As of this writing, we are into week two without cellular access on our iPhones (See “Cutting the cord and falling into the abyss” in last week’s Reader).

I think the biggest thing I miss is reading the Duluth News Tribune, Star Tribune, and the New York Times at breakfast and lunch.  To check email, statements, and other important and unimportant information, we have to go to the library or coffee shops.  I’m drinking a lot more coffee than I normally do.

The easiest is to walk to Chester Creek Café at the corner.  But we don’t want to take up a table when there are many lunch or dinner customers.

Perk Place is a quiet place, but for some reason I could not log on to their server.  Another Mac user had been successful.  I wonder if he was using a newer operating system.  A staff member did get me signed on using the coffee shop account.

Once upon a time I would walk to Bixby’s and other shops at Mt. Royal, but every year the hill up Woodland Avenue seems to get steeper, especially with a backpack with a computer.  And so I wimp out and drive.

The Mount Royal Library may or may not be crowded.  When I went on Thursday it wasn’t, but it did take a bit of effort to log in.  I was successful with my iPhone and iPad, but I never managed to click all the right buttons for my laptop.

A diversion at the library was looking for a follow-on book after viewing “The Young Victoria”.  The movie had a lot of follow-on summary information.  I wanted to know more about her reign and her successors.  I used my iPhone to sign on to the catalog and select some books.  Having the call numbers of the desired titles on my iPhone sure beat copying those numbers onto paper from the library computers.

Caribou at Mount Royal Market is spacious and quiet.  It’s biggest drawback is that there are no power outlets at the tables.

And at the cabin we are completely disconnected from the web.  At least, we can still use our phones.

So, I have to carefully plan all my work before hand.  I am writing this at home and will go to one of the coffee shops to email it to the Reader.  I have to write most of my email beforehand.  I have to plan ahead what web sites to visit.

One of those plan-ahead sites was the Apple Support Community.  While at a coffee shop I downloaded thirteen threads about excessive data usage.  It’s nice to know that I am not alone with this problem.  Some useful advice, some blaming the user, but no really clear cut advice.

I do know first hand that solving computer problems can be a long, arduous project.  Relevant information comes in dribbles from the customer and lots of digging by programmers.  I was the lead investigator of frequent crashes of a Univac 1108 in Sweden.  Many of the memory dumps showed a particular program was active.  I badgered to customer into giving me a copy of the program.  I took the copy to another site and the program crashed because it was putting data outside of its assigned space.  To make the story short, the problem was they were using an outdated library and that their computer had a memory protection failure.  I think it took three months from the first alarm to final resolution.  And those computers were a lot simpler than what we carry in our pockets now!

Once upon a time it was said that Mac owners never used a manual.  I did look up a few things now and then, mostly just what keys did I need to push to get å, ä, é, î, ö, and other western European characters.  The Mac’s were described as WIMPs: Windows, Icons, Menus, and Pictures.  Just about everything you needed to know was obvious from one of these.

Even then, many users came up with seemingly intractable problems.  Apple’s answer was to encourage user groups.  Unfortunately, often there was nobody at a meeting who had an answer.  I remember somebody asking why they couldn’t make their “Whiz Bang” printer work on a Mac.  The leader would ask if anybody had a solution and look around the room.  Not a hand went up.  This happened over and over again.

The human interface, the computing power, and the range of software has improved exponentially in the last 31 years (remember the 1984 Apple ad).  We can do many tasks quickly and easily just by poking the screen or dragging a finger over it.  But when things go wrong!  Hoo boy!

I think I caused my problem with an inadvertent reset.  My choices include going back to the last iCloud backup, but would that be done before the coffee shop closed?  By reading the manual, I found that I can double-click the home button, swipe up on the screen, and then slide through all the open apps.  I can close an app by sliding its image up.  This doesn’t remove the app from my iPhone, it just stops it from doing any harm.

Once September rolls around, we’ll have the data part of our Consumer Cellular contract restored.  I think the closing apps plan is my best alternative.  I’ll start with only keeping the supposedly harmless apps open: Weather, Mail, Calendar, and a few other standards.  Then I’ll have to wait until all the data is in for that six-hour period.  If usage seems normal, I’ll keep a few more apps open.  Either I’ll eventually find the run-away app or that the conditions are such that the app is now behaving.

Meanwhile, I’ll be drinking lots of coffee.  I thought of having beer instead, but it will be just my luck to knock over the glass…