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Cracking the Code: A Toddler, an iPad, and a Tweet (newyorker.com)
93 points by tysone 6 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 49 comments





...and the same thing continues in these comments: something totally mundane posted on the internet being dissected to within an inch of its life. The whole point of the article is that random stuff on the internet becomes world news, but that seems lost on the HN crowd, who focusses more on the iPad bug. Actually, maybe I'm not surprised that has become the focus here.

I’ve seen this story circulating and the explanation is totally wrong. It won’t let you attempt that many times. The clock got set to the unix epoch somehow, and it’s waiting until sometime close to the present to allow unlocking. The math adds up. This happened to an old phone I had that sat around with a dead battery for a long time, and I found forums where plenty of other people have had the problem.

They briefly cover that in the article:

> ... this was a problem especially with early iPads (ours is ancient)—they can have trouble with time and date, which in turn can send the lockout time soaring.


The author agrees with you. It was attributed to a bug in the way some early iPads / iOS kept time.

> I was impressed by how many people posted substantive help, explaining that this was a problem especially with early iPads (ours is ancient)—they can have trouble with time and date, which in turn can send the lockout time soaring.


I just ran into this with a seldom used MacBook Pro 2016/2017. I couldn't reset the password via iCloud and eventually I realized the system clock was wrong (on the order of years). I had to boot into the OS X recovery mode and start a terminal and set the date and time by the command line. Of course, none of the login screens have a time/date setting widget let alone show the system time and date so it took a bit of guessing.

Once the system time and date was correct, the iCloud password reset feature worked without issue.


Ah, then, won't syncing it up to a computer reset the clock, and the lockout lessen?

Yes, the article says that was the solution on how to unlock it.

They didn’t sync the iPad, they reset it through DFU.

Can you sync if it's locked?

I recently turned on a first gen iPad mini that had been off for maybe a year and its battery had run down. I unlocked it but got repeated prompts to sign into iCloud with an error when I attempted to do so.

I finally thought to check the time and it was set to 2017. Apparently if its too far from the current date, automatic time setting does not work. I had to manually set it to the current date/time, wait a minute or two, then I could toggle on automatic time setting.

It’s been a while but I seem to recall ntpd behaving the same way on Unix/Linux and having to manually use ntpdate if the system clock is too far off.


1000 seconds, I believe, is the max that ntpd will correct without manual intervention.

It also usually corrects by slewing time, so that the time correction doesn’t upset timers so much. I believe it can take several weeks to correct for a large offset.

That information is true for most linuxes, and may not have any direct bearing on iOS.


This article made me really happy. Our 3 year old is bound by the same rule - iPad is allowed when flying somewhere but not at home. Fortunately she has made peace with it... mostly. Every night we play Laurie Berkner toothbrushing song for her so she’ll spend full 2 minutes brushing her teeth. iPad is locked right after; every now and then she’ll try to grab it and enter some digits, and I think she is getting good at it. She knows first two digits already. At some point I’ll be forced to upgrade to touchID/faceId iPad for her as well.

I have a problem where I feel judged as a parent when others talk about their strict rules. It's not you, it's me. But it inclines me to share my story. Because I was so strictly regulated away from the computer as a kid, I decided to just relax and enjoy life on my own terms and not be so strict with my kids. So my 2 year old has unlimited iPad time.

So far the observations are:

- on days he uses it, it's between 1-2 hours total.

- he knows his alphabet and will sing the song while typing in each letter. So he kind of knows qwerty.

- he has complete access and basically goes into Netflix kids and YouTube. Ive never seen him find or watch anything inappropriate. This surprises me the most.

- some days it can be like crack. Grab it from his hands and he goes nuclear

- he gets bored and hands it back to you after 1-2 hours.

- he ignores it for days.

- he prefers going to the park or back yard over iPad time.

- I think he loves having control. He picks what the tablet does. He picks what video is on. A lot of his day is decided by what mom and dad need to do.

- some days we need to hide it because he's particularly fixated and getting him to bed time becomes difficult.

- he has an interesting obsession with a few videos that count in many languages. He can comfortably count to 20 in English, French, and Spanish. Mom, dad, and a Spanish speaking grandmother supported this and I think the iPad time helped reinforce the learning on his terms at his place

Overall I think it's a big win. But I expect this to change as he gets older. I expect we will have to start regulating it when he becomes capable of doing more complex activities on it.


We got our first PC when my sons were 2 and 4. I made sure there was kid-friendly stuff available, both desktop software and online links. I never limited what they could do.

As they got older, I had a tongue-in-cheek guideline of "no naked pics and no learning how to build bombs!" (They're my kids. They understood what I was trying to get at.)

I was a full-time mom and homemaker and we began homeschooling when they were 8 and 11. So I had a good idea of what they were being exposed to.

There were thousands of books in the house. I took them to the library regularly and to parks, museums, etc.

When they were about 11 and 13, we paid what was a lot of money for us at the time to get internet for all four computers in the house. A single line was the norm at the time and only one computer could be online at a time.

My oldest's addict-like behavior went away once he had unlimited internet access. Trying to get his needs met in x amount of time per day led him to play the most intense online games and did bad things to his headspace. Once he had all day, he read, played a variety of games, began writing fan fiction, etc.

I never found it necessary to limit anything.


> My oldest's addict-like behavior went away once he had unlimited internet access.

Back in the bad old days, I remember staying up many nights until 1 or 2AM because of the slow dial up speeds. I told mom better internet would solve that problem. It did.


The situation you're describing sounds perfectly acceptable and it sounds like he'll grow up with a healthy relationship with technology. Of course there are no right answers when it comes to parenting.

My cousin's youngest on the other hand... Every single family event since he's been old enough to pick up an iPad he has sat in a corner and not communicated with anyone (he must be 8 or 9 now). Earbuds in, fixated on the screen. Last family event I was at he came over to my cousin to get his fingerprint to authorise some purchase or other and the scuttled back off to his corner, which is the most I saw him move all day. He won't even put it down if we're singing happy birthday or taking a family photo etc.

I wonder what he'll be like when he grows up - whether he'll be able to communicate with people and form proper relationships. I know I've never managed to have a proper conversation with him. For what its worth, I do think my cousin and his wife are great parents and their other 3 kids grew up into perfectly respectable young adults, so I'm sure they know what they're doing.


My daughter got her own iPad mini at about age 2. We don’t restrict access except when she’s grounded. She’s six now and has one of the new iPad Airs with the Pencil, which she uses to draw. She’s very responsible with her iPad use, and would rather do cartwheels than use the iPad. (Although, we also made her keep trying sports until she found one she liked, and now she’s very active between gymnastics and swimming.)

Screens aren’t some magical thing that will poison your kids. I didn’t have an iPad growing up. Instead, I was obsessive (and sedentary) with books. Pushing kids to be active is orthogonal to letting them use screens when appropriate.


> some days we need to hide it because he's particularly fixated and getting him to bed time becomes difficult.

Do you have a device that supports night shift? I wonder if using that feature could work to your advantage in re bedtime. (I'm just a childless person speculating, but wouldn't that be grand?)


That's really thoughtful, thanks for sharing.

That might help a bit. But it's more about simply not wanting to stop what he's doing and move on to bedtime chores.

Reflecting a bit more. I don't think it's a struggle with addiction. I think it's a struggle between being in control and having to do what dad says.


I think your last line is spot on. He's 2 now, so it's not so bad. By the time he is 5 or 6, he'll be on the tablet from dawn to dusk if you allow it. I use Screen Time on our kids' iPads to keep the usage down (1.5 hours a day max) and apps under control, and it is still a bit of a battle. We also blocked youtube altogether unless mom or dad are in the room to supervise, because while they haven't watched anything overtly inappropriate, they've watched a few things that set off my internal warning bells without me being able to say exactly what is wrong, just that it's off somehow, in an uncomfortable way. Good luck with your parenting, it's a big PITA as you well know :)

Maybe just me, but for every kid topic I’ve searched there are these uncanny valley fake families over dramatizing an activity. From Nerf battles to DIY stuff.

For young kids on YouTube I’m a fan of coasterfan2105: https://www.youtube.com/user/CoasterFan2105

All train footage. It’s not the biggest hit, but keeps them entertained for a while.


I'm not some perfect-family lifestyle vlogger with an immaculately clean home in the background, but what you described sounds perfectly healthy. Sure he'll tantrum when you take it away. Toddlers will do that with anything. My son will burst into tears if I take away the ball he was holding when it's time to go to bed (because then he'll throw it out of the crib in the middle of the night and, surprise, burst into tears).

Keep it up. If your kid is happy you're doing a good job.


"Ive never seen him find or watch anything inappropriate."

Did you ever hear of Elsagate? I'd make sure to really check what he's watching, I found some incredibly disturbing videos in the YouTube Kids playlists my nephew was watching, never would have thought anything of it until I played the video, really nasty.


Yes and that was on the forefront of my mind. I'm always closely aware of everything he's watching and so far it's exclusively:

- Paw Patrol - Storybots (incredible, even if you're an adult, check it out) - Wiggles - Super Simple - Some weird series of YouTube videos where they do counting/colours in many languages. It's really low budget but quite harmless.


I wish Youtube Kids was a curated selection of videos kids would want to watch that were at least reasonable, instead of algorithmic who knows what.

Your 2 year old can read, type and count? Is this common?

My son could read the alphabet and recite it at 18 months. He learned this on his own because someone gave him a kid's alphabet book and he kept pointing to things in it and we'd tell him what they were. I think kids are perfectly able to do this stuff by 2, they just need to be exposed to it. For the record, we didn't encourage this behavior or try to push for it, he just really obsessed over that book for ~1 month for some reason.

He can't read. He can identify letters but not words. He will spell out his own name written down but have no idea it's his name. He can type with index fingers. Ie. He's memorized where the letters on a keyboard are.

Is it common? I don't know. He's probably just marching at the front of the parade right now.


Learning ABC (especially with pictures), being able to recognize them, counting to 10, pointing out letters on a keyboard are all easy enough for my 2yo. Can't do arithmetic or touch type, if that's what you're asking :-/

Basic letters and digits aren't too crazy if they have a sufficient environment for it - e.g. materials/attention from parents for learning.

My mom's a kindergarten teacher (and has been to some rather low-income schools), there's kids who have essentially never been spoken to and struggle behaviorally and academically and haven't really even seen the alphabet.

At that age it's essentially all about their environment.


My two year old knows the alphabet and can count to 10. She can't type but only because we never let her play with tablets or phones.

"At some point I’ll be forced to upgrade to touchID/faceId iPad for her as well."

She'll figure that out too. "Hey, look at this picture I drew! Ignore that little hole at the top of the page."


Yes, children are like the raptors in Jurassic Park, testing the defenses, eventually learning to open (high up) cupboard doors. And when the one in front of you is being quiet and well behaved, watch out for the other one.....

That would be the perfect time for me to say “clever girl” - I mean she does run around the house like a little velociraptor anyway :)

If my kid pulled that off I'd be beaming with pride.

She's two digits away - you'd better teach her how to play tic-tac-toe against herself, quick.

> She knows first two digits already. At some point I’ll be forced to upgrade to touchID/faceId iPad for her as well.

I mean, or change the digits...


My first kid has had her own iPad and allowed to use it for as long as she can remember... In some ways, it was very helpful. She learned a lot of skills early. But in some other ways not so much. She doesn't care to play much with other kids for instance.

So my second kid (currently a toddler) will only get a Raspberry Pi. And a controlled amount of total screen time. Not going to do same mistake again.


We're the same with our two kids, although not specifically the flying allowance because we don't fly with enough frequency for that to be a thing. Tablet usage is an earned treat, and if I calculated their usage, it would probably average to 90 minutes a week.

That being said, I do worry I'm doing them a disservice. I make a very good living, relatively, in the IT field, and I ascribe that 100% to the fact that my parents bought a micro computer in 1982 and allowed me full access to it whenever I wasn't specifically doing anything else. I don't think I would be where I am if they had put some restrictions on my use of the computer. Admittedly I spent the majority of my time playing with BASIC rather than cutting fruit with my finger, so the use cases are totally different. However, by restricting their access I am limiting their ability to do anything with a tablet, including maybe discovering some programming application, or something that might light their imagination as mine was back in the 80's.


I think I know how you feel. I owe my chosen profession to the fact that I had early access to a computer and GWBASIC, however letting her play Daniel Tiger night/day game doesn’t sound like any sort of developmental aid. I’ve bought a few ad free games for her that cover math, English, logic etc; and I try to play those with her, however I also want her to be a kid as well and don’t want to take the fun out of that part. It is not an easy balance.

Then why not get them a computer instead of a dumbed down ipad ?! Tablets are not the way to programming, you don't encounter enough problems for it to spark necessity.

I like that the internet detectives have determined all iPads have retina screens.

Had a similar problem with an old iPod touch. I think once the system time gets screwed up iOS won’t connect to any website due to certificate security errors - ie iOS thinks its 1999 but all the website certs aren’t effective until 2019 for some reason.

All x509 certificates have a “NotBeforeDate” value.

It does help with trust: if you know there was a specific date on which there was a cutoff of a vendor producing a certain type of weak certificate, for example, you can choose only to trust certificates from that provider after a certain NotBeforeDate.

All browsers will fail a certificate as invalid if your date is prior to the NotBeforeDate.


Here's the real question: Did the kid think he was being persistent and that eventually he'd be able to play his games again, or did he think guessing the password _was_ the game?

My kid's 18 months and "action/result" is his favorite game. He does one thing, and something else happens. Do it again! And again... and again......

"In the end, why did anybody care? Was it just a pleasing respite from gruelling news? Like so much of our lives with technology, the episode could be read as a reason for either optimism or gloom. In an instant, people had raged and imagined conspiracies; most did not. Many helped. "

I wonder sometimes how much time is wasted on stuff like this.


The last paragraph of the article -

In the end, why did anybody care? Was it just a pleasing respite from gruelling news? Like so much of our lives with technology, the episode could be read as a reason for either optimism or gloom. In an instant, people had raged and imagined conspiracies; most did not. Many helped. Above all, the scenario, in all its ridiculousness, seemed to satisfy the low-grade anxieties that have become our universal predicament, the feeling that we’re rarely more than a few clicks away from becoming captive to the tech we love. And, when it came time to share that angst, we did it online, of course. By the end of the week, the tweets were slowing down. The Internet had moved on. And the iPad was on a high shelf.


So dumb. She restored the device as recommended by Apple, whom she didn't bother contacting... or even googling an answer.



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