The 3000 mile USB cable

A while ago I shipped my (not very) old iPad to my parents in England. It took a while to get there – not to England, that part of the journey was impressively fast – it was after landing on Blighty that things slowed down. The HMRC (i.e. bastard taxation bastards) held on to it for a couple of weeks while they tried to find a way of squeezing some cash out of it. Eventually they gave up trying to think of something rational and just charged 80 quid in “VAT” because they bloody well can. My mum and dad therefore had to fork out in order to receive this gift.
Once they had it in their hands it worked as I’d hoped and we managed to use Facetime for weekly family chats. In the meantime they appealed to HMRC for a refund on the basis that they had taken their money for no good reason – the judgement is still pending.

One thing I had forgotten is that the developer version of iOS I’d installed on it would eventually expire and not be upgradable via the normal means…for some reason. Last week it expired. It doesn’t tell the user it has expired, it just gives a bunch of nonsensical error messages and leads the desperate operator through a variety of frustrating circular paths to nowhere. The only useful suggestion it gives is to connect it to iTunes. But my parents don’t have a mac on which to run iTunes. They don’t have windows either; they run Ubuntu. So how could this problem be solved.

The most frequent “solution” to this problem is to run iTunes in a VM or Wine and it apparently has mixed results. “If only there was a USB over Internet thing that would let me connect the iPad to my Mac over the Internet” I thought. Generally speaking, if you ever have an idea like this then it probably already exists so just Google it. I did. It does! OK this is proprietary software (something I prefer to avoid) but it’s truly awesome (in the genuine “awe” sense of the word). Using the trial version on my Dad’s Ubuntu box, the iPad was plugged in and shared. Using the trial version on my Mac I connected to his box and opened iTunes. iTunes was fooled into thinking it was plugged directly in to the Macbook and happily (albeit very, very slowly) upgraded it to the release version of iOS6 – over the Internet.
Apart from the delight of being able to get the iPad working again from 3000 miles away, the sheer hack value of the operation tickled my locksmith genes and made me very happy. I’ll be buying this software because not only does it do what it promises but it’s beautifully built. Oh and for geeks that care: of course it’s written with Qt.

Mr McG took me on a 9am bike ride today; we made it down to the art museum and back again. I killed my legs again, but I’m already feeling better for it. Also West River Drive is a beautiful ride.

This evening we were invited over Michele’s M[ou]m’s for a superb beef stew. On top of that she made Yorkshire puddings!

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