[tech/rant] Michelle upgrade iPhone. iTunes needs password to access backup even though Michelle no set password. Michelle enters bajillion passwords. No luck. 5.3GB of life, gone?

Being the techie in my family, I insisted my mother, stuck in iOS 4 with her iPhone 4, upgrade to the significantly better iOS 5, which would enable her to use the Chrome app. So one evening, I set about it. iTunes reassuringly told me that before it installed iOS 5, they would make a backup of my mother’s apps and photos and videos and whatnots– for to install iOS 5, a complete wipe of the device was needed. At that point, I briefly wondered if I should make a separate backup. Nah, iTunes has it taken care of. So I clicked the fateful button.

the better notification system in iOS 5; photo courtesy of DigitalTrends

When it came time to restore my mother’s data, a window popped up:

Enter the password to unlock your iPhone backup.

Wait, what? There is a setting in iTunes to encrypt your backup and seal it with a password. However, I did not check that box, encrypt the backup, and set a password. So I then figured that Apple must mean my mother’s iTunes account password. I tried that. Several times, to make sure I had spelled it correctly. iTunes kept insisting this password was incorrect and it could not restore the iPhone’s data. Golly gee.

I backtracked a bit after this. I had never encrypted the files in the first place, thus were they really encrypted? As the computer runs Windows XP, I went to “Run” and I went to the folder “C:\Users\[NAME]\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup” and copied my mother’s backup to a flash drive and plugged it into my laptop. I then downloaded iPhone Backup Extractor to my laptop. In the “Backup Details”, the program informed me, that it was, in fact, encrypted– and because it was encrypted, the iPhone Backup Extractor could not extract the data.

So, basically, I was screwed and I needed the password. What other passwords could it mean?

I scoured the internets and its forums, looking for the answer. Here are some suggestions that apparently worked for other people:

  • lockscreen pins
  • 1234
  • 0000
  • app passwords (e.g., if you installed Skype, the password to the Skype account)
  • computer login passwords
  • Apple ID passwords

I tried everything on the list. None of them worked. I desperately rooted through handwritten sticky notes of my mother’s passwords. None of them worked. I started to give up. I went to bed that night at around two in the morning, but then woke up at seven in the morning; because I was so worried; I could not sleep well. If I did not figure out the password, the iPhone might as well have been trampled by a family of Abominable Snowpeople in Tibet and buried in a cave under bat droppings for centuries. I was never going to get that data back.

However, that morning, after being slightly cheered up by a surprise gifting of an iPad 3, I realized perhaps I could use a password breaker. I downloaded the free trial of Elcomsoft’s Phone Password Breaker. Using this software, I could feed it lists of potential passwords and the password breaker would in turn try these passwords on the encrypted files. The password breaker would also slightly vary the passwords and see if these variations could decrypt the files. After a few fruitless attempts, I entered the passwords that I had already tried in iTunes to unlock the backup.

In about a split second, Elcomsoft told me they had found the password. Of course, they only gave me the first two letters, starred the rest, and told me that I had to buy the ridiculously expensive software to get the rest. No matter, the two letters already told me what I needed to know.

The password turned out to be from my mother’s Skype account. Perhaps iTunes was being temperamental when I tried the password from my mother’s Skype account? I rebooted the slow computer monster still running Windows XP and tried restoring my mother’s iPhone again using this newfound knowledge, but was summarily rejected again. I was about ready to cry at this point.

Then, I turned to Elcomsoft again at this point (though only after furiously Googling; that is all I can say). Provided Elcomsoft had the password to the encrypted files, Elcomsoft could also decrypt the files. It did. Rather successfully. So successfully that it was sort of an anticlimax, and it was almost funny that I was close to tears moments earlier.

The files are all safe and sound on my hard drive, which I intend to copy to another hard drive in the next few days. I have set up my mother’s iPhone to sync to iCloud, so I should not have any of this nonsense happen again. If the photos are lost on the phone, they are lost, but they are still in the ‘cloud’.

Though I felt a huge sense of relief as everything resolved nicely, anger started to brew within me towards Apple. Judging by the forum posts, this glitch has existed since 2010 and still persists, and Apple has still not addressed this. Thousands of people are on these forums panicking over this problem, and yet, nothing has happened. Apple, which prides itself on being simple, still has no answer for these glitches that can ruin someone’s data instantaneously. How to set up an iPad? It’s simple. How to lose your data? It’s hellishly simple, and you have absolutely no idea it is coming. It does not even have a “forgot your password?” sort of deal. Of course, I suppose my mother could be to blame for never connecting her iPhone to the computer and syncing, but come on! Again, Apple prides itself on being in tune with its base, so why are users like my mother losing their data perhaps forever over a simple software update? Despite all those iterations of iTunes and iOS, Apple still has not solved this bug.

That is horrifying.

classical music is stuffy? pshaw! classical recs for fans of pop/rock/electro/…

In my experience, people tend to think of classical music as one huge, static genre. Far from it– there is some classical music I love to death, others, meh, not so much. In a lot of ways, classical music can be very similar to the popular music that most people listen to nowadays, but it can be hard to find that particular classical music you click with.

Thus, in alphabetical order, I have listed popular genres and based on the genre, underneath I wrote some suggestions of classical music for you to listen to. Of course, being a pianist, this will be a little heavy on the piano side. If you have any suggestions for me or would like me to add a category, please let me know!

In popular music, country is a genre which can encompass many idomatic sounds of the American region– but true country has a deep soul; nonetheless, it also has levity and is loose and free. Personally, I am in a mature stage of loving American composers, so this corresponding genre of classical music is very dear to my heart. Though to European ears, the American sound may be uncouth and very loud and brassy, but it is so adorable and kitschy it is hard to fight back a smile.
(1) An American in Paris, George Gershwin. A perfect summer piece to dip your toes in.
(2) Rodeo: Hoe Down, Aaron Copland. This. This piece is amazing live. If you ever get a chance to see the Philadelphia Orchestra play this, you must go. In fact, if the Philadelphia Orchestra is playing anything remotely American, just go. They are the best orchestra in the US where American music is concerned.
(3) Piano Concerto in G major, Maurice Ravel. An impressionistic composer, Michelle? Really? Yes. This piece was heavily influenced by jazz, and its presence in this concerto is whimsical and floating and altogether very beautiful.
(4) ‘American’ String Quartet, Antonin Dvorak. Dvorak composing in a field in Iowa. Best idea ever. Also one of the pieces the Emerson String Quartet played when I saw them.
(5) Excursions Suite: no 1, Samuel Barber. Every piece in the suite hearkens to some American idiom. When I listen to the first piece, I think of trains. What do you think?

Dance / Electronic
Unless you get into the really hairy avant-garde in classical music, classical music does not use much electronic elements. However, I am interpreting this genre as ‘upbeat’. Some upbeat pieces you could (theoretically) dance to.
(1) Caprice no. 24 in A minor, op. 1/24, Niccolo Paganini. Probably the most well-known piece in virtuoso violin repertoire.
(2) Concerto for Two Cellos in G minor, RV 531, Vivaldi. Love at first listen.
(3) Moonlight Sonata, Ludwig Beethoven. The third movement is definitely a head-bopping moment.

Easy Listening / New Age
A great genre for some relaxation and contemplation.
(1) Adagio for Strings (choral version), Samuel Barber. One of the seminal pieces of the twentieth century; even DJ Tiesto made a remix.
(2) Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I and II, Johann Sebastian BachGlenn Gould is the go-to pianist for Bach. His interpretations are fantastic to listen to (however, once you start playing Bach, you realize sometimes Gould is a bit crazy at times). Bach is amongst the most cerebral composers I know, and it is a pleasure to play his works, if only to get a mental workout. I also like Maurizio Pollini‘s interpretations.
(3) Dolly Suite, Gabriel Faure. A cute and light set of piano duets (four hands, one piano).

Constantly listening to sad ballads? Want to cry your tears out?
(1) any Frederic Chopin– some choices: Nocturne op. 9 no. 2, Piano Sonata no. 2, Fantasie-Impromptu op. Posthumous, Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor. Chopin is mindbogglingly beautiful, but many times, I cannot handle the level of emo and would rather hack away at something aggressive. However, if you are super emo, do some soul-searching in Chopin.
(2) Pour le piano: Prelude, Claude Debussy. I’ve played this before in eighth grade. Why? Because it was emo.
(3) String Quartet in G minor, op. 27, Edvard Grieg. The first movement, Un Poco Andante, Allegro Molto Ed Agitatomight be a little more hardcore emo than you bargained for, but you cannot deny the entrance as one of emo anguish. If you like heavy metal, definitely grab onto this.

Epic / Soundtrack
I love listening to the Transformers OST and the Bourne trilogy OST, and sometimes having epic music on hand while racing through bus terminals is quite fun (I have no life).
(1) Piano Concerto no. 2 in C minor, op. 18, Sergei Rachmaninoff. Certainly one of the most recognized openings of all piano concertos.
(2) Piano Concerto in A minor, op. 16, Edvard Grieg. Play me that beginning chord anywhere and I can recognize it immediately. This piece is iconic– it was even featured in a Li Yundi Nike commercial!
(3) Transcendental Etude, no. 4, Franz Liszt. Not ashamed to say, I first heard this in Nodame Cantabile. I also discovered that Boris Berezovsky sweats a lot (watch the video).. unsavory..
(4) Cello Concerto, op. 22, Samuel Barber. The beginning, gargle. The cello cadenza, gargle. For this concerto, my bias is Paul Tobias.

Hip Hop / R&B
This is a genre that I listen to infrequently, but nonetheless, a genre with lots of soul. And lots of bass.
(1) Julie-O (special beatbox arrangement), Mark Summers. The original is amazing, as well– as it is played by the composer himself.
(2) Libertango, Astor Piazzolla. If Yo-Yo Ma is playing it, it is automatically gold. No questions asked.
(3) Romeo and Juliet: Dance of the Knights, Sergei Prokofiev. Yes, this definitely has a lot of bass; could fit in the emo section as well.

Basically, the genre for us snobs who like saying, “I listened to them before they became popular.”
(1) Paganini Variations for two pianos, Witold Lutoslawski. Yes, I blather a lot about this piece. But still– people still do not appreciate it enough. It is also rather avant-garde, so you can brag about that too, hipsters.
(2) Tzigane, Maurice Ravel. Everyone who plays an instrument classically has a phase of liking impressionistic composers like Ravel and Debussy. I was in the phase in high school, but now I have thankfully gotten over that. Even those who profess to love Ravel oftentimes have neglected this amazing virtuoso violin piece.
(3) Simple Symphony, op. 4, Benjamin Britten. A twentieth-century composer who does not get enough love at all, even in the classical music lovers’ circles. I would have a listen to his cello concerto as well.

Catchy, catchy, catchy. Hook, hook, hook. Infectious and fun.
(1) ‘Trout’ Piano Quintet in A major, Franz Schubert. Another piece I heard at the Emerson String Quartet concert– the most well-known chamber piece. In China, one of my roommates’ ringtone was this annoying MIDI version of Trout, so boy, was I glad to stop listening to it after I moved out.
(2) Bolero, Maurice Ravel. Yes, this is used in the opening of SNSD’s Paparazzi music video (you can guess a certain someone was frowning). However, Ravel’s Bolero on its own is indescribably beautiful, though it is the same thing over and over again. Pity, Super Junior’s artistic directors should try learning from this piece.
(3) The New World Symphony, Antonin Dvorak. The last movement could go under “Epic / Soundtrack” very well, but overall, it is an amazing piece of music, filled with memorable melodies. If you have a chance, listen to the four-hands one-piano version arranged and played by Duo Crommelynck.

Rock / Heavy Metal
For those of who love a good head-banging with strong rhythms. Bitches love Shostakovich! Heh.
(1) String Quartet no. 8 in C minor, op. 110, Dmitri Shostakovich. The allegro molto (second movement) is an absolute thriller. You can never go wrong with the Emerson String Quartet.
(2) Piano Trio no. 2 in E minor, op. 67, Dmitri Shostakovich. This trio’s melody was actually based on the previous string quartet’s melody. However, this arrangement is so amazing that it deserves to be mentioned. The allegretto (fourth movement) starts off ‘slow’, but once you reach the climax, grip the seat because you probably will not survive.
(3) Cello Sonata, op. 8, Zoltan Kodaly. I recently got into cello, but I really must listen to more Kodaly. His name is so fun not to.
(4) Firebird Suite, Sergei Prokofiev. The first time I heard this was in sixth grade– our teacher had chosen a snippet of it to be played in our band concert– and I fell in love immediately. Plus, there is this awesome Disney Fantasia movie to go along with it. Fetch me some tissues.


[nerd] math major memes. excite!

To celebrate my return from hiatus, I was busy (wasting time and) looking up math memes. Set theory, I will conquer you this fall, just so I finally understand 90% of the math memes out there. That’s actually the only reason I’m considering a mathematics major. Right.

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