Friday, March 6, 2015

the Apple iPhone "Slide to Accept" Mystery. . .

Three young men sat in their luxurious offices in the vintage travel trailer concealed under a massive pile of ancient automobile bodies and large commercial appliances that created something of a mountain near the exact center of the junk yard.  Jones Salvage Yard, tucked away on the edge of the Pacific Coast Highway near Santa Monica, California, offered a little bit of practically every technology of the past 100 years, much of it helping to conceal their headquarters and offices. 

"Technically it's not a junkyard," their leader, Jupiter Jones was quick to point out.

"Technically and, perhaps more important, at least as far as the State of California is concerned, it is a licensed and insured Salvage Yard," he explains.

The seemingly random stacks of rusting automobiles, commercial washers, and an even dozen massive commercial sheet drying machine from what was at one time the largest hotel laundry services in the San Francisco area before Jupiter's Uncle Titus and his helpers salvaged the hardware, trucking it back to Santa Monica.

Concealed underneath the mountain in a void that was created from wielded I-Beams salvaged when the Jones crew tore down the six-story turn-of-the-century Wells Fargo Bank of Santa Monica, the .  Jones Salvage Yard was full of objects of dubious historical value, it being in the business of the salvage and repair if a massive list of goods.

Jones Salvage did a lot of business with Hollywood, and in particular the movie studios - the prop departments of most of the major motion picture studios considering the Yard as a treasure trove.  If you saw a movie last year that was made by an America studio, chances were 100% that something in the background came from the Jones Salvage Yard!

What could not be re-purposed, cleaned up and resold, was torn apart by the two Hungarian cousins who constituted the Precious Metals Reclamation Departmant - both Hugo and Fritz had an eye for that which shines, able to find gold, silver, and platinum burind deep in ancient electronics.

Once they had the precious metals recovered, the pair went after the other metals, using the Yard's blast furnace to turn the aluminium, copper, and nickel into five-pound ingots.  Whereas all of the iron along with the different grades of stainless steel were loaded directly into a 40-foot shipping container and sold to a foundry in Japan that has a standing order for the scrap.

Occupying that void, beneath a carefully supported set of arches that provide almost bomb-shelter grade structural safety and protection, sits what appears to be a vintage model 1948 Airstream "Whirlwind" travel trailer.

The Whirlwind model of Airstream offered cutting-edge tech and luxury in its day - and is the HQ of The Tree Investigators.
Brand new and just off of the assembly line at the Airstream factory in Long Beach, California, the standard model Whirlwind '28 would have weighed just over 3,000 pounds and cost $3996. 

Comfortably sleeping up to 6 adults, the Whirlwind has a full bathroom with shower, basin, and toilet, full galley (kitchen) with propane oven and four-burner range, rounded off by a large and flexible combination refrigerator/freezer powered by both electricity or propane.  This Whirlwind was not, however, a standard model.  

The Air Force Whirlwind - it was obvious that the travel trailer had a connection to the US Air Force considering that it wore Air Force livery with the emblem of the Strategic Air Command ten feet tall on the roof - was anything but a stock model.

It was itself a bit of a mystery and so the three young men who now called the hidden trailer their office and headquarters set about solving that mystery, learning both how the trailer had ended up in the yard at Jones Salvage and just what all of the ancient high-tech hardware installed inside was for.

This particular trailer - Airstream number 48-1-0103 was the one-hundred-third manufactured in 1948 at the Long Beach plant - that being a translation of the serial number punched into its frame.  Airstream Whirlwind had been on a government "watch list" at the request of the US Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio since it was "misplaced" by the Air Force.

Since there was official interest in the trailer, the boys restricted their "official" inquiries as discrete and anonymous queries to avoid setting off any alarms.  When it was necessary to deal with the government itself - after all they did not want to lose their comfortable office to a team of Air Force types from the museum!

Fortunately the trio was very good at secretly ferreting out facts - after all they were in the private investigations business.

It turned out that the trailer had not been misplaced - it was a sacrifice of sorts, having been sold at government auction along with a large number of late-1940s era heavy bombers that the Air Force had designated as surplus. 

The trailer had arrived in the Jones Salvage Yard because the man who owned the salvage yard - Jupiter's grandfather - had been the winning bidder for that auction.

They had scrapped the planes after literally cutting them into easier-to-transport pieces, but according to the Yard records from the period there was a plan to convert the trailer into a mobile office for use at larger salvage jobs where an on-site office would be beneficial.

For some reason the special conversion that its new career would require never quite happened, and so there it sat, eventually ending up buried by layer-upon-layer of other salvage.

The first recorded piece of nose art was a sea monster painted on the nose of an Italian flying boat in 1913...

Of course all of this happened long before Jupiter was born - and as his grandfather was now deceased that was a dead end in more ways than one.

As their investigation deepened, young Jupiter and his partners (and best mates) Pete and Bob discovered that the sale of the salvage lot at Tucson's Davis–Monthan Air Force Base was actually part of a larger mystery and conspiracy  - the investigation eventually ending up documented as The Case of the Aluminium Plot!

It worked out that the sale of the trailer was part of a then-recent initiative to shrink the number of mothballed heavy bombers at the reclamation center.  There was a method to this madness.

The Air Force needed to get rid of that squadron of brand new Boeing B-47 Stratojet Heavy Bombers (coincidentally those bombers had been brand new in 1946) by accidentally adding them to a list of miscellaneous resources then in storage at the desert storage base near Tucson, Arizona.

The items on the list and declared "scrap" consisted of practically anything made primarily of aluminium that was not obviously valuable with the exception, of course, of the 12 brand new bombers.

The tragic loss of the 12 Boeing B-47 - regrettable as it was - required their immediate replacement since they were part of the ready-reserve and, Lord knew, with the situation in Korea being what it was, they could be at war any time now!

It was a thinly disguised nudge to Congress to get them to approve a test squadron of the newest design in the Air Force arsenal for Heavy Bombers; the Convair XB-46.

That unproven model had been tested, and it was found to be valuable, but it had not been approved for induction into the fleet and so had not gone into production.  Yet.  

The Convair XB-46 - when it positively absolutely has to be there overnight!

There was a small cadre of officers in the Air Force who meant to see it go into production, and not just because they all owned stock in the company that made it - but also because they were convinced that the nation needed that bomber.

Despite being the air-combat equivalent of a greyhound bus for bombs, the XB-46 looked like the mean, lean bombing machine that it was!  And with those four monster jet engines bolted on, the XB-46 became that lean, mean, bombing machine!

With that part of the mystery solved, the three investigators turned their attention to the trailer, which they discovered had been specially ordered by the United States Air Force to serve as the mobile quarters and command center for a general in the Air Force for a special project.

The custom-built Whirlwind was the largest model of single-axle trailer then manufactured by the company, and other than its rather distinctive paint scheme, looked to be a standard Whirlwind model from the outside.

Inside was a different story - the trailer having been carefully engineered by the brightest minds in the military to provide the dual-functions of Bachelor Officer Quarters (Mobile BOQ") and mobile headquarters (Mobile "HQ").

While mainly a military tradition, in recent years civilian airliners operated by the Virgin Group feature "Virgin Girls" nose art and names as part of their standard livery.  Pictured above is "Skye Blue" a Boeing 737-800 registration  VH-VOC...  Other cute names include Betty Blue (VH-VBC), Blue Belle (VH-VOA), Matilda Blue (VH-VOB), and Little Blue Peep (VH-VOM).

It was equipped with three different radios that covered all of the frequencies then used by military and civilian radio, several different voice and data encryption and decryption devices,a radar scope.  It contained three different safes - a documents safe in its office section, a documents and sensitive hardware safe in the small electronics bay, and a weapon safe inside what can only be called the bedroom.

The walls, floor, and roof were lightly armored, and the doors were reinforced and armored with gun ports in them.  All of its windows were bulletproof and blast-resistant, and the Whirlwind was equipped with a state-of-the-art air conditioning system as well as its own electric generator.  

It was, to put a fine point on it, the 1949 equivalent to the modern-day Air Force One - a portable military command headquarters with radar and communications capabilities that was at least on a temporary basis, self-sufficient.

In 1949 the standard Whirlwind model had a retail price of $3996 and weighed just over 3,000 pounds.  In today's money that would be slight more than $38,970 in 2015 dollars!  But the version that the Air Force bought had a sticker price of $19,456 - which works out to just over $189K - and that did not include the special military hardware, all of which was still present!

After digging through online DoD documents their electronic whiz and hacker Bob found the entire file on the trailer, which it turned out had been ordered to serve as the mobile headquarters for the General of the Air Force during an operation called "Project Bookbinder"on 26 February 1949.

The trailer was moved to Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth, Texas in mid-February in preparation for the operation, which was then the home of the US Air Force 43rd Bombardment Group.

Boeing B-47 - Grandparent of the venerable B-52!

Project Bookbinder was a semi-secret military operation in which a Boeing B-50 Superfortress bomber called the Lucky Lady II belonging to the 43rd Bombardment Group became the first airplane to circle the world nonstop.

The flight of the Lucky Lady II demonstrated the Air Force’s capability to fly, non-stop round the world, showing it could take off from the U.S. and drop bombs anywhere in the world.
The Lucky Lady II started its round-the-world trip with a crew of 14 under the command of Capt. James Gallagher, departing from Carswell Air Force Base at 12:21 PM on February 26, 1949, and heading east over the Atlantic Ocean.

After flying 23,452 miles, Lucky Lady II passed the control tower back at Carswell AFB on March 2 at 10:22 AM, marking the end of the circumnavigation, and landed there at 10:31 AM after having been in the air for 94 hours and one minute, landing two minutes before the estimated time of arrival calculated at take-off.

The custom-built trailer was used as the headquarters and command-and-control base by its senior officer, Lieutenant General Curtis LeMay of the Strategic Air Command.

General LeMay greeted the crew of the Lucky Lady II upon their arrival, and then, addressing the dignitaries, airmen, and officers, pointed out the significance of the mission, noting that with its successful completion the Air Force now had the capability to take off on bombing missions from anywhere in the United States to "any place in the world that required the atomic bomb" - to which the Russians responded "Whaaaaa?!"

Lucky Lady II crew members are greeted by Air Force Secretary Stuart Symington and General Hoyt Vandenberg following the first non-stop flight around the world. (Carswell AFB, Ft. Worth, Texas)
When Jupiter and his mates discovered the trailer in the back lot of the Salvage Yard they decided it would be the perfect headquarters and secret offices for their private investigations company, which they operated under the name "The Three Investigators."

Their company consisted of Jupiter Jones, whose family owned Jones Salvage Yard,  Peter Crenshaw and Bob Andrews.  Jupiter was the brains of the outfit - though the other two were far from stupid.  

Diagnosed a genius at age three, Jupiter could read and write at collegiate level by the time he was seven, and spoke 14 different languages fluently by age twelve.  He was still a virgin at 17 but he was working on that problem.

Pete - who is not a virgin - is the athlete of the trio, having lettered in Football, Basketball, and Track at their high school - the trio attend Santa Monica High School - and is an avid firearms enthusiast and life member NRA.

Bob is the technical side of the outfit and is a genius in his own right.  By the time he was ten he was fully fluent in five different programming languages and by the time he reached his 12th birthday was suspected by the FBI of having pulled three of the most spectacular hacks of the decade.

Thanks to Bob's inquisitive mind and near-legendary hacking abilities, the company has full and unrestricted access to the California Department of Motor Vehicles network, as well as the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), the National Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), and dozens of foreign law enforcement and intelligence networks.

After moving the trailer into the void in the largest pile of salvage in the center of the yard, they carefully buried it there, constructing its armored cave-like covering and a dozen different paths and tunnels that gave access from all over the yard.

The Chief - Jupiter Jones (left), The Cleaner - Pete Crenshaw (center), and the Hacker known as Captain Midnight - Bob Anderson (right) - The Three Investigators!
The Apple iPhone "Slide to Accept" Mystery

March of 2015 was shaping up to be a a great month as far as The Three Investigators were concerned.  Thanks to Bob's phone phreaking talents Jupiter Jones had been caller number 12 (and thanks to Bob having seized control of the radio station PBX callers 1 through 11 as well).  The prize was 12 engagements of a Rolls Royce Limo belonging to Worthington Limo Service - which nicely if temporarily solved their transportation problems.

Jupiter sat at his desk in the concealed offices of The Three Investigators, the private investigations firm owned by Jupiter and his best mates, Bob and Pete.  He was waiting for them to arrive so that he could brief them on the resolution of a case that Pete had taken on behalf of the company when he'd been approached by the Assistant Principal at their high school.

"Mr. Crenshaw, you are supposed to be a PI?  Well then tell me why some of the calls on my iPhone prompt me to 'Slide to Answer' while others allow me the option of either Accepting or Rejecting the call?  This is driving me crazy!"

Much to Jupiter's dismay Pete had not only accepted the commission, but had promised immediate results - so he had been up late verifying what he suspected he already knew.

Jupiter heard someone coming in through Tunnel Two about the same time as he heard the entrance they called Green Gate One.  Soon enough Bob and Pete were present and in their seats at the desk, at which point Jupiter began speaking.

"Right, so Pete accepted a commission - without even bothering to get a contract or set the rate" Jupiter scowled.

"Sorry," Pete muttered,

We totally get called from the NSA like all the time!  Really!
"The mystery I am calling "The Apple iPhone Slide to Accept Mystery" is actually a very basic question with respect to the functional parameters of the wireless phone otherwise known as an iPhone," Jupiter continued.

"There has been a lot of confusion surrounding that device - truly a fascinating phenomenon I must admit.

"For example I have noticed that every advertisement for Apple's devices the iPhone and iPad depicts the devices with their clocks displaying a time of  9:41 a.m.  Why is that?  I had to wonder!  In fact it kept me awake at night more than once, so Pete's taking this case on gave me the excuse to answer that and many other questions I believe you will find as fascinating as I do..."

"Here here!" Bob cried, as both Pete and himself began tapping their fingers on the desktop - which was the Three Investigators version of applause.

"So it turns out that the ads used to show the time at 9:42 a.m. - because that was the exact time that device inventor Steve Jobs first unveiled it back in January 2007. 

"The change to 9:42 happened in 2010, when for reasons known only to Jobs and God, he unveiled the iPad at exactly one minute earlier in the day -- at 9:41 -- and ever since then 9:41 has been the standard time for all Apple products in ads, both the new iPad and now the new iPhone alike."

"Huh," Pete grunted.  "I heard Steve Jobs was very fond of marijuana."

"I pulled his file via NCIC," Bob admitted.  "There are a number of confirmations of that - he actually listed his drug use on all of his security clearance applications for both the DoD and other agencies.  He admits to using LSD over 15 times and he was a chronic pot smoker," Bob confirmed.

"Only Dopes smoke Dope!" Pete and Jupiter cried, laughing.

"But seriously, Jobs credits his drug use with providing the creative spark behind a number of Apple products, including the iPhone," Bob pointed out.  "Maybe there is something to that?

"Have you noticed that some apps have a blue dot next to them on the screen?" Jupiter asked.

"Yes," Bob admitted.  "What's the deal with that?" Pete asked.

"It turns out that is the replacement icon for the 'old 'New' badge," Jupiter said.  When you install a new app - or you update an existing one, iOS adds that dot to indicate that it's new.  It goes away after you run the app for the first time.

"They changed a lot between iOS7 and the previous OS's" Pete complained.  "You used to be able to add someone who messaged you to your Contacts by tapping the Contacts button - that no longer works."

"Actually it does still work sort of," Jupiter said.  "Just tap the soft Contacts Button - which is located in the upper-right corner of the screen - then tap the little 'info' icon..."

"Info icon?" Pete interrupted Jupiter.

"Yes, its the little  'i' inside a circle.  Anyway tap that and then choose Create New Contact or Add to Existing Contact, whichever makes more sense," Jupiter allowed.

"By the way Bob, your Mom asked me to find out how to force close apps - you do that by double-tapping the Home Button to bring up the new 'card' view for all running apps, then choose the app you want to close and flick it up - in relative terms - to close it.  Swish your finger and presto!  Running app all gone!"

"Thanks Jupe!" Bob smiled.

"Now as for this Slide to Accept mystery," Jupiter sighed.  

"If you check online you will find all sorts of speculation - that it depends on whether the person calling you is in your Contacts, or you have received a call from hem before...  

"Another popular theory has it that the Accept / Reject side only appears when the phone calling you is another Apple product," Jupiter said.

"Well?  Which is it?" Pete asked.

"None of the above.  It turns out that the true culprit is your phone.  Specifically the lock state of your phone," Jupiter revealed.

"Wait, what?" Bob asked, eyebrows raised.

"If your phone is locked - that is to say you would need to enter the unlock code to use it, the message is the "Slide to Accept" one - if your phone is not locked - that is to say you can access it without putting in the code, it gives the Accept / Reject option.

"Basically it is part of the security feature, Jupiter explained.

"Well that is a bit anti-climatic don't you think?" Peter asked.

"It is what it is," Jupiter signed.  "Now let's go see if Uncle Titus left any of Aunt Mathilda's blueberry pie for us?" Jupe ordered, heading for the nearest exit.

"It's just a little snow... How bad could it be?  Seriously?" she asked.  "Flamethrower," he replied.  "What?" she sounded confused.  "It's either that or napalm, you decide," he answered.  Meanwhile at the asylum B.A. Baracus  and Templeton Peck were using the old Transfer Orders scam to spring Howling Mad Murdoch because someone had to save the day...


I get a lot of email asking me tech-related questions.  No doubt the reason for that is my having written a tech column for the Cape Cod Times for almost a decade...  

When the question is a good one - or its answer is something I suspect that other readers might either enjoy or benefit from, I will often answer it in the blog instead of just replying to the email - but over the years that process has grown very predicable.

A few days ago I received just that sort of email about the different answering options for the iPhone, and I thought, I would answer via the blog since it was a rather interesting question.  That got me to thinking - why not make the process more interesting?

I mean, why can't an answer to a tech question also include lots of other information about that device?

And then I thought - why restrict it to just that tech?  Why not combine other subjects that I am interest in?  This post is the result.

For the record the entertaining background on the Lucky Lady II and its history making, record-breaking around the world nonstop flight is all true.  And General LeMay really did announce that the US Air Force was now ready to drop the Atom Bomb anywhere, anywhen!

The business with the XB-46 and its engine is made up - I threw that in for flavoring - but the bits about the Airstream Whirlwind are all true.  The Air Force really did have several custom models that were used by Generals as mobile command posts!

As for the characters around which this post was written - Jupiter, Pete, and Bob really do exist - as the fictional characters and protagonists of the Three Investigators series of juvenile mystery-fiction books.

When I was a preteen I read -- make that devoured -- all of the original books from the first series as my friends and I really enjoyed then and were genuine fans of those teenaged P.I.s.

If you have preteen and teen kids you think might enjoy a good teen-focused mystery or three, the information that you need to find these at your local library is:

Series Names: Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators.
Author: Robert Arthur, Jr.
Genres: Mystery literature / Juvenile literature / Crime fiction
Publisher: Random House
Published: 1964-1987

I hope you found this departure from my usual approach entertaining - I certainly enjoyed researching it and writing it!

Next time maybe I will use Huckleberry Fin as the homage?


I want to thank all of you guys and gals who emailed me and sent cards, flowers, and prezzies while I was in the hospital.  Thank you!  Thank you very much!  And next time (if there is a next time) remember that PIZZA is probably one of the best gifts you can give an invalid - that and your company, so hey, bring a pizza, hang out!