2 Comments

Secure your data before selling your iOS device or Mac

Before I listed my iPad for sale on last month, I thought I knew what to do. My number one concern was security. More specifically, ensuring that all personal data had been removed from the device and all links between the device and any cloud services had been severed.

To that end, I restored the iPad to its factory settings. I decided not to use the “Erase All Content and Settings” option (from the Settings>General>Reset screen on the iPad). Instead, I elected to use “Restore iPad…” from iTunes on my Mac. Somehow, it seemed superior, although both methods are supposedly sufficient to do the job. And that was basically it. I didn’t think there was anything else I needed to do.

In the end, I was probably right; a Restore (or Erase all) was all I needed to do. None of my data was ever at risk. However, subsequent to selling my iPad, I stumbled across several Apple support articles that made me a bit nervous on this count. It seemed there were recommended actions that I did not take. How critical were they? Did I need to do anything about this now? Could I do anything about this now? Or was I stuck trying to close the proverbial barn door after the horses have left?

Let’s find out…

The iPad

Apple’s key article is “What to do before selling or giving away your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.” In general, the article confirmed my faith that restoring the iPad was all I needed to do. Major hassles only involved cases where you sell your device without erasing. In such cases, you can find yourself forced into taking progressively more and more desperate measures as you attempt to protect your data. In one worst case scenario, you may need to change your Apple ID password — to at least protect your cloud-based data, if not data on the device itself. But this was not my situation.

However, the article did list some things to consider doing before erasing/restoring the device.

First, turn off Find My iPhone, if enabled. Fortunately, at least in my experience, you can’t erase/restore an iOS device until this is done. So it’s hard to skip this step. I certainly didn’t.

Second, if you are selling an iPhone and you have an Apple Watch, unpair the Watch before erasing the iPhone. This ensures that Activation Lock has been disabled for the Apple Watch. As I had sold an iPad, not an iPhone, this didn’t concern me.

Third, sign out of iCloud and delete the iCloud account from your device before erasing it. This was the most worrisome for me, as I had not done this. Unfortunately, the article did not make clear the consequences of omitting this step or whether my restore was sufficient to make it OK that I had bypassed it (I think it was).

This led me to delve further into the status of my iCloud account. I logged in to on my Mac and checked Find iPhone. I was mildly dismayed to see that my iPad was still listed in the All Devices list. Without the new owner having access to my Apple ID, I didn’t think I was in any danger. Regardless, I selected “Remove from Account” for the device — and was pleased to see the item vanish from the list. I next went to iCloud’s Settings>My Devices. Happily, the device was not listed here.

I was beginning to feel a lot more comfortable. And I made a mental note for the future: check these items prior to selling my next Mac or iOS device.


As it turned out, I was not yet at the end of the road. Another Apple support article, titled “View and remove associated devices in iTunes,” warned that, before selling my iPad, I should go to my Account settings in iTunes and click “Manage Devices” from the iTunes in the Cloud section. From here, check to see if my iPad is listed. If it is, click its Remove button. I hadn’t done this beforehand. So I checked it now.

Uh-oh. My now-sold iPad remained on the list. Worse, its Remove button was grayed out…so I could not delete it. [Note: this is not just a matter of not waiting the 30 days mentioned in the article; there were devices in list that I had not accessed for way more than 30 days and their Remove button was still gray.] From what I subsequently read elsewhere, the only way to get the device off the list now was either (a) sign out of iCloud on the iPad itself (too late, given that the iPad was already erased and sold) or (b) wait and hope for Apple’s servers to automatically remove the item from the list after some unspecified period of time. Otherwise, the item may stay on the list forever.

Once again, I doubt I am in any real danger here. Without my iTunes account password, the new owner should have no access to my data. But it’s still irritating to have the iPad stuck on the list — especially because there is a maximum of 10 devices that you can maintain here. If devices continue to accumulate and remain stuck, I might eventually reach that maximum. There should be some escape hatch here.

By the way, if you’re selling a Mac (rather than an iOS device), also remember to “Deauthorize This Computer…” from the Store menu in iTunes of the computer before you erase the device and part ways with the computer. Even erasing the Mac’s hard drive is not sufficient to break this link. If you forget to do this, there is no way you can individually deauthorize it from any of your remaining devices — not even after logging into your iTunes account. Your only option is to go your iTunes account settings and select the “Deauthorize All…” button (which you can do only once a year, for reasons I do not entirely get).

I made another mental note for the future: definitely check these items prior to selling my next Mac or iOS device.

My request to Apple…

I’m an experienced Apple user…very experienced. Yet I still wound up a bit dazed and confused here, anxious that I had failed to do something critical before I sold my iPad. Apple can and should do better at keeping users calm. Here are two suggestions:

• Revise the Apple Support articles so there is one clearly written article that goes over all the matters I’ve covered here. If erasing a device eliminates the need to do most (or all) of the other actions, make that especially clear. Users should not have to guess or go hunting to find the relevant information.

• Even better, provide software that assists users in preparing a device for sale. I can think of two ways to go here:

First, when you select to Restore/Erase a device to its factory settings, the software should inquire if you are doing this in preparation for selling the device. If you answer yes, it walks you through all needed steps.

Second, Apple could develop a utility (akin to Migration Assistant on a Mac, maybe call it Sell My Device Assistant) that performs all the needed actions “automatically,” prompting for your permission as appropriate.

Either way, you can then be confident that you have taken all necessary steps to secure your data before you part with your device.

Posted in Apple Inc, iOS, iPad, iPhone, Mac, Technology | 1 Comment