Your iDevice and navel lint

This is not a real blog post, but I’m not going to return and create an account on all the online forums I visited yesterday just so I can tell everybody how to fix the problem. With any luck, anyone searching the intertubes for the problem can find this post and avoid a lot of foolishness.

Short version: Sunday night I plugged in my iPhone to recharge it, back it up, and generally update it. (Yes, Turff, I’m looking at you.) I got this mysterious message that a USB device is drawing too much power, and in order to protect my computer, it was shutting off the USB device, i.e., the iPhone.


It would charge in the wall, and no other USB device prompted that message, so I went looking online. There was all kinds of guessing going on, including the astounding comment that “Apple technicians seemed unaware of the issue.” Excuse me? Who did they think put the error message in there for this eventuality? Guesses about trashing the .kext files or something (only, later, the same commenter said, oops, don’t do that, because that will permanently disconnect your keyboard, which is also a USB device on your laptop. Who knew?) and other such feckless posturing abounded.

I took it to the VSU Bookstore today, where they allowed me to hook the phone up to a MacBook Pro there, same message, so it’s the phone. My computer lab instructor Josh Marsh said that his Mac guru friend swabs everything with rubbing alcohol when confronted with issues like this, so I went off and bought some, plus some Crayola paintbrushes with which to administer the isopropyl.

I turned the phone off and swabbed it. That turned the phone back on, so I turned it back off. In peering into the power plug area, I noticed that the base of the area looked, well, not smooth and metallic. I took a pin and carefully stroked the base, and lo! wads of isopropyl-soaked navel lint emerged.


I worked at it further, using the pin and a X-acto blade, carefully, oh so carefully. Enormous amounts of navel lint covered my desk, covered it, I tell you. Then I plugged the phone in, and presto, it worked.

The reason I even thought about the navel lint solution was that the same thing happened with the earphone port. I had lost the left channel in my earphones, and I finally noticed that the plug was not pushing all the way in, and in fact seemed to push back out. I went digging (carefully, oh so carefully) with a safety pin and dug out enough navel lint to form a small cat.

Tomorrow I shall drop by the VSU Bookstore and let them know of the solution. I imagine that real techies don’t know this problem because a) they probably don’t keep their iDevices in their pockets; and b) they buy a new one so often that they’ve never seen the navel lint problem.

So, future Googler from teh future, you’re welcome.

Update: I spoke too soon, I think, because the USB message returned. Now I think it has something to do with confusing the USB sprites by hotplugging my piano, my printer, and my phone into the same port. Specifically, it seems to be the keyboard and the phone confuse it since they both draw power directly from the computer.

Fortunately, I am of an analytical and inquisitive mind, my newfound blueness notwithstanding, so I wondered if my earlier success was caused not by navel lint removal but by having to print something previously. I plugged in the printer, printed something, and lo! the phone was OK.

This has not occurred before because my printer at home is networked wirelessly. Here, the DOE’s computer is USBed to my laptop. Both it and the phone have to be plugged directly into the laptop to be seen. The keyboard can go through a USB hub, but even that has to be plugged in. (My graphics tablet occupies the other port permanently.)

Anyway, problem solved. We hope.

3 thoughts on “Your iDevice and navel lint

  1. Read and placed in long term storage. Except the visual about a desk full of naval lint. navalLintVisual

  2. BTW, inserting mythical XML tags about purging naval lint is silly, as any decent bLog package routinely purges them. Thus the strange last reference in my previous comment.

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