A parent’s wish list for iOS 7

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As a parent with a young child who uses my iPad, I am always monitoring what he is doing when he uses the device. He knows how to delete apps and has decided if he doesn’t like something he should delete it. I am also always watching to make sure he isn’t playing apps that are not intended for him. He knows there is a page of apps that are his and the rest are mine. However, I never know when he might open a news app and see something inappropriate, or open a game that is not for him.

Of course, there is always that risk of an in-app purchase. He doesn’t know my password, but there will be that one time that my password has not timed out and he hits a button that buys something and he doesn’t even know it.

Sure, I could by him his own iPad, but that is a lot of money – even for an iPad Mini. Instead, there are two features I would love to see Apple implement in iOS 7 that would help me as a parent.

Multiple users

People have been asking for the ability to have multiple users on an iPad for years. The ability to have different users with different apps enabled for each user, and only those apps, would be enough to make iOS 7 a hit. I would love to be able to set up an account for my son with only his apps and nothing else. For that matter, I would love to do the same for my wife. Multiple Users is a feature which is a long time coming and I hope it arrives sooner than later.

In-app purchase limitations

While there are parental controls that allow you to turn off In-App purchasing throughout the entire iPad, I would love to be able to specify which apps it should be allowed in. I don’t want to have to go into Parental Controls and turn on In-App purchasing if I want to make a purchase in an app and have to go back and remember to turn it off again.

This could be similar to the on/off switch for notification center or location services. You would have a list of purchase enabled apps and the ability to allow the feature or not by turning it on and off.

Like I said, my son doesn’t know the password to make purchases anyway. However, I would feel much better if I could just turn off that feature inside of his apps.

The ability to set default apps

If you use iOS on any device you know that Safari is the default web browser. Sure, there are others available like Chrome and Opera, but if you click a link in any other app it will open in Safari no matter how many browsers you have installed.

Recently, I noticed Net Nanny, a company the helps filter out inappropriate content on the Internet, has released an app that is basically a browser that is filtered for kids. (I have not used this app, but I am using it as an example. I do not know how well it works.) This concept is fantastic and I would think many parents would jump at using this type of browser for their kids. However, if the child clicks a link in another app, like a spam email, the links to inappropriate content that site will still open in Safari.

As with in-app purchases, Safari can be disabled. However, where would appropriate links open? They would be stuck in limbo, since there is no setting to allow the links to open in another app such as Net Nanny.

Conclusion

There are other features I would love to see added, like the ability to shutdown all running apps with one click, the ability to have the weather on my home screen, and more. However, if Apple just implemented the three features mentioned above I would be a happy parent, and I’m sure there would be many other happy parents out there too.

Improve your writing productivity with a physical iPad keyboard

revue-keyboard

Do you need a physical keyboard for your iPad? That is the question I have been debating for myself for a while now. I write for this site and a few others, and I am often writing the articles for all of these sites on my iPad. I have always typed directly on the iPad screen and never used a physical keyboard. However, when I type a lot on the iPad keyboard I find I frequently make typographical errors. I was hoping a keyboard might fix that.

I recently discovered the new trend of thin keyboards that double as an iPad cover, like the Logitech Ultrathin iPad keyboard that many people are raving about. The Logitech keyboard is pretty pricey ($100 retail) and I did not want to spend that much money on something I may or may not like and use.

I started shopping for similar keyboards and found many that started at $20 and up. I then decided to search eBay and found similar pricing results – generic keyboards for about $20, and the price went up from there. I searched for keyboards and found a Luvitt like-new keyboard at auction for less than $20. I researched the keyboard and found it retailed for over $100, although it sells for about $80, so I put in a bid and ended up winning it. I was thrilled; I got a decent keyboard that got great reviews for under $20. In fact, I am typing this article with it right now.

This particular style of keyboard is a lot smaller than a standard keyboard, but I prefer its portability. I’ve found myself making typos because I am still to getting used to the smaller keyboard and having certain keys (like the right shift key) in a different spot. However, I really do like typing on the keyboard versus the screen for something like an article. The keyboard also has arrow keys for moving around the text easily. It has other function like volume control, cut and paste, a home button, and more. It really does change typing on the iPad when you have a “real” keyboard.

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Should every iPad owner get a keyboard? No.

The keyboard is not for everyone, especially if you use the iPad on your lap. The type of keyboard I am using does not work on your lap. The iPad would fall out because it has to be used on a table top surface to stay balance in the system it uses. For the casual user, I’d say stick to the on-screen keyboard. That is what I plan on doing 90% of the time when I am not typing something like an article. However, if you do a lot of typing on the iPad I would say a keyboard will significantly improve your productivity. This can be a small keyboard or a full size keyboard – the choice depends on your preferences and how you plan on transporting it.

The iPad with a physical keyboard is a nice combination, but not for everyone. It can help with productivity for some and be a waste of money for others.

Is it time to stop numbering software releases?

numbersAdobe has recently has announced that it will stop selling boxed copies of its Creative Suite software. This comes as no surprise – they are trying to push customers into their subscription-based Creative Cloud service. With Creative Cloud, the subscriber can download any an all updates of the Creative Suite software as it becomes available. As I thought about that announcement, though, it got me wondering: how much longer will software companies number their products with years and or versions?

Apple stopped it with the iPad and has never numbered the iPods or computers. They also never numbered the iWork suite for iOS. iWork for the desktop has been stuck in iWork ’09 for years, but it is constantly getting updated. I would not be surprised if the next full iWork version drops the year altogether.

Microsoft Office is now available as Microsoft 365 and in subscription format. I would expect the 365 number to be around for a while and the software would just get periodic updates without a number change. I guess we could see Office 720 in the future, but is it really needed?

Are software version numbers even needed anymore?

If retailers are moving towards downloadable versions of the software, why can’t they just add new features to the current version without renaming it? Sure, a new version brings more money in the way of people who want the latest and greatest. However, with the subscription model, subscribers get the latest and greatest automatically. You might even say they get the updates for “free.”

I would even argue that Apple has a one time fee subscription model in the Mac App Store and the iOS App Store. Until a major new release of iWork comes this can’t be a definitive statement, but so far all you have to do to get the latest features of the iWork software is buy it once through the respective store. All updates have been free. This has been true with Apple’s iLife offerings too. Will this continue when a major update is called for? As I said, that remains to be seen.

One thing is for sure, if software products lost their versions there would be a lot of pressure off of developers to constantly be releasing new, huge versions. Instead, they can focus on adding features that can be added via updates as soon as they are ready. No more need for a big version release – just download the latest update. Both the Chrome and Firefox browsers have moved to this rapid release structure, and the result is users get new features and updates almost as soon as they are available.

The case for software versions

Of course, there are benefits to numbering. The biggest is compatibility issues when sharing files. When you are sending files to another person, they often need to have the correct software to open it. For example, if I send a Photoshop file to a person, I need to know what version of Photoshop they have. I can’t send them a Photoshop CS6 file if they only have CS3 on their computers. If Photoshop did not have a version, how would I know if the software would be compatible? I could ask the person if their version of Photoshop was released after a certain date, but that would just get too confusing.

Conclusion

For now, I suspect version numbers and years are here to stay. However, as more and more companies move to the subscription model or Apple’s model I believe there will be a day in the near future when you just send a Microsoft Office file to someone and it just works because everyone is running the newest updated version they got via automatic update.

How to use a wireless Bluetooth keyboard with an Apple TV

The Apple TV

With the latest Apple TV software update, Apple added the capability to use a Bluetooth keyboard with the Apple TV. Why would you want to use a keyboard with the Apple TV? Well, it makes it a lot faster and easier to type in search fields when using the YouTube app and the few others that require typing when compared to stumbling through with the Apple Remote. You can also use the arrow keys on the keyboard to navigate through the Apple TV.

How to add a Bluetooth keyboard to your Apple TV

Setting up the keyboard is really easy to do.

  1. Make sure the keyboard is turned on and in pairing mode
  2. Navigate to Settings on your Apple TV
  3. Choose “General”, then choose “Bluetooth”, then the Apple TV will automatically search for your keyboard
  4. Choose the keyboard and the Apple TV will give you a code to type into the keyboard
  5. Enter the code, then the keyboard will be paired with the Apple TV and you are ready to go

Any Bluetooth keyboard should work with your Apple TV. I discovered that a keyboard made for the iPad, like one that might come with an iPad keyboard case combination, is a great solution. These keyboards usually have extra keys for iPad functionality. One of these keys might be a Home button to exit apps on the iPad. Well, that same button will navigate you backwards through the Apple TV like the “Menu” button on the Apple TV remote. This is a very handy feature. These keyboards are also smaller and harder to type on, but it is not like you are typing a full thesis on the Apple TV (unless Apple decides to allow apps one day, but that is wishful thinking for now).

The only downside to using the keyboard with the Apple TV is that you have to make sure it is constantly charged. If your keyboard using regular batteries you’ll probably get more life out of it than a rechargeable model. You also need a place to keep the keyboard. On the plus side the keyboard is a lot easier to keep track of then that little “silver stick”, as we call the remote in my house.

Overall, a keyboard with the Apple TV is a great combination. It may not be something you want to run out and spend a bunch of money on, but if you have an extra Bluetooth keyboard or can find a cheap one someplace it might be worth your while to try it out.

Leo’s Pad: An educational gem for children on iPad

Leo's Pad icon

While there are many educational apps available for the iPad based on kids television shows and movies, there are even more apps that have nothing to do with popular characters. These are the apps that get the most play in my house. However, every now and then an app comes along that has nothing to do with any television or movie characters and my son loves it. Leo’s Pad Appisode 1 by Kidaptive, is one of these games. Not only did my son love it, I loved it too.

While the app is not based on any popular characters, it is like watching an episode of a TV show made exclusively for the iPad. The story follows a young boy named Leo (Leonardo DaVinci) who is making a birthday present for his friend Gally (Galileo Galilei) and taking it to him. Leo also has a little pet dragon who tags along as his sidekick. As the story unfolds there are a variety of activities your child has to complete. These include building the telescope (which is the present), launching and flying Leo on his glider, and more. The activities are fun and educational at the same time. I’d say the entire game took us about ten minutes to complete.

What really sets this apart from other apps I have seen is the graphics, animation, and music. The graphics in the apps are fantastic. The artwork is beautifully rendered and the animation that goes with it is smooth and well done. The music in the app is a nice support to the story and the voice work was great. It truly felt like watching an interactive television show.

Screen shot from the Appisode 1
Screen shot from the Appisode 1

As of right now there are three appisodes in the Leo’s Pad series. Appisode 1 is free at the time of this writing and well worth downloading. Appisode 2 cost $1.99 and is definitely worth it. After finishing Appisode 1 my son was so engrossed in the story that I immediately downloaded Appisode 2, which is equally well done and fun. Appisode 2 continues the story of Leo and Gally with a third friend Marie (Marie Curie). The story leaves off where the first stopped and your child helps the friends build a rocket and go into space. Just like the first appisode, this one is a combination of story and activities that move the story along.

The only disappointing part of the second app is that the third part of the series is not available yet. I would have bought it right away and will be buying it as soon as it hits the app store. If you are a parent of a preschooler this is one app series you don’t want to miss.

The hidden method for deleting apps on your iOS device

Have you ever been on your iOS device (iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, or iPad mini) and gotten a message that you do not have enough storage left for the app you want to download? What do you do? Well, that message is your indicator to start deleting apps, and preferably the big ones that take up a lot of space on the device. (I also suggest purging any apps you have not used in the past thirty days. You can always reinstall them, but you will find you won’t miss 99% of them.)

There are two ways to go about deleting your apps. You can use the “regular” way of long-pressing an app icon until they all start to jiggle with the “x” on the corner. Touch the x to delete the app. The problem with this method is that you have no idea how much space these apps are taking up and how much space you are freeing on your device. You could delete ten apps but only free up 5 MB. That won’t be much help.

The better, hidden way

The second method is the hidden method for deleting apps. If you open the Settings app and choose “General” followed by “Usage” you will be presented with a screen that has a section called “Storage” at the top. In that section you will see a list of apps on your device and how much space they are using. This list is only a partial list of your apps. Scroll down and tap “Show all Apps” to see the complete list.

Once you are on this list, tapping an app will give you a screen where you can delete the app. As you delete apps you can track your free space at the top of the list.

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You might also notice apps in the list that you have already deleted. This is data left behind from those apps and I have found it to be several hundred megabytes in some cases. You definitely want to get that space back.

Another benefit of deleting apps this way (besides seeing how much storage they are using) is that it is a lot easier and faster to find apps you want to delete. There is no hunting through pages and folders for apps. They are all right there in one clean list.

Of course if deleting apps doesn’t give you the free space you need it is time to delete videos and music. However, that is another article.

ISPs vs. the cloud: Which email provider should you use?

email_featThese days, the average internet user has two options for email service: an address through his or her internet service provider (ISP) or use one of the numerous email services available on the internet (Gmail, Yahoo, iCloud, etc.). Which one should you chose? Well, there a benefits and negatives to both, and that is what this article is about.

Let’s start with reliability and service. I have used both types of email accounts, and reliability is a toss up. Companies are inevitably going to have technical issues and email will go down at some point.

What is more important is the service you get to restore your email. With an ISP account you should have access to tech support and through this support you should be able to determine if the problem is on your end or the provider’s end. If it is on your end the support tech should help resolve your issue – that is what you a paying for, after all.

However, if you are using email through a free service like Gmail, you are pretty much on your own for figuring out your problem. This is when you search the forums or call a knowledgeable friend or relative. Most of these free services do not have support. Apple’s iCloud does have support, however it is not immediate. There are email services you can pay for, if you wish, and that should give you similar, if not better, support than your ISP. If you are paying for your email provider and not getting support it might be time to move on.

The biggest reason, in my opinion, to go with an internet email service over your ISP is stability. People change internet providers all of the time. If you are using an email address from your provider, that address goes away when you cancel service. This means emailing all of your family and friends with your new address, changing login and contact information on sites that use that account, and losing any emails in that account that your do not have saved on your computer. If you use a service like Gmail or Yahoo and you change your ISP your email address does not change. It stays right where it is with your emails in tack.

Of course, if you are technically able to, you can set up your own personal email server. Then you are responsible for the reliability and you are your own tech support.

So what should you choose? That is really up to you, and the information in this guide should help you make a better decision. Just be aware that there are options out there and you can always change.

Why Apple should release a less expensive iPhone

iphone-5-topRecently, rumors have been running rampant about Apple releasing a cheaper version of the iPhone. These rumors are not new, but seem to have been picking up a lot of steam in the past month. Maybe it is because there is nothing else to write about in the Apple world right now, or maybe there is truth to the rumor.

True or not, I think it is about time Apple releases a less expensive iPhone. You might argue that they are already selling a cheaper model: They currently sell the iPhone 4S for $99 and the $ is free. This is true, but there is one big problem with this plan. These are older models.

When a person goes into the phone store looking for a new phone for $100 or less they have two options: Get the older iPhone or get a new Android phone. Many people will get the older iPhone because they want an iPhone – they want the Apple product in their pocket or they want the ease of use or they want it to easily sync across their Mac and iPad.

Other people will opt for the newer Android phone. This person might not care about it being an Apple product; they just want a smart phone for checking email, using some apps, and getting on the internet. What they do care about is how the phone looks or how heavy the phone is. The iPhone 4 and 4S are like bricks compared to the iPhone 5 and newer Android phones. Plus, many cheaper Android phones have a much more modern look. (Personally I never liked the look of the iPhone 4/4S. I wish the phone looked more like the iPod Touch.) There are many people who are more concerned with these features than the actual brand or operating system.

I can see selling an older model as the free phone, but why not have a $100 or $129 version of a new iPhone? It could have fewer features with 8GB of storage and a lower quality camera (for examples), and still has the latest iPhone design. It worked and is working with the iPad Mini, I don’t see why it would not work with the phone. It doesn’t have to be a low quality phone, just a phone with fewer features. One could argue Apple did this for years with the MacBook and the MacBook Pro lines.

My wife refused to get an iPhone 4 or 4S because of the weight and design. She originally had a lighter and rounder Android phone. When the 5 came out she did switch, but if it was going to be another bulky iPhone 4-like design she would have purchased something else. This is the person Apple needs to go after.

As an Apple fan and product user I don’t see myself ever buying an Android or Windows phone. I have too much invested in apps and I like the OS better. However, if Apple did design an iPhone Nano type of device they could definitely take a bigger chunk of that end of the market.

5 ways to fight spam in your iCloud email account

Apple iCloudI have been an iCloud email user for a while, even before “iCloud” existed (iCloud is Apple’s online email service and other online tools). I was originally a MobileMe and .mac user. Until recently, my iCloud email addresses were relatively free from spam. However, for the past few weeks I have been getting five to ten spam emails a day and I didn’t even sign up for anything.

A search of internet discussion boards shows that I am not the only one with a recent onslaught of junk in my iCloud account. So is there anything that can be done about it? Well, there are a few steps you can take to help reduce the junk in your iCloud inbox.

Don’t click ‘Unsubscribe’ links

First, and most importantly, do not click any unsubscribe links in any of these spam emails. This will, most likely, just open the door to more junk. These links basically tell the senders that your email address is real and is read by a human.

Help report spam to Apple

The second thing you can do is help Apple improve its server-side filters by emailing the emails to them. You do this by forwarding the email from your desktop app as an attachment to spam@me.com. This is Apple’s spam address. To do this from Mail on your Mac select the email and choose “Forward as attachment” from the Messages menu. Address the email and send it off.

Add spam filter rules to iCloud

A third part of the plan includes setting rules through the iCloud webmail settings. If you log into your email through iCloud.com, locate the gear icon in the top right of the screen. Clicking that will present you with a menu of options. “Rules” will be one of these options. Choose that and you will see a window where you can set up rules.

If your junk emails have similar words in the subject, you can set up a rule to send emails with that subject to the “Junk” folder or the “Trash” folder. If the emails seem to be coming from the same email address, as many of mine have been, you can set the parameter based on that email address. It is very easy to do and setting the rules online instead of your mail program will prevent many of these emails from even making it into your inbox of the program you use.

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Flag spam as ‘Junk’

For those spam emails that still manage to sneak through your filters, you can mark them as “Junk” in the Apple Mail program or the webmail interface . iCloud is supposed to learn what is junk and what is not based on how you mark emails. I don’t know how well it works, but it is better than doing nothing.

Buy spam filtering software

Finally, there is the pay option. There are several spam filter apps for the Mac and several online spam filtering services. SpamSieve is an app I have used in the past.

Conclusion

There have been small flurries of spam through Apple’s email services in the past and it eventually works itself out. Hopefully it will do so again. If not, you now have some weapons to help fight spam in your iCloud account.

Have any tips for fighting iCloud spam? Share them in the comments below!

Image courtesy: Bas Boerman

Great PBS Kids apps for your preschooler

In this guide, I’ll show you some great apps for iOS published by PBS Kids. These are all winners and based on current PBS Kids shows. Some are free while others are not.

PBS Kids Video

I have to start with a great free app called PBS Kids Video. This app requires an internet connection, but once connected you and your child will have access to clips from many great PBS Kids shows. In some cases there are full episodes. It is also easy enough for your child to run on his/her own. There are clips from Dinosaur Train, Sid the Science Guy, Sesame Street, Curious George and more.

PBS Kids Video
PBS Kids Video

PBS Kids Photo Factory

Another freebie is the PBS Kids Photo Factory. In this app your child can take his or your picture with a PBS Kids character. The picture can then be stored on the device, emailed, or printed. I do have to say this app did not have much staying power in our house. It was cool at first and then interest was lost. However, for free why not try it?

PBS Kids Photo
PBS Kids Photo Factory

Super Why

If your child is a fan of Super Why there are several great apps in the app store, ranging from painting to apps that help your child learn to read. The current favorite in my house is SUPER WHY ABC Adventures: Alphabet. In this app your child travels around the world in different environments collecting treasures and learning to read at the same time. These apps start at $1.99 and go up. Do a search for Super Why and you’ll see all the great apps for this show.

Super Why
Super Why

Dinosaur Train series

Another popular series with several apps is Dinosaur Train. These apps are also paid apps and start at $1.99. There are activities dealing with finding dinosaur eggs, coloring dinosaurs, sorting dinosaurs by size, and pattern matching. You can’t go wrong with any of these apps. The only disappointing part about these apps is that they don’t show enough of my son’s favorite dinosaurs from the show. My son is constantly asking where are other dinosaurs. That aside, these apps are great and I definitely recommend for the Dinosaur Train fans.

Dinosaur Train
Dinosaur Train

Daniel Tiger

Not to be left out, the new kids on the block Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood already has an app. For those unfamiliar with Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood it is a cartoon spinoff of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. It has all the old characters I grew up with in a new form. In Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Play at Home with Daniel, your child will help Daniel with everyday activities like getting ready for bed by brushing his teeth. This app is $1.99 and more for the younger age group.

Daniel Tiger
Daniel Tiger

Bert’s Bag

Finally, I can’t write this article without mentioning the king of PBS Kids shows: Sesame Street. Doing a search for Sesame Street in the app store will give you a slew of apps and interactive books. Most of these apps are paid apps, but they are well worth it.

One of my son’s favorite apps was Bert’s Bag. In this app, Bert dumps his bag of bottle caps or paper clips and you help count them. A simple concept that has kept my son busy for small chunks of time. There are even apps that have Sesame Street characters like Elmo making a customized “phone call” to your children. There are probably enough apps for Sesame Street to have its own article.

bert
Bert’s Bag

Conclusion

I could go on an on about PBS Kids apps. There are a ton of them, and I have only touched the surface. A search for “PBS Kids” in the App Store will reveal even more apps. I didn’t even mention the great Clifford’s Big Birthday which teaches your child reading skills. Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat Color and Create! is a fantastic and fun paint program based on The Cat in the Hat.

The great thing about all of these apps is that they are teaching will your child is having fun. Some apps teach math, others reading, others colors and writing. Whatever the subject, your child doesn’t even realize they are learning something because they are to engaged in the game or activity. That is the best type of learning and well worth the few dollars an app might cost.

Just a side note: some of the apps like those based on Sesame Street, Clifford the Big Red Dog, or The Cat in the Hat are not necessarily published by PBS Kids even though the shows fall into the PBS Kids category. I suggest just searching for the show title to make finding what you are looking for easier.