Category Archives: Apple

Holiday Gift Guide 2013: iPad Mini for Kids Edition

This holiday season, a lot of children will be getting iPads or iPad minis for presents. I suspect iPad minis will be the more popular of the two. For those that do get an iPad mini here are a few accessories you might want to get with the mini.

Black Blue V2 Double Layer Kickstand Hard Hybrid Gel Case Cover for iPad Mini

mini case

Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of cases. I think they bulk up a phone or tablet, so I don’t have one on my iPhone or iPad. However, in the case of a young child, I highly recommend a case. You want one that can handle a good drop or bump.

My recommendation is to purchase a “hybrid” case. It isn’t fancy or expensive, but it has a plastic shell on the inside and a rubber outer case. There is ample space between the screen and case from to protect of from a screen first fall. Plus all of the buttons are protected, but easily accessible.

Screen Protectors

Screen protectors are another protection gift you want on a child’s iPad. There are plenty of them out there. Like the case, this does not need anything fancy. If you want to spend $25 on a screen protector go ahead. However, there are plenty of protects for under ten dollars and you can usually get them in a three pack.

iTunes Gift Card


Every child is going to want to dive right into the App Store. An iTunes gift card would be good for this. You can either apply it to your account or make an account for the child and let him or her know the password. Set the account to a minimum limit using parental controls and only allow the child to make purchases with money in the account. If they burn the card on Smurfberries it is their loss, but no charges are made to your credit card.

IPEVO Pad Pillow Stand for the iPad Mini


Another great accessory is the IPEVO Pad Pillow Stand for the iPad Mini. I recommended the larger model last year and this one is just as good. It is made for the iPad Mini, but it even holds a full iPad. It is basically a pillow that holds your iPad. It works great on a lap or the floor or almost any surface. It has multiple configurations and I love it.

Griffin CinemaSeat headrest mount for the iPad Mini


Finally, and following in the footsteps of my previous suggestion, is the CinemaSeat for the iPad Mini, which is a case that straps to almost any headrest in a car. (Last year, I suggested the full sized version of the CinemaSeat). The child sitting behind that headrest now has a screen in front of them to watch shows on as if it was a built-in DVD player, for a lot less money (not counting the iPad). By using the CinemaSeat they aren’t falling asleep while watching the iPad Mini on a long trip and dropping it to the floor as the do so. This works great and couldn’t be easier to use.

Overall, an iPad mini is a great gift. It can be educational and fun at the same time. These gift can help that fun and help make the fun last a little longer by protecting your investment.

Holiday Gift Guide 2013: Apple iOS Edition

Every year there are more and more products for the iOS market, and this year is no different. Here are some of the best products I tried this year that would make great gifts for any iOS user in your family.

Sandisk Connect Wireless Media Drive

mediaFor the person that is constantly running out of storage space on their iOS device the Sandisk Connect Wireless Media Drive is great. It wirelessly adds 32 or 64GB to your device for storing anything from videos to photos to documents. You can play music and video right through the device through its free app available in iTunes. It even will store and play iTunes DRM protected content. The Sandisc Connect drive even creates a wireless network of its own to transfer data to your device.

My favorite feature is the SD card reader, which lets you download and transfer photos to your device through the Sandisk without storing all of them on your iOS device. It’s a great product.

Sandisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive

flashFor those needing a little less storage than the Sandisk Connect Wireless Media Drive mentioned above, check out the Wireless Flash Drive by Sandisk. This device comes in 16 and 32GB models and does the same thing as the Media Drive without the card reader feature. Either of these would be great gifts.

Adonit Jot Pro

jotproAdonit makes some of the best styluses on the market. I love the Jot Touch, but for those who just want a nice stylus without extra features, like pressure sensitivity, the Jot Pro is a great choice. It looks like great and magnetically attaches to your iPad or iPad mini for easy transport.

iPhone 5C


The iPhone 5C seems to get a bad rap, but I think it is a great phone. It is slightly better than the iPhone 5 and it not only looks great, but it feels great in the hand too. If anyone in your family is looking for a new phone as an upgrade or is switching from a standard to smart phone this is a great choice at a great price. If you look hard enough you can even find these for about $40 in the 16gb version.

iTunes card

If you have an iOS device, you most likely use iTunes and the App Store in some fashion. An iTunes card is a great gift that comes n a variety of amounts for your budget. These days you can get them almost anywhere. You can even send one straight through iTunes.

There you have it: a variety of options for the iOS user in your family. From the iPhone to iPod to iPad, you can be covered with something on this list.

Looking for a Good Deal on an iPhone? Head to a Retail Store

By now it’s nothing new to see smartphone kiosks throughout Target, Walmart, or any other chain store. To optimize user experience and to make the wait time much shorter, phone companies have teamed up with these moguls to greatly increase the locations in which consumers can purchase their next phone. And considering the shorter lines, the increased customer service (an aspect phone providers are seriously lacking), and cheaper prices, shoppers are seeing the value as well.

For example, Target sells the new iPhone 5C for $50 on-contract, regardless of carrier. The store also offers a trade-in value or store credit for the user’s original phone. The iPhone 4S could net $105 in good condition, leaving more than enough leftover for a case, accessories, or whatever else you need from Target. In comparison, walk into the cell carrier’s store and an iPhone 5C is $99 on top of an $88-ish trade-in value, for the same phone.


So why would anyone go to a carrier store, especially when they’re likely spending time at retail stores anyway? Users can save money, avoid the lines, and pair it with their regular shopping in the process.

Is There a Catch?

This makes us wonder what the carrier stores are getting out of it (such as Sprint, AT&T, or Verizon). They offer a shamble of a “deal” in comparison, yet they still seem to be thriving, in both corporate status and in company branches. The only real perk is that business phones have to be bought through the carrier no matter what. Are they making enough off these company phones? Or is service so incredibly profitable that it can pay the bills on its own?

Then again, maybe Apple, Motorola, HTC, Samsung, etc. just charges them more, knowing they’ll pay whatever fees they set.

No matter the reality behind these varied prices, it’s safe to say that retail stores offer the better deal for new iPhones and trade-ins. While a traditional contract (and upgrade date) is still needed, it’s a great way to bypass some paperwork while saving a few dollars along the way.

The next time you’re ready to venture into the latest iPhone, remember that a carrier store isn’t the only option. In fact, trying something new just may get you a better deal.

The iPad Air is faster, lighter, and thinner, but I’m not getting one yet

iPad Air from

When Tim Cook and company unveiled the new iPad Air a few weeks ago, I wanted one. The new A7 chip and the processing boost the Air was getting made it a very tempting device. Who wouldn’t want a faster iPad? I currently have the third generation iPad, so I figured this new model would leave mine in the dust. Imagine how great it would be in the art programs I have on the iPad (that I never use). I would be able to do so much more with it.

Not only is the iPad Air faster, but it is light and smaller too. Two more tempting features. While my iPad is light when compared to a laptop, lighter would really be nicer.

As much as I wanted the iPad Air I did not order one on launch day. If I had the extra money to get one, I might have made the purchase. However, the extra money is not lying around right now, and I am actually glad I didn’t order one after making a trip to the Apple Store earlier today and having the opportunity to try one out.

Was it thinner and lighter? Definitely. I could not believe how light it felt. It was almost as light a an iPad mini. It reminded me of how amazed I was at picking up the original iPad for the first time. The difference in size and weight is huge.

Next came the real question – how much faster is the new iPad? I was expecting to be blown away. To be honest, I wasn’t. Was it faster? Definitely, but it was not so much faster that I had to have it. Apps did not launch much faster than they do on my iPad. In fact, for basic use like email, browsing the Internet, typing notes, and even playing games I did not see much of a difference. I would have liked to have been able to test those art programs I mentioned, but they were not installed. Even if they were, I don’t know how much faster they would have been. I suspect they would have been more responsive, but I don’t know.

Part of my observations on the speed of the device are most likely due to many applications not being built to take advantage of the new processor. The other part has to do with the fact that email can only go so fast. By next year I suspect there will be plenty of apps made to run faster on the iPad Air, but by then it will be time for a new iPad that is even faster!

So, for me it is the third generation iPad for now. Will I get a new iPad in the future? Most likely. When? I don’t know. As long as my iPad does what I need it to I’ll probably stick with it.

Should you upgrade your iPad? That depends: If you have an original iPad, it probably would not be a bad idea. If you have an iPad 2 or later I would suggest doing what I did. Go out and try one. See if you notice a difference and if it is worth the money to upgrade for you.

How to send your Android device’s photos to Apple iPhoto with Dropbox

android-logoA friend of mine recently got his first smartphone, and it happens to be an Android phone. He asked me how he could get his photos and video off of the phone and into iPhoto on his Mac. I had no idea, so I told him to try to connect the phone to the Mac via USB and see if it shows up in iPhoto like a camera. Unfortunately, that would be too easy and did not work.

The Dropbox solution

After researching the problem on the Internet I determined that the easiest method would be to use Dropbox and its automatic photo upload feature.

Step 1: Install Dropbox on your Mac

Before getting started you need to have a Dropbox account, if you don’t have one already. An account is free and comes with 2GB of storage (with ways to get more free storage through referrals and more). You then need to download and install Dropbox onto your Mac. The application will download automatically when you set up an account. You will need you login information when you install Dropbox on the computer.

Step 2: Install Dropbox on your Android phone and enable automatic photo uploads

Once the account is set up and Dropbox is installed on your Mac, you will want to install the Dropbox app from Google Play on your phone. Once installed on your phone, open the app and follow the steps to set it up using your account information. At one point in the setup you will be given the option to turn on the ability to automatically upload photos from your phone to Dropbox. You want to do this. There will also be an option to only enable this feature over WiFi. If you are on a limited data plan you will want to use the WiFi only option. Uploading photos uses data and you do not want to burn up your plan sending photos to Dropbox. Let the phone do this when you are connected to WiFi instead. If your plan is unlimited the choice is up to you, since you don’t have to worry about a data limit.

Once you complete this step, the phone will begin uploading the images already on your phone to your Dropbox account to a folder called Camera Uploads. It will also automatically upload any photo and video you take to Dropbox from this point forward.

Now you want to go back to your Mac and open your Dropbox folder . The easiest way to do this is to go to the Dropbox icon in your menu bar and click “Dropbox Folder.” The folder will open and you should notice a folder called Camera Uploads. This is the same folder that the phone is not loading your photos and videos into. If you open it you should see all of you content appearing.


Step 3: Add your photos to iPhoto

Now you have to get those photos into iPhoto. To do this make sure you are in the Dropbox folder. Drag and drop the Camera Uploads folder to iPhoto in your dock. All of the content in the folder will be placed into an event in iPhoto and you are free to edit and share from iPhoto.

Step 4: Manage your limited Dropbox space

There is one final and important step. Your Dropbox account is not unlimited storage. You want to empty the Camera Uploads folder each time you import into iPhoto and free up that space. To do this open your Camera Uploads folder and choose “Select All” from the Edit menu. Next choose “Move to Trash” from the File menu. At some point you will want to empty the trash, but that is not required right now. This will empty the folder and free up that space. Keep in mind that this only deletes the photos from your Dropbox account. It does not delete them off the phone.

If you followed these steps correctly you are set and able to take photos and video off your Android phone and import them into iPhoto thanks to some help from Dropbox.

iOS 7 Home Sharing is now fixed

ios7One of my favorite features in iTunes and my iOS devices is called Home Sharing . Home Sharing  allows you to view/listen to content on any iOS devices by streaming it from iTunes. For example, if I have a movie on my computer in iTunes, I can watch that movie on my Apple TV by using Home Sharing .

Home Sharing on the Apple TV has always worked great. The Apple TV will occasionally need to be reconnected to the computer it is streaming from, but streaming and viewing content in iTunes has always worked fine. Home Sharing on an iPad, iPod, or iPhone has been another story.

Those devices have always seen the content from iTunes, however the way the device has listed that content is another story. Album Art could be wrong even though it is right in iTunes (for example, the movie The Lion King might show album art for National Treasure). Another big problem was that TV shows and seasons where displayed incorrectly. One show might have the name of an episode displayed as the name of the show itself. It might even have the wrong show listed for every episode altogether.

I have tried finding a solution in Apple’s discussion forums and other websites, as well as emailing people I know who are knowledgable about this stuff. I have even tried software to fix the metadata of the files in iTunes. No luck.

One of the biggest annoyances had been that only a certain number of listings could be displayed. If I had a TV show that started with the letter “W” and I had a certain number of shows listed before that series, that series would not appear in the list. I found myself trying to combine and delete certain shows so I could see what I wanted.

However, I am happy to report this seems to have been fixed in iOS 7. Artwork is now displayed correctly and seasons and show names are listed properly. The biggest fix is that my entire library now shows up when Home Sharing is enabled. No longer will it cut off after a certain number of items.

I don’t know why Apple took so long to fix this issue. Of course, if your device is not iOS 7-compatible, this problem still exists. I have a fourth-generation iPod touch that my son uses regularly with Home Sharing, so I guess that will never be fixed. However, for those iOS devices that are compatible, this is just another reason to update to iOS 7.

Review: My first week with the iPad Mini

Even though I’m an “IT guy,” I’ve never been a believer in “technology for the sake of technology.” Before I buy a device, I have to understand how it’s going to fit in with my life and be sure I’m going to use it. I’ve seen far too many clients become hooked on buying shiny gadgets that never get properly exploited.

As such, it’s taken a very long time to convince myself that I really need an iPad. There’s been one in the house before, as my wife had one as part of her job, so I’ve hardly been blind to their desirability, but with an iPhone and MacBook Pro already in my possession, I needed some strong justification.

It came in the form of my signing up to do a degree course via distance learning. The course requires me to read a lot of online content, which is ergonomically awkward on a laptop and impractical on a smartphone. So I finally had the excuse I needed, and went out and purchased a 32GB iPad Mini.

The White iPad Mini

First Impressions

Let’s face it, nobody’s ever disappointed when they take home a box containing new Apple hardware, and the iPad Mini is no different. However, I didn’t fawn over the sleek silver back for long, as I placed it straight into a protective rear cover and clipped on Apple’s own magnetic cover and stand combo.

How the device worked was obviously no surprise either; we’re essentially talking about a big iPhone that’s not a phone, but I was pleased that I didn’t feel myself badly missing a retina display. However, I did notice (and continue to notice) that the touch control isn’t quite as precise as that on my iPhone. It’s not bad at all, but I do sometimes find it hard to tap small “x” icons, especially when they’re near the top right corner of the screen.

Daily Use

As I said above, I was far more interested to find how the iPad slotted into my life than in investigating every feature available to me. After all, most of the functionality is already available on my iPhone.

The first point to make is that it’s given me a greater sense of separation between my working day and my evening. As I work from home, it’s easy to find myself still on my MacBook as darkness falls, in a strange kind of half work / half play limbo. Now I have the iPad, I’m more likely to close the laptop when the work is done, and switch to the iPad. This is a good thing, as it’s a far more sociable way to use technology.

As part of this, I took the decision not to sync my email accounts and calendars with the iPad, supporting its role as a leisure and study device and not a business device.

Despite the separation, the iPad is such a pleasure to use, it’s kept me up long into the night on a couple of occasions: once simply playing around with apps, including DJ software, games and music tools, and the other reading a recommended text for my university course that I found instantly available to me via iBooks.

I’ve also enjoyed being able to take the Traktor DJ app to a house party, resulting in a usable casual DJ setup, all in a package weighing 308 grams.


I’ll be honest: I really should have splashed out on an iPad sooner. There really is room for another gadget between laptop and smartphone, even if both of the other gadgets can technically fulfill every purpose.

The beauty of the iPad Mini is in its form factor. When we had a full size iPad in the house, I rarely used it for prolonged Web browsing as it simply wasn’t that comfortable. The iPad Mini is perfect in this respect and very pleasing to use, even with just one hand.

If you’re struggling to justify buying an iPad, it’s time to give in. I promise you won’t regret it.

The colorful iPhone 5C is not just for kids

5cOn September 10, Apple introduced the iPhone 5C. This new line of iPhones strays from the metal/glass design of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 and now 5S and brings a colored shell to the iPhone.

Many people keep writing about how this line is made for kids. While I do think these will be popular with the teenage crowd, I disagree that these phones are just for kids.


When my contract is up next fall on my current iPhone 5, I plan on buying a “C” phone (presumable a 6C). Why? The price is right, for one thing. For $100 less, I can get a 32GB iPhone that is very powerful and has a fantastic camera. The original iPhone 5 works great for me. The camera is fantastic and the phone does everything I need it to. Yes, the camera in the 5S is better and the processor is faster. However, I would expect the next “C” model to be faster and have a better camera then the current one, giving it a boost over my current phone. After trading in my iPhone 5 a new “C” phone might even be free!

The price is not only attractive to me, it will be attractive to many. For those, like my wife, who bought a 16GB iPhone 5 because the iPhone 4 was too heavy and boxy, this phone is perfect. She is a very light user, but wants a new-model iPhone with a great camera. She doesn’t need to spend an extra $100 for features that she doesn’t use. For $99, she can get a great phone that is modern and suits her needs. It isn’t just last year’s model in a new case. (Kudos to Apple for making slight improvements so it isn’t just that.)

Fingerprint Scanning

As for the fingerprint sensor: I could care less. I don’t mind typing in my password to purchase content on the phone and I don’t use a passcode. Sure it makes the phone more secure, but my guess is I would turn it off after a few weeks. I suspect there are many people out there who would not use it either.


I have been saying for years that I am not a fan of the iPhone design. I thought the iPhone 4 was one of the ugliest phones available (not to mention the fact that it was uncomfortable in the hand). I kept hoping for the return of the curved back of the original iPhone and iPod Touch. When the 5 came out the design was improved, but it still had that boxy iPhone 4 look. I bought it because I wanted an iPhone, but I thought there were better looking phones out there.

While the 5C maintains the boxy iPhone look, it has the curved edges that, in my opinion, look nicer. The colors, while a little too much on the pastel side, aren’t bad. I’d probably cover it up with Gelaskin anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, the iPhone 5S is a great phone. The camera sounds fantastic and the processor sounds very impressive for those that need it (now put that processor in the next iPad and we can talk). However, there is a group of people out there who don’t need those features and the iPhone 5C is going to be perfect for them. It will be a huge hit and is not “just for kids.”

Reading magazines on the iPad: A great, but confusing experience

I love printed magazines, and I have since I was a teenager, when my magazines of choice included hip-hop journal The Source, and lots of geeky Atari ST mags, which always came with a demo-filled 3.5-inch “cover disk.”

Much has changed since then, obviously. Easy software downloads have obliterated the last of the cover disks, and the printed magazine industry itself is struggling as a result of people consuming information on their PCs and tablets rather than in printed form. Many long-standing magazines have folded (pardon the pun), and many more have switched from monthly to quarterly production.

For me, however, the lure of printed magazines has remained strong. As I now live in Portugal, English-language magazines are hard to come by and are rather expensive, but every trip to the UK has me visiting the airport newsagent for a stack of magazines to bring home, including titles such as BBC Good Food, Wired, and Mac Format.

Reading Magazines on the iPad with Zinio
Reading Magazines on the iPad with Zinio

Enter the iPad

Earlier this week, everything changed, as I finally gave into temptation and purchased an iPad. The ability to read my favorite titles on a sensibly-sized screen was one of the main attractions.

One of the first things I did was download the Zinio magazine app. I had used this before on both my Mac and iPhone, but found the experience far from pleasurable on those platforms. It’s not comfortable or relaxing to read from a laptop screen, and magazine reading on an iPhone involves far too much pinching, zooming, and squinting. Furthermore, I don’t particularly fancy leaving the fate of either of these expensive gadgets to the bath or the beach.

Zinio on the iPad was everything I had hoped for. I could comfortably read a whole page without zooming, and the ability to switch to a pure-text display for long articles was very convenient. Within hours of unpacking my iPad, I had devoured the latest issue of Mac Life, as well as several other digital magazines that I purchased impulsively.

Still yearning for print editions

I then switched to Apple’s Newsstand app and downloaded Wired, another title I greatly enjoy in its paper form, but it’s not really quite right to describe the electronic version of Wired as a magazine; it’s more of an interactive experience, with embedded video clips, animations and mixed-media advertising. I was impressed, but before too long, I found myself wishing I was curled up with the paper copy instead.

The simple fact was that the overuse of clever features made the experience more like playing a game than reading a periodical. It wasn’t instantly clear how I was meant to use all of the gestures and such, and as a result I found the experience more tiring than relaxing, especially when I reached a page which appeared to have a glitch that interrupted my reading.


I’m truly glad that I have instant access to all of my favorite magazines, but I’m not at all convinced that I want magazines presented to me in a newfangled interactive way. While I’ve no doubt that this works wonderfully for interactive textbooks, I simply like to sit and read my magazines from cover to cover, without having to work out how and where to press the screen of my iPad.

So, while magazine reading will surely be something my iPad is used for much of the time, I’ll still be visiting the newsagents and leaving with a carrier bag full of magazines when I get the opportunity, and I won’t have to worry about dropping them in the bathtub.

Buy and rent videos on Apple TV? Use this tip to save a little cash


The Apple TV is great; I am a big fan and a happy owner, but until recently, I used to just buy a show or movie on my computer and then watch it on my Apple TV. However, when you buy or rent content on the second or third generation Apple TV, the device automatically assumes you want your video in HD. Not only does it assume you want HD, it doesn’t give you the option to purchase the SD version, which is considerably cheaper.

When you purchase content on your computer, you get the choice of buying/renting either the HD or SD option. Personally, I could care less about HD and would rather buy the SD version to save some money. It might only be a few dollars difference, but it all adds up in the end.

I always thought the only way to get the SD version of a TV show or movie was to go through iTunes on my computer, but I recently discovered a setting on the Apple TV that allows you to purchase SD versions, and it’s quite a simple trick.

First, go into “Settings” on your Apple TV, and then go down to the “iTunes Store”:


Within that menu is a setting for “Video Resolution”, with three options. If you choose the “Standard Definition” option, every video you purchase through the Apple TV will now be in SD and at SD pricing. If ever want something in HD, though, you can always go back and change the setting to “High Definition”, or buy the HD version through iTunes on your computer first.


This not only saves you some extra cash, but it also saves you inconvenient trips to your computer everytime you want to purchase a TV show or movie from iTunes. Happy watching!