Turn off Apple Wallet / Apple Pay notifications and nag screens

The latest version of IOS for iPhone, iPad, and iWatch devices really, really wants you to set up Apple Wallet / Apple Pay. Your devices want you to embed Apple in the middle of every purchase, and they’ll pester you every time you pick up your device with full-screen dialogs insisting that you need to finish setting up Apple Wallet. Right. Now.

I try to limit the number of things that can access my money, and I have no reason or desire to set up Apple Wallet, so I turned the notifications off. They are embedded in three separate places on the iPhone.

Go to Settings > Notifications > Wallet, turn Allow Notifications off.

Go to Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay, turn Double-Click Home Button off.

Go to Settings > Safari, scroll to the bottom, turn Check for Apple Pay off.

No more nag screens!

Hope you found this useful.

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How to turn off AMBER alerts on an iPhone

Last night I was woken up by an AMBER alert on my iPhone. Apparently there was a horrific murder and possible child abduction and the police wanted to make absolutely sure that every cell phone -carrying person in the state was made aware of the fact, just in case we spotted the children somewhere.

I live near San Francisco. The possible abduction happened near San Diego. It’s an 8 hour drive away. Teleportation has not been invented yet. There is no possible way that I am going to have witnessed anything that can help.

Until the people operating the AMBER alert system either:

  1. Limit notifications to the geographic area where they might actually do some good
  2. OR Give me the option to disable AMBER alerts while I’m asleep (“Do Not Disturb” mode is enabled)
  3. OR Give me the option to disable AMBER alerts while stationary (phone is not moving, so I’m not out and about and therefore unlikely to witness anything helpful)

… I am going to disable AMBER alerts on my iPhone. If one of these problems is addressed I’ll consider turning alerts back on. Until then, they’re staying off.

If you feel the same way, here’s what you do:

  • Go to Settings -> Notifications
  • Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the screen
  • Switch “AMBER Alerts” to the OFF position
  • Get some (undisturbed) sleep

How to Improve the AMBER Alert System so that it’s MORE Effective

I am convinced that the AMBER alert system can do good, but I also believe that it will be less and less effective if the people managing the system continue to send out alerts in such a ham-handed way. If the people managing the system send alerts to mobile phones in the middle of the night, and the only options that a mobile phone user has are ON and OFF, more and more people will start turning AMBER alerts OFF, making the AMBER alert system less and less effective.

I’ve built many operations alert systems over the past 15 years.  Sending repeated alarms to the wrong people makes those people ignore alarms. Sending alerts all of the time desensitizes people when there’s an actual alarm they should worry about. If I had a little more control over how and where I receive AMBER alerts, I’d leave them on. Here are my suggestions to the maintainers of the AMBER alert system:

Limit alerts to phones within a given radius of the scene of the crime. Every cell tower has a known geographic position. Every active mobile phone self-registers with the nearest cell tower. With the incident that took place in Boulevard, CA (near San Diego), alerts went out to all of California, alerting citizens in Yreka, CA (851 miles from the crime scene), but not Fortuna, AZ (123 miles from the crime scene).  By sending alerts to cell towers within a 200 or 300 mile radius, the alerts would be seen by the people most likely to have actually seen something. Sending alerts to people 850 miles from the crime scene desensitizes them to future alerts.

Include a URL for more information. If you’re sending the alerts to smart phones, include a link that someone can click for more information, then they might actually know what to look for.

Delay alerts for phones that are in “Do Not Disturb” mode. No one wants to be woken up at 3am with a screeching alert tone only to find out that they need to be on the lookout for a blue Nissan pickup truck. There are no blue Nissan pickup trucks in my bedroom or anyone else’s bedroom. If a phone’s “Do Not Disturb” mode is turned on, hold the alert until the DnD time is over, then alert the person carrying the phone. That’s one less person who will turn alerts off.

Better yet, hold alerts until the phone moves. If a phone’s “Do Not Disturb” mode is turned on, hold the alert until the DnD time is over, then alert the person carrying the phone as soon as they pick it up or move the phone. I’m awake now, you have my full attention, and I’m getting ready to go somewhere where I might actually see something. That’s the time to tell someone to be on the lookout, not at 3am when they’re asleep.

With these simple changes the AMBER alert system could be made more effective, reaching people who might have seen something at the time when they’re actually out and about. Without changes such as these, the system will become less and less effective over time, and lives will be lost.

Fix the system. Make it better. Make it more effective.

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Installing Google Maps on an iPhone 5 and iOS6

One of the reasons I bought an iPhone in the first place was so I could use Google Maps to navigate San Francisco’s public transit systems. I just started working in the City a couple of years ago and I went and bought an iPhone so I could punch in the address of where I wanted to be and the phone would tell me “go two blocks down and get on the #10 bus (which will be at the bus stop in 3 minutes).” I could even watch the phone’s GPS marker show me where I was so I knew when to get off the bus or MUNI or BART or whatever. I’ve since taken my phone to other cities and I don’t even bother to rent a car if the city has a decent transit system. I can navigate the ‘L’ in Chicago or Portland’s MAX transit using Google Maps.

So I was not happy to hear that Apple was replacing Google Maps on iOS 6 / iPhone5 with their own mapping program that doesn’t support public transit systems the way that Google Maps does. Not only that, they won’t let you download the Google Maps app from the iTunes store because they don’t want it to compete with the Apple Map app.

Luckily there’s an easy work-around that allows you to install Google Maps using a web shortcut:


Start up Safari on your iPhone.


Type “maps.google.com” into the location bar.

iPhone Safari Location Bar


Click “yes” if it asks if it can use your location.


Click the bookmark button at the bottom/middle of the screen.

iPhone Safari Bookmark Button


Select “Add to Home Screen”

iPhone Bookmark Options


You should now have a new “Google Maps” app on your iPhone screen that links you directly to maps.google.com. It doesn’t look exactly like the old app, but all of the functions are there, including the ability to plan a route using public transit.

Hope you find this useful.

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Turn off trackpad pinch-to-zoom on Firefox on Mac OS X

If you browse the web using Firefox on a Mac laptop you’ve probably brushed the track pad the wrong way and accidentally zoomed in on content. I’ve never used the pinch gesture to zoom in on purpose, it always happens by accident, then I have to press Command-0 to reset the screen back to normal.

I tried Googling for an answer, and found a bunch of people annoyed by the same experience, but no solutions.

I thought there might be a Firefox setting to control this, so I looked and I found one. Here’s what I did:

  • I typed “about:config” into the Firefox location bar to get to the configure-anything screen.
  • I clicked past the “this voids your warranty” disclaimer.
  • Type “zoom” in the search bar to find settings related to zoom.
  • The zoom in / zoom out gesture settings are browser.gesture.pinch.in and browser.gesture.pinch.out. Click browser.gesture.pinch.in to edit the setting. It’s usually set to “cmd_fullZoomReduce” and I changed that to “cmd_fullZoomReduce-disable”. (That way if I ever want to re-enable it all I have to do is remove the “-disable” part.)
  • Click browser.gesture.pinch.out and change its setting from “cmd_fullZoomEnlarge” to “cmd_fullZoomEnlarge-disable”.

That’s it. No more annoying track pad zoom.

Hope you find this useful.

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