iOS 6 Wi-Fi glitch a Web problem, not firmware issue

Fear, anger, loathing sweep through Apple users

A Wi-Fi connection glitch sent a short-lived, but intense wave of alarm and outrage through the iPhone and iPad user community yesterday, after they updated to the just-released iOS 6. But apparently the problem had nothing to do with the operating system itself, and Apple fixed it within hours.

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IOS 6: The Key New Features

The latest version of Apple's mobile OS was released Wednesday, with more than 200 changes or additions to iOS 6. It runs on iPad 2, the new iPad, and iPhone 4, 4S and the iPhone 5, which will be released Friday, Sept. 21. Shortly after it was available, Twitter and various online forums and comment boards flared with complaints that iConic mobile devices could no longer make a connection to any kind of Wi-Fi network.

Instead, the phones and cellular-equipped iPads made a cellular connection, and users' screens showed a Web page at www.apple.com carrying the command "Login." Yet there was no form to actually do so; and beneath the prompt was the alert "Hmm, the page you're looking for can't be found." After dismissing the screen, the device simply failed to connect to the Wi-Fi access point.

The failure prompted a wave of alarm, outrage and paranoia on the Web, such as the postings at MacRumors' online forums (from which the following comments are taken) as well as Apple's own online support community

"I try to connect my iphone and my wifes iphone to our wifi and after it connects. It opens Safari and loads Apple.com with Log In in the header?" posted dtbratt about 6 p.m. ET Wednesday. He added another post minutes later: "HUGE Problem with iOS 6!"

"Same here," posted 1984. "It keeps losing the wifi signal and switching to 3G/4G and then a weird Apple.com page comes up with 'Log In' in the title bar but no log in form. The only way to stop it is to turn of Cellular Data."

At least one user said the new OS initially worked fine but then ran into problems. "Got the same problem," wrote TheDutchGuy. "Worked fine for several hours, but now I get the same Apple 'failed' login page..."

"I think this is the worst iOS release to date," posted JS82712. "And Steve would've never allowed this."

Some saw Apple nefariousness at work.

"Of course, now I'm wondering what is it about connecting to WiFi that Apple is transmitting to itself," posted SoloStyle.

The glitch affected corporate users also. "Same problem here connecting to my work's corporate Cisco Wifi (normally a Cisco login page would come up, but I'm just getting the Apple page instead)," wrote T-Will.

A few intuited what the actual problem might be. "I'm seeing this too--iPad and iPhone. Apple seems to have removed the HTML page that they use to check if you're behind a wifi hotspot paywall," noted ejdmoo.

And in fact, something very like that was indeed the issue, as a number of users began posting.

Neogaff picked up on a MacRumors post that outlined the problem: "Here is what is going on. Ever since iOS 4(?) there has been a feature where if you connect to a WiFi network it will try to ping this site: http://www.apple.com/library/test/success.html If it is a success then it lets you connect, if it is not a success the phone trys [sic] to bring up what would be a Login page for corporate wifi networks. Example, public access points that have a login page, etc. It seems that some moron at Apple deleted the file located at http://www.apple.com/library/test/success.html and that is why it is not working. This is not an iOS 6 issue but rather a problem with Apple's website."

In a series of tweets, Steve Streza, lead platform developer for Pocket.com, a San Francisco app vendor, outlined the issues. "Your phone checks a page on http://Apple.com to see if your network is working. If not, you're probably on a network like a hotel/airport, where you have to agree to their terms before you can use the Wi-Fi. Then they show you the page so you can agree."

"The issue only affected iOS 6 devices, which use http://www.apple.com/library/test/success.html ... as their test URL. Previous OSes just used http://apple.com."

He noted that Apple would have to update the Web page, not the OS. "The test page (http://www.apple.com/library/test/success.html ...) has been updated. My iOS 6 Wi-Fi is working again," he tweeted. "If you're still having issues, toggle Wi-Fi off and on. It does the detection when you connect to the Wi-Fi network."

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww john_cox@nww.comhttp://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/2989/feed

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