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Personal Computing

I thought Apple left Infinite Loop?

An Apple Id is the keys to your iCloud kingdom. It should have a really good password that is also easily entered. So why is it so hard to change an Apple Id password? Why so much friction?

Apple’s first HQ was at 1 Infinite Loop in Mountain View. Steve Jobs and I apparently share a self-deprecating sense of humor. With the new HQ, Apple now has a much less memorable address. So why write about infinite loops? There appears to be one in the process of changing an Apple ID’s password. Apple ID is the key to using Apple iCloud services and enabling iThings to collaborate in a user environment.

Would the change Apple ID password pass the Tim Cook test? I suspect not. Tim’s an old duffer like me. Or maybe Tim likes infinite loops. Somehow, I suspect not.

Introducing Apple ID

An Apple ID is an Email address that you have access to registered with Apple as an Apple ID. If you own an iThing, you have the option to create an Apple ID that is associated with an Apple served IMAP Email account. Old timers like me started with something@mac.com, which became something@me.com, then something@icloud.com as Apple rebranded its net services every few years. Or you can keep your AOL Email account if you are really attached to it. Life is good either way.

iCloud Distributed File System

An Apple ID should have a good password as it allows access to your Email, iCloud storage, photos, videos, and other treasures that Apple lets you keep up there.

Those treasures can include a subset of the MacOS file system associated with an account holder’s Mac. iCloud holds the originals. The user’s Macs and iThings reflect the portion of the file tree that they are currently using. The rest appears as the user traverses the file tree. Apple does this to allow a desktop Mac to share files with a portable MacOS or iPadOS device. This is a useful thing to do if you are walkabout. Not so much so for retired codgers like me.

Those of you familiar with computing history may remember the Carnegie Mellon Andrew distributed file system. It had this behavior. Andrew files just appeared as needed where needed by the owner and those granted access.

So where is the loop?

The loop is at https://appleid.apple.com/ in the Apple ID change password procedure.

Clicking the Change Password link takes you to this modal HTML form.

Change password form

It asks for your current Apple ID password and a new one entered twice that must have some UPPER CASE, some lower case, some punctuation (which ones? The ones on the Apple TV keyboard of course), and some numbers. The end result is something hard to type on an Apple TV password entry dialog. I generally use pass phrases (words) that I can remember long enough to type them on the Apple TV.

It’s best to sign out and re-authenticate

So I started this process clicking sign everything out option. If you don’t do this, things remain signed in under the former password but Apple won’t do things like let Apple Watch unlock your MacOS user account when you return. So you have to force all to let go and log each in using the new Apple ID password you just set.

You keep coming back here for current password and new password. Over and over. But, you can just move on.

Weathering the authentication storm

Changing your Apple ID password invalidates all application logins. Most iThings have several. The processes allowed background refresh privileges that held iCloud access rights immediately want to re-authenticate.

Suddenly, there is a storm of Apple ID password entry dialogs and application password entry dialogs. You have to read carefully and guess what “password” means in the current uncertain context. Just which app does that dialog belong to anyway? There’s no place for an app identifier in the dialog title or message.

Because all of the dialog boxes look so similar, it appears as if the original change password procedure is looping. It keeps asking for either user password or Apple ID password pretty continually.

Is there a Tim Cook test? There should be!

Come now Apple? Did this pass the Tim Cook test? I suspect the developers didn’t dare spring this on Tim. But, sooner or later Tim will need to change an Apple ID password and somebody will be in the soup.

Apple tosses your App Passwords

Thanks, Apple. I really needed that. Now, I have to make a new App Password for each mail reader and other process that needs iCloud access. Again, there are modal dialogs in apps fighting with the browser for screen center. The App Password is often obscured. It is ok to have something pop to the top of the window stack but never, ever fix it to a particular screen location. When two apps do this, one of the dialogs will loose.

Session Timeouts

If you let your appleid.apple.com session time out, the web page sets there and spins. There is no way to log back in without refreshing the page.